Yesterday, I did a reading at Cheekwood. The day before that, I found the grave of KKK leader Emmett Carr. While at Cheekwood, I was talking to C. about life and, anyway, I admitted that I have been crocheting so much because this bombing story is just so fucking hard.
It’s not just that I don’t think I can figure out who exactly did it, it’s that these dudes are terrible. I hadn’t realized how much I cling to the idea that overt racism can be an unfortunate character flaw in an otherwise lovely person. I mean, I think I know better than that, but you really confront your unconscious biases in a situation like this.
I think I’m a racist. No, I mean, I know I’m a racist. I think that’s terrible and I try to overcome it, but I’m not going to, because so much of white society is set up to guide me easily into racist positions and beliefs. I am a habitual racist and, like someone trying to quit smoking in the 70s, it’s hard to give it up because everything is set up to make smoking as easy and convenient as possible.
But I keep thinking of this reflex my mom has, whenever she’s recounting the story of something bad someone we know has done, to say “well, I’m also a sinner.” So, my mom can tell you about how their neighbor ended up being Ted Bundy II, and she’s still going to insist on seeing herself as also fatally flawed. And I find that deeply endearing but also frustrating, because there’s just a world of difference between my mom, who can get lazy and tired and not be her best self, and Ted Bundy, who has set out to be the worst of himself.
And I’ve wanted to believe, because I have to live in this world, that the Ted Bundys are rare and outnumbered by people like my mom.
But in a story that starts for someone “I’ll hurt children,” there are a lot more Ted Bundys than Betty Phillipses.
And they’re terrible all over. Their hatred of black people isn’t their only character flaw. They’re lousy spouses. They’re terrible parents. People flee from them, and rightly so.
It’s made me acutely aware of how much racism is built into the assumption that race terrorists can otherwise be good people–as if a willingness to hurt people doesn’t show a willingness to hurt people, because the people they’re hurting are black (or brown or gay or whatever).
But it’s also tough.
And I realized I’ve been crocheting so much because I need out of my head, out of the space I share with these people.
I keep thinking, why am I doing this? But it’s because the story as it’s been told to us is wrong and lets too many people off the hook. And I just can’t accept that.