I’M WHITE. More accurately, I think, light orange.
I held my hand up to a color palette on my computer. The closest match I could find was #ffe39f.
In the CMYK color mode that my publisher uses to print photos in books I write, you get that Caucasian color when you mix 0% cyan, 11% magenta, 37.6% yellow, and 0% black.
And so it is: Caucasians like me are 0% black.
White supremacists would probably love that.
I’m not sure what they would think about being more than one-third yellow.
I doubt that would make their World Domination press release.
My next-door neighbor is African-American. I’m always hesitant to put a label on that: African-American, black, person of color.
I call him Fred.
We have been neighbors since we both moved into these homes when they were newly built in 1999.
We talk in the front yard. We talk in the backyard, over the fence. He throws the ball to Buddy the Dog. I buy school fundraisers from his grandkids who live with him. In winter snowstorms, we sometimes tag team to help clear the six driveways in our small cul-de-sac.
Fred is president of our county’s branch of the NAACP. He has a nice picture on the website.
Sometimes we talk about politics. We are pretty well cut from the same cloth there.
On occasion, we joke about race. When the KKK planned a march downtown, Fred asked if I would be going.
“I’m not that white,” I said.
He and his son-in-law standing there had a long laugh over that. I was surprised how long.
Recently we’ve had some racial stuff going on in our neighboring state. A white policeman shooting an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri and then getting an all-clear from the Grand Jury – sparking protests and some riots.
For many people, that was the “I’ve had it up to here” moment.
As in I’ve had it up to here with:
- black men getting prison sentences that are 20% longer than white men (source: 2013 U.S. Sentencing Commission study)
- black and Latinos, making up only half the population of New York City, but making up 80% of the police stops in 2014 (source: New York Police Department, reported by the New York Civil Liberties Union )
- The stat that 32 out of every 100 black men born in 2001 will go to jail, compared to the stat that only six in 100 white men will go to jail (source: US Bureau of Justice Statistics).
And we had that 6-2 Supreme Court ruling this year that essentially concluded racism is not enough of a problem to need government guidelines to help level out inequalities and make sure minorities find equal opportunities for education and jobs. Dissenting Justice Sonia Sotomayor blasted the court’s decision as an attempt to wish away racism.
I’ve been thinking about all of this lately, and about what Christians might be able to do to help.
That’s when I realized something.
I have never shared a meal with my neighbor, Fred.
“I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink” (Matthew 25:35).
When we feed someone, Jesus says we are doing that for him.
I guess he figures it’s important for us to look out for one another and to spend time together.
It’s not the solution, of course. But it’s a good place to start. Two neighbors breaking bread.
So, I just sent Fred an email.
Subject: Eat pizza with a cracker.
LOVE THIS! hahaha – pizza with a cracker! I recently listened to a stand-up routine by comedian Louis C.K. (warning: his act is profane and vulgar) and he said if he had a time machine, he could hop in and go anywhere at anytime, and as a white guy, the response would be: “hello sir, we have your table waiting”. It used to be that terms like “white privilege” were only used in specific academic circles; I certainly had not heard of them before I studied Women & Gender Studies/American Studies. But more and more they are being used and understood by people outside of those kinds of circles, and that gives me so much hope – particularly because they are not difficult to understand, though perhaps difficult for some to accept.
I have heard frequently that parents of young black men have to have conversations with their sons about how, because they are black, they will be treated differently by society – including law enforcement- and because of this, they have to take careful measures to protect themselves. I have never had to have that conversation with my son, who is white. Quite the contrary – I have had to teach my son since he was little that because he is a) white b) male c) educated and d)heterosexual, he is in the most privileged class of our society – he has privilege he has not had to earn. And because he has been freely given this privilege, he has an obligation to recognize it and intentionally push back against the cultural expectations of him that perpetuate the marginalization of other races, genders and cultures.
Stephen M. Miller
I agree. I’ve never had to warn our kids about watching out because they’re white.
My daughter has smiled her way out of more than a dozen speeding tickets, I suspect because she’s white and good looking. A bald black guy with a pot belly probably wouldn’t have had that good fortune…and probably would have been driving slower because he knew it.
Which raises the question, Do white folks drive faster than darker folks?
great article steve.
in seeing the recent video tape of the man who died from a choke hold at the hand of the police , my husband and I definitely discussed this issue. I doubt I would ever go to a protest but I could easily share a meal with a neighbor!
in looking at the statistics about incarceration, I think there is one other statistic I would like to be studied… one that I never see mentioned.
my observation entirely, I have seen first hand since my son has been in prison system.
once a person is incarcerated, it looked to me that color was not so much the issue anymore… it appeared to be all about money… if one can hire a seasoned lawyer or maybe a lawyer who is a part time judge, one can certainly affect the case, the plea bargain and ultimately time served.
Those, who’s families have it and will spend it, end up with a different sentence from those with a public defender.
I find that pretty disturbing. Another ” not fair” in life!
Stephen M. Miller