I want to be among 'my people,' she said...until she was
In response to what he sees as intractable racial conflict, Scott Adams, author of the excellent comic strip "Dilbert," has been canceled for urging white people to move away from black people. He says, perhaps despondently, "There is no fixing this." He is wrong. It is not hopeless.
Here is my own personal anecdote that, albeit not obviously, does illustrate hopefulness.
For about a year, I worked in an office that was staffed by what the left might call a diverse crew. One of my coworkers was a black lady, whom I will call Felicia. She was married, with a sixteen-year-old daughter, whom I will call Ann. The husband, here pseudonymously Thomas, also black, was a long-haul truck driver.
What made the family memorable was that both of the adults had been raised in white (Caucasian) communities, almost entirely insulated from contact with other black people, not by design, but by circumstance. After getting married, the couple continued to live in such an environment and were unhesitatingly accepted. Theirs was a case in immersive enculturation. In our frequent, brief conversations with Felicia, we soon stopped thinking of her in terms of her race, because her actions, mannerisms, and attitude were those of a politically neutral white woman. Thomas was similar.
Yes, it is entirely possible to overlook skin color — entirely.
Then, one day, Thomas's travels exposed him to an intensity of anti-black racism of which he had heard but never personally experienced. He had taken a detour in a distant city, through an all-white ghetto where blacks rarely ventured. While minimally violent (rocks thrown at his truck), the verbal abuse was fervent. He was glad to drive away from it. Returning home, Thomas told his wife of it in shocked terms, which she related to us at work, almost as if she were a white woman married to a black man. It was their first direct encounter with this ugly reality.
Their teenage daughter "Ann" had, throughout her life, been raised much as had her parents. Life for her and her family had always proceeded unperturbed by thoughts of skin color. The few black people Ann encountered had backgrounds similar to hers.
One of them, another teenage girl, I'll call her Shakeena, did not, and her influence made itself felt. New to the white neighborhood, Shakeena had been raised in a poor, mostly black neighborhood and was "down with the struggle" against "the man." Her attitudes, if not radically racist, were at the least shaped by the racialist attitudes that one associates with leftist black activism.
Over time, Ann's parents noticed in her an increasingly disturbing pattern of changes in her speech and behavior. She had begun to use the slang and phraseology of the "oppressed but cool," residents of "the hood." It was all subtle at first, but over time, it became more pronounced.
Then it happened.
Ann was invited by Shakeena to spend the night with Shakeena's cousins, who still lived in an almost stereotypical black enclave of our rather typical American city. At first, knowing that it was a high-crime area, Ann's parents resisted this request, but as with many parents of teenage girls, they eventually found their resolve weakened by Ann's persistent pleading.
Ann's mother asked, in exasperation, why would you wish to go to such a place? Ann's response, probably conditioned by her friendship with Shakeena, was — and I remember the mildly sarcastic way her mother said it — "I want to be among my people."
"But," Felicia told Ann, "you are among your people. We are your people." Our friends and neighbors are your people. It was all to no avail.
With great trepidation, and after meeting Shakeena's middle-class, working parents, Thomas and Felicia finally relented, albeit with several conditions, to which Ann resentfully agreed. That afternoon, Thomas drove Ann and Shakeena to Shakeena's cousins' house, which was an old, single-family dwelling, possibly government-owned. Thomas did not like the neighborhood, and although he was as black as the residents on the street, he felt very much out of place, even reminiscent of his dangerous encounter on his earlier road trip.
Stressing to Ann that she must keep her cell phone handy at all times, Thomas returned home, expecting to come back late the following morning to retrieve Ann.
He did not have to wait that long. At 2 A.M., he was awakened by a frantic call from Ann. "Daddy, you have to come get me. They're shooting outside!"
Immediately, and with a father's fearlessly protective instinct for his daughter, Thomas was swiftly on his way. Arriving, he found himself in the near vicinity of a gunfight between black gangs. Running into the house without hesitation, he grabbed his grateful Ann, got her into the car, and thankfully made good their escape.
Felicia told us that Ann never again mentioned wishing to "be among my people."
Scott, although it may not be obvious, and you may have to dig for it, there is hope after all.
Image via Pxhere.