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Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Unlock Your Doors

This entry was inspired by one of my favorite people in blogworld, the beautiful Dr. P.

Racism disgusts me. I am a white guy, and sometimes the actions of other white guys makes me wish I weren't quite so white. Then again, some white guys are pretty cool and are just as disgusted by racism as I am. (I am officially incapable of blogging without linking to Crunchy. I've got it bad.)

Locking Doors in 1976
When I was a kid driving through Kansas City with my family, my father would tell us to lock our car doors in certain neighborhoods. I would obediently lock my door and look out the window to see if I could figure out what dangers my father was protecting me from. It didn't take long for me to learn that you always lock your car door in African-American neighborhoods.

Locking Doors in 1992
My parents freaked out when I dated a girl who had a white mother and a black father. This was after college, but before I had come out of the closet. They never seemed to really want to know much about Jackie. Once they saw her picture, they quit asking me about her. I'm sure they prayed we would break up. They must have forgot to add, "and don't let our little boy be gay..."

Locking Doors in 2000
One day my ex was watching television and used the N word in reference to an African-American guy. I had been with him for 5 years at that point, and I had never heard him say anything like that. I was stunned.

"What did you just say?!?!"

He repeated the word. My stomach churned, and I felt my throat constricting.

I told him to never say it again in front of me. He said he would say it whenever he felt like it. I told him that he would NOT say it in front of me again. We argued, and I remember sitting there thinking, "I can't be with you anymore. There is no way I can love you the same way after this moment. You are a racist. A disgusting racist..."

This world is full of beautiful people from different cultures. I am thankful that I was spared a narrow-minded life.

I've laughed with Japanese friends as we walked to class at La Sorbonne in Paris. I learned to love the kindness and beauty and gentleness of my Asian friends. (I believe I've mentioned once or twice that I find Asian men irresistible)

I had tea with a Kenyan man in Kericho, and he took me to his home to meet his family. The graciousness and generosity of this man and his family was overwhelming. They were poor and gave freely of all they had. Come to think of it, they probably didn't lock their doors either.

In Washington DC, I lived in Prince George's County for a while. I'm not sure if the demographics are the same now, but when I lived there PG County had the largest African-American population of any US suburban community. It was my first experience being a minority. I lived with four African-American men, and we developed a great bond. They laughed when I would come home from work and say in my most Caucasian voice: "What up, Fresh?" They also loved milking my guilt trip after we watched the mini-series "Queen", which dealt with racism. They were like brothers to me, and they welcomed me into their hearts with no locked doors.

In 2000, I did Midsummer Night's Dream in Portland, and met Nikki. She is a beautiful African-American woman who captured my heart. I asked her if I could please touch her gorgeous dreadlocks, and she smiled and said, "Thank you for asking before you reached out and touched them. Yes, you can..." Nikki used to read me her amazing poetry in her car while we sipped Crown Royal. We soaked in the hot tub together after performances. She become one of my best friends.

Months later I heard the N word come out of my partner's mouth, and I felt like a traitor to Nikki. I remembered my friends in Africa, my black brothers in Washington DC...and every friend I have ever had who wasn't white like me. How could I join myself with a partner who had such an ugly side?

It took another year for everything to crumble after my partner used that word. There were lots of other reasons we didn't stay together. But I know I could never have forgotten that moment of realization that my partner was despicable to me for his racist comments.

I always say that cruelty to animals and racism are two acts I can't forgive. I try to be understanding, especially since I was raised in a racist environment and spent almost seven years loving a man who thought that way. If we don't try to help educate people in a gentle loving way, I don't know how we can change their minds and help them open up to the beauty of people who look, speak, and think differently.

How does racism crumble away? Can it be destroyed?

Can going on a date with someone who comes from a different ethnic background than you do help open a mind?

Maybe just asking someone if you can feel their hair is enough to open a dialogue and start a friendship.

Living with someone who doesn't share a similar background could open eyes to new experiences.

Traveling the world with an open mind can free a spirit.

Or maybe it starts with a simple decision to leave your door unlocked when you drive through certain neighborhoods.

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