Questions. Questions. Questions.
That’s been the theme that has emerged this week in my writing, both in public and private. Questions that I am routinely asked, but also questions that I have been asking myself as of late. My daily journal writing has been a series of questions about Faith and the general trajectory of my life. While publically this week I explored the very common “what’s it like to be a twin” madness and discussed this in terms of the invisibility of white privilege.
Where are you from? is a question that everyone gets asked and the one I want to explore today.
I’m from Alabama –Mobile to be exact. Though if you’ve ever heard me speak, I doubt that you’d guess my home state since I don’t have not even a whiff of southern twang.
Which is what almost every person of color says when they learn that I am from Alabama. Oh? You don’t have an accent! (Which leads into a convoluted explanation of being a military brat and growing up in the PACNORWEST.)
The other – slightly bewildering—response that I get when people learn that I am from Alabama is:
“Oh? Is there a lot of racism there?”
“Umm…about as much as anywhere else, I guess” is my normal reply, but really…How do you answer that question. Are you expecting me to pull out a calculator and provide statistical data about it.
Yes, actually, racism is approximately 17% higher in Alabama than in other states.
In the minds of the people who ask this, racism is apparently a thing that happens in far off places and committed by other people. It’s relegated to states located in the lower right hand of the country. And it’s perpetrated by people with thick, incomprehensible southern accents and deep religious beliefs who wear Osh Kosh overalls and live on farms.
Except racism is a system of power – a way of structuring the world economically, socially, politically, and culturally based on race –that exists in every county, township, and state in the U.S (and its territories).
This means that it’s in the North East where a Governor of a state that 95% white can still blame black people for his state’s heroin crisis (and impregnating young white women). It means that I can and have experienced it at the Naval Academy and onboard U.S. Navy ships in the middle of the Persian Gulf. It’s part of the awful poisoning of residents in Flint, Michigan. It’s in Oregon’s history of black exclusionary laws. It’s the literal reason that California is no longer an open carry state (See Mulford Act). There is no pocket in America that is untouched by racism. If there were, trust that I (and every other POC) would be there already.
Racism is literally the bad luck version of Visa – it’s (unfortunately) everywhere you want to be.