Talking Racism in America

Let me begin all of this by saying: I don't know if I am a racist.

I mean, i don't think that I am. I hope that I am not. I believe that I am equitable, fair, and kind. I am, however, not colorblind.

I see captivating tones of copper and earth in the face of my native american friends, the profound depth and beauty of blackness in the hands of some of my peers. I see the pearly sheen on the crest of the almond shaped eyes of my neighbors and the perfect olive hew of my delivery man. To me this is observation, but even as I type this I was conscientious of the words I chose for fear that they would be misunderstood.

Since I'm exploring my own racism allow me to explain why and where I am coming from.

A coworker and I were speaking about learning moments in life. He mentioned his youthful ignorance of homosexuality and how it was uncomfortable for him until his best friend came out to him. As a gay man I could understand his position. He then shared that he grew from that and became an advocate. We continued our conversation, talking about vulnerability, growth, and lessons learned. We were walking on the streets outside and he said he didn't need sunglasses because of his, as he put it, "chinese eyes." Given the nature of the conversation we'd had I shared I opened up about a korean babysitter from my youth. I was five, maybe six years old when one night I asked her how she see anything with her eyes being so squinty. I was a child. I was curious. I distinctly remember trying to imitate her eyes to understand her view of the world was, to see what it was like. I made fun because I didn't understand. When finished my seemingly innocent story I turned to him he looked at me, appalled.

"That's racist" he said flatly with a clear air of offence in his tone.

I tried to defuse the situation by saying how much I learned since, and how I'd grown. But the moment left me raw and doubting my own impartiality. Was that racist? Am I racist?

Growing up I don't ever recall attributing physical or other differences to race. I do remember overhearing words that seemed to my tender young ears to be cruel, but they came from the mouths of people, family members I knew to be kind and loving. So how could that happen? I learned that Grandpa didn't trust Japs because so many of his friends were killed during the war by Japanese soldiers. He wasn't all too fond of Beaners because Mexicans had taken the much of the carpentry work that he built his family home with. There was a story behind his racism. He grew to become racist because his life experiences shaped his opinions and assumptions, those assumptions just happened to be based on race. Grandpa died at 80. I don't ever remember him doing anything violent or
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