It occurred to me while meditating in my marathon Mother’s Day bath, that white America considers the black man as a kind of a house-pet. Lowlier than a dog, but not as reprehensible as mice. We know how to behave and be servile, but on the whole, we are utterly and ultimately disposable. Not all of white America, of course. There are some that simply hate us outright, and see no real need for us whatsoever. And there are still others that view us as humans, on equal footing and have great difficulty ascertaining why we are not treated as so (thank you, my brothers. Which is not something you should have to give thanks for yet I do. I have seen your struggle of reconciliation of why your race behaves so often as it does, and I feel pained with you for that.)
Still partially submerged in my favorite thinking spot, I digress.
You know the white America of which I speak. The guilt-ridden ones. The ones that will say something like “whigger” or give you a lengthy diatribe about why yet another black man is responsible for his own death at the hands of police, but will argue with you vehemently about why they are not racist. Ultimately, the conversation will end having it been said at some point “You are the reason racism still exists” to your dumbfounded and hurt black visage. Thus giving you no option but to sever the friendship because you now know something too deep and too dark to continue freely loving this person as you did before. The moment between you is ruined. They cannot hear you behind their own wall of bias. And the idea that they are ostensibly waving their Confederate flag in your face just to let you know the hierarchy of where you stand cannot escape you. Barren and bereft of this relationship, you realize that ultimately you were, indeed, disposable. That is the white America of which I speak. The ones that always have a black friend so you, with your friends in a myriad of colors, must be the one perpetuating the problem of race relations in this deepeningly putrid country.
It would be funny if it wasn’t so heartbreaking every goddamn time.
We are seen as pets because we can be kept around humans as well as other animals. We are teachable in minimal ways. And seem to be about to mock human emotion. “Ah, look, he thinks he’s people!” But actually they don’t feel that we have any real emotions of tenderness at all. We are pitiable in this way. Unable to love our young. Devoid of the ability to value our relationships with our spouses. This lack of actual humanity inherent in the nature of black people means they feel awkwardly responsible for us. We couldn’t do much without their assistance. Look at A Time to Kill, The Help, The Blindside. What would we do without some white savior feeding us, clothing us, showing us the path to righteousness, and putting us back in line when we misbehave? And if we are not reacting to the situation of inequity with response they viewed appropriate, then we have to go. Imprison us, kill us, hang us from trees. “It’s so sad that that happened, but he was an unruly black.” Do not dare to bite the hand that is presumably feeding you.
Lesser than dogs because there is nothing a white person loves more than a damn dog. In some cases, they treat their dogs better than other white people. This strange dynamic is baffling to all people of color as they place human relationships higher than those between you and your pet. You will see these white people letting their dog lick from the same ice cream cone, but they haven’t talked to their mothers in years. A cute pooch is much more loyal than a black person. They have never had a black person betray them in any way, especially not chewing up their new shoes or shitting on the carpet, but still they are still more likely to trust the canine. It just makes more sense. This is a dog. They have not not figured out what manner of subhuman animal are we.
Higher than the lowly mouse because our trainability suits more of their immediate needs. If we will accept the station of our lives and continue on in our service to them, then, that is masses better than mice. Having thumbs and an I.Q. above 80 really seems to be working in our favor here. Of course don’t let that measure of intelligence get too high. Then you are dangerous. No one needs a thought-provoked Negro! Like the mouse unfit for experiment, we must be done away with. Hide our accomplishments behind white faces. Simply leak information out during the shortest month of the year that we had any intellectual impact on this country at all. And then once the month is established, decry it, too, as racism. “What month will they teach about the fine accomplishments of white Americans?” “Ummm… that would be every month, you asshole.” Every month is White History month. The fact that they can’t see that with eyes wide open is stunning and painful.
So they look at us with the soft, nurturing eyes of a nation of masters. They don’t understand that every “help” has just been another knife-in-the-back of our equality. That we don’t need assistance besides to live in a world where we feel like we have the same basic human rights as every other person sharing our world. We just don’t want to have the panicked 911 call because we are existing in their space. Or the hassle of being pulled over for next to nothing and being harassed by the questions we will face. We don’t want our children to be called “niggers”. We want them to be as offended by an injustice to us as they would be of one to themselves.
That seems like more appropriate, but increasingly impossible, aid to provide.
I don’t have a clever way to end this. Only, I realize this relationship as a truth while soaking in a bath on a Sunday. And I wish each revelation didn’t hurt so much.