Blatant racism. I just can’t get over blatant racism. I’ve heard snarky undertones, vague easily misconstrued quips, stupid jokes among friends and family. I’ve heard the “n-word” a time or two. But in my white-privileged experience, outright racism is something that more ignorant sorts mumble under their breath safely within their white hoods. But not anymore. Racism is making a comeback like bell-bottoms and mohair jackets — a shitty blast from the past that was best forgotten.
North Carolina Republican Vice Chair Michele Nix let her racist flag fly recently when she tweeted a meme depicting a white Republican hand making the “OK” sign — a symbol used by white supremacists, with the tagline “jobs,” while juxtaposed to a darker fist, usually a sign depicting black power, and written below “mobs.”
When did we get here, America? Only whites make jobs and only darker folks trash the place?
I try to think back to a time before I knew color. There was a time for all of us when we didn’t know it made a difference. We played with any child no matter their color, because all we saw was a potential friend.
I remember the moment I first saw color. I was probably 7 or 8. Shayla and Nikki invited me to sleep over at their house. Their mom, Annette, and my mom worked together. We played all day outside with the neighborhood kids. Their mom gave us each a dollar and we went to the convenience store, which I’m pretty sure was located in someone’s living room. There were these large glass jars filled with colorful fluid on the counter, pink, orange and green. Shayla picked out something from the pink fluid. I like pink, I wanted one, too. It was spicy. We bought Now and Laters, Fireballs and Lemonheads. It was a feast. When the shadows grew long, we headed home for supper and baths. After baths, Annette lined us up and powdered us with baby powder from the neck down. That was different, my mom never did that before.
The next morning, Annette powdered us again, we put on our prettiest dresses, and three giggly, silly girls walked into church. It seemed as if the moment we walked in, a lovely sea of black faces turned and stared directly at me. Their faces contrasted against the too white walls and bright sunshine coming in through the windows. I was startled. I remember thinking, I’m white, you’re black and I’m different. An older woman said, “Child, you look like the white in the middle of an Oreo cookie.” She laughed, others chuckled, too, and then they all started to ooh and ahh over our pretty dresses and the girls’ pretty hair.
Before long, the music started, then the singing, clapping, and dancing. We only went to church on special occasions, and it was never as fun as this. I was soon forgotten, the only white face in the whole crowd. I even forgot myself, lost in the music and worship. When I look back on the moment that I first saw color, it is a sweet, lovely memory. As I stood in the doorway of an all-black church, more white than usual because I was covered in baby powder, I remember the feeling of being different and then of being accepted and enveloped, like the white in the middle of an Oreo cookie.
Your racist meme, Ms. Nix, is an assault on America. You will not divide us. Your rhetoric will not win. We are a nation of good, kind, hard-working, fair people of all colors, religions, ages, and sexual orientations. We are Oreos and Chips Ahoy and Nutter Butters, and you are just a plain sad vanilla wafer who wishes she could be something more.