the wrong door

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Maya and I went to see Batman Begins. We were so psyched and wuite enjoyed the film- and the entertainment we got from other viewers around us as the proclaimed "damn!" both times Katie Holmes slapped Christian Bale.

But even before the film Maya, Eric and I got some genuine amusement for free, in our very own front yard/house. Maya walked up to our door and the man three doors down said "You've got the wrong house."
Maya looked around, checked the number and replied that she was pretty sure this was the place. "You go ahead, knock on the door and you'll see. I'm telling you, that's the wrong house."
And I opened the door as she exclaimed "I know the white people who live here."

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Wow. Wow. Wow.

I loved Batman Begins too (or "Batman Bagins" as the Israelis had written - we joked that it was Batman meets Lord of the Rings) :-)

But wow. I can't believe your neighbor said that!!

Go Maya for responding to him - not letting him off the hook about his implications. Wow.

I realized this morning that maybe it makes a difference if the neighbor is black or white. I left that detail out. What do you think- does it make a difference?

It's still closed-minded, either way. The only difference is to whom we ascribe the racism. To be honest, I'd rather not know. I'd even forgotten whether it was a man, woman, young or old person who had said it. I preferred that, as well. Ignorance is bliss.

Rae, the only difference it might make is about whom your neighbor has prejudiced opinions - you or Maya (remember, you didn't reveal Maya's identity, they could figure you out from the previous pictures, but they'd have to dig a while to figure out Eric).

Either way, he either thought you wouldn't be friends with someone of another race, or that you shouldn't be. So, either he's prejudiced or he thinks you are [which, by definition, would be prejudicial behavior]. Does that make sense?

A Separate Peace
Give the man some slack. Yes, I think he was making some assumptions (which Maya and Rae silently challenged), but while that may make him prejudiced (he made judgements before knowing either Rae or Maya, I would not go so far as to call him racist. Racist to me is an ugly word connoting evil intent. I think he was probably making a call based on his past experience, which said to him, black folks don't go to the front door of white people's houses. My guess is that his is black man over the age of 60, and has only lived outside his neighborhood briefly, if at all. I also suspect that the two neighborhoods (the older, well established African American community and the more recent influx of affluent white commuters), while living next to each other in an uneasy relationship, really do not mix. And that is not an inaccurate description. What were you told when you moved to that neighborhood, Rae? That it was sort of iffy, if I recall correctly. I am not saying that that is an accurate assessment, but that that is the take of the affluent white commuter community. And when I say they don't mix, they still don't mix, just because you had Maya to your house. Are you friends with any of your neighbors? to the point that you socialize together? I know you borrowed Angel's lawnmower, but have you had anyone over for a cookout? I challenge you (all) to examine your own prejudices -- and now I will quietly go into a corner and examine mine. (ick, yuck, oh, I really don't like that one!)

I guess what I am saying is, cut the man a break. He was speaking from his experience, which is not your experience.

You were completely correct to chide us for our own assumptions. But, I think that there's a difference between making assumptions based on skin color and being so convinced of their accuracy that one becomes condescending/arrogant and assumes the rest of the world to be stupid. I think I assumed racist overtones in a statement made about race because of the condescension. We all struggle with our own beliefs, experiences and their influence on our assumptions. It sucks. But when we open our mouths about them to educate others, it's often ugly.

I also assumed a few things about this situation, as well, because Rae's post reminded me of a situation that I was in with one of my family members a year (or two) ago. I was enraged for at least a day after one of my relatives felt a need to describe what an Indian looks like, by (of course) comparing them to blacks, starting with skin color. And here we will learn how to compartmentalize and segregate the entire world based on whether one is white enough or too brown. The thing that made me angriest about the lecture that I got about Indians was the condescending air with which it was delivered. I was being taught a valuable lesson in the mind of my lecturer. How interesting that I'm in India right now.

Interesting. How do we know the tone, or more accurately, the intent of the speaker? I ask this because I am often ascribed intent that never crossed my mind, yet I am held accountable for what someone else thought I thought. The man's certainty (which does come across) may have come from repeated life experience. I'm sure you are all familiar with the story of the trout in the large fish tank? A plate of glass is placed in the tank one day. The trout doesn't 'see' it and so runs into it, bumping his nose. (If trout have noses!) This happens a few more times. Finally the trout learns not to swim over there. The glass is removed. The trout never swims past where the glass had been. I find this story to be a very apt metaphor for what has happened to the African American community. So when the world says, you can be anything you want to be, do anything, go anywhere, the response is much like that of the trout. And why do you think they call it the glass ceiling for women in employment? Much the same thing has happened to women as well. And, to be honest, white men are not exempt from this syndrome either. I am not trying to say Us against Them, but that we are all shaped by society's expectations of us, and yet, it is so part of our world that, like the trout, we don't 'see' the glass walls around us.

Well, even I don't know the man's tone as I didn't hear him. And I think that it explains why we have not been invited to anybody else's home for dinner. However,we don't socialize with any of the white couples/families/people beyond a hello either. I don't think it's an issue of race but rather the culture of this town in which everybody is too busy for newcomers/outsiders/people who don't already fit into their lives. Eric and I have come across racism while walking in the neighborhood before- and I think the 'bad neighborhood' possibly referred not specifically to the fact black people live here, but that poor people live here- either homeless or in the projects down the street.
Anyhow, it wasn't really disgusting because we were oblivious to how our neighbors felt- and we were all seriously amused and glad show him incorrect. It's one of htose things that would be cheesey and unbelievable on a sitcom- but actually happened.

When we pursue something and catch it, we can only own it if we are willing to take care of it. What is being pursued here. And do we want to own it. I for one am proud of my family in its pursuit to respond and openly converse about the egregiousness of racial bigotry, or any of its nuances(be they trivial or immense). Thank you and Happy Fourth of July. Bang, POW, BooM!

I admit having a chuckle at the tale. and yet . . . there is a sadness there too. sad that our assumptions bind us and limit us. And to know that I will never live long enough to examine and undo all my limiting assumptions. . .

btw, was I right about the man's age and race?

Time for Mendon to weigh in. The man was a racist. But, we're all racist. I know, I know. People get upset because I say it but is there a person in the room who sees/hears/befriends people of other races identically to the way they do to members of their own race? Even further, is there anyone here who fails to identify themselves as a member of a specific race (and I'm not talking about marking "other" on the SAT's). We all know what we are, the world has educated us well. In our roles. In our scripts. In our lifestyles. We are, all of us, racists. Much of it we are entirely unaware of.

Hmm, Mensch, perhaps you're not old enough to remember when Rachael was shocked to learn that a certain friend of hers was adopted?

(for the uninitiated, those of us who do see color knew quite clearly she was adopted, and had known for, oh, well, ever)

Wonderful! Children are taught to be racist! this means that change can be made!

p.s. yes, i do remember.

Mensch, you're taking a fairly large leap when you equate identifying a person with a race to being racist. Stating that I am Caucasian, meaning I am of European descent, does not a racist make. Whether you feel race is a fabrication or not, one can recognize our differences without being a racist. We are not to be 'color blind', but rather celebratory of our diversity - diversity that does exist.