racism

A “Whole Bunch of Whites” Confront Alvin Holmes

I recently stumbled across this article, Families Protest Alabama Lawmaker’s Racist Comments, on Yahoo by Beth Greenfield.

I had never heard of Representative Alvin Holmes and now I wish I hadn’t ever heard of him. Unfortunately, he represents my current home state of Alabama.

In case you don’t feel like clicking on the link, Holmes contended that white lawmakers wouldn’t let their daughters give birth to a black child. In fact he said that an overwhelming majority of white lawmakers would force their daughters to get an abortion if the child’s father was a black man. 

He also said that white families rarely adopt black children and went on to offer $100,000 cash to anyone “who could show a whole bunch of whites” brought black children into their families. (More information can be seen at http://blog.al.com/wire/2014/03/rep_alvin_holmes_says_white_la.html)

Let me just pick my jaw up off the floor real quick.

This wasn’t a side comment to a back alley reporter that seems a little iffy as to whether or not he really said it either.

He said this IN PUBLIC. WHILE BEING RECORDED. IN THE MIDDLE OF A DEBATE.

Thankfully many people, such as myself, were completely put off by his remarks. Many of those people took to facebook to protest, the page is called Faces of Families in Alabama and features dozens of photos of biracial families, adoptive families, foster families and hundreds of encouraging supportive posts. Groups of families showed up in person at the Alabama State House to show that a “whole bunch of whites” weren’t concerned with having a child of a different race.

After seeing this, instead of paying up or even apologizing, Holmes was adamant that a majority of white people would never adopt or have black children.

Personally, I think someone with this amount of hatred and assumption shouldn’t be representing me or my state. I for one, could care less what the race of my (way, waaayyyy in the) future children’s father is. He could be from even be from Mars (which would be an incredibly interesting ice breaker). Similarly, I’ve thought about adoption and would be open to it and would most likely adopt a child from a third world country. The race wouldn’t matter, as long as I was getting at least one child out of a possibly bad growing up situation.

But, I open this up to comment. Do you think a majority of white people in the state of Alabama, or even in the United States, would never have a biracial child? Do you think that a majority of white families would never consider adopting a child not of the same race?

“Talking Black”

I’d like to recount an experience I had at Auburn University my freshman year. The people and organizations will remain nameless, for the sake of their privacy. (Hopefully they’ve grown a bit during the last couple years.)

It was early in the Fall semester, when most fraternities are having parties to attract new members and new girls. A guy from my math class invited me to a party at the frat house he was rushing. I agreed to come, as long as I could bring a few friends.

The friends I had at that point were almost entirely from my high school, which is very diverse. I graduated in a class with a large group of Indians, Koreans, African Americans and a few random ethnicities that were fewer in number. In high school race wasn’t a big deal, although whoever scored the highest on the physics test and broke the curve for everyone else was.

So a few of my friends from high school and I went to the party. Three of those friends were black. We all knew just from walking up the block that this was going to get a bit awkward.

Confederate flags could be found in all corners. On the walls, draped from the balcony, tattooed on more than a few arms and slapped across a dozen hats. Country music was blaring and everyone, except my three friends, was white.

Although uneasy, we decided to roll with it. One of my friends asked two guys nearby for a light (who were, in their defense, highly inebriated). They responded by saying, and I’ll never forget this, “Hey dude, you’re black. Can we, like, talk black to you?”

Okay now pause. When I first heard him I was convinced he had drunkenly meant to say something else. I was horrified and embarrassed because I was the one who suggested we go to this frat party. But I thought that maybe, just maybe, he’d somehow swim through the natty light his brain was currently drowning in and reach his senses and apologize.

No such luck.

“Excuse me?” my friend said.

“Yeah, like yo man. Homie?” he replied, completely missing the looks of disgust across our faces.

It was at that point we decided to leave. I told the man who had invited me what had happened the next class day. I asked if that was typical. His response? “Oh yeah, we don’t really have those people at our parties.”

I think that was the point in my life when I realized how unfortunately ignorant someone in college could be. How a group of people could continue ignorant stereotypes and racism is completely beyond my comprehension and totally appalling.

I wish I had said something to that guy. Something along the lines of “Those people, excuse you? What the hell do you mean, you ignorant-”

But I digress.

I hope my generation and the next generation will work more towards eliminating encounters like that. And I hope people will realize (if they have not already) that there is no such thing as “talking black.” Someone’s race does not determine how they talk and what slang they would use and it’s incredibly inappropriate to assume such. Similarly, there’s no such thing as “talking like a white person.” Speaking in ebonics or speaking “proper english” depends entirely on an individual.

What I Want to Convey and Why it Matters to Me

With over seven billion people in the world today, it’s hard to imagine ever feeling alone or out of place. With so many people and just as many unique personalities, it’s hard to imagine being able to get by without ever meeting someone who doesn’t share the same viewpoints, skin color, or abilities as your own.

Yet for some reason, some try to seclude themselves to people just like them. Some people go their entire lives without seeing and understanding cultures different from their own. Without stopping to get to know the guy who lives right down the street who walks a little different and talks kind of funny, who’s just odd enough that not many approach him. Some people never get the nerve to strike up a friendly conversation with the old lady who rides the bus with them everyday who seems nice enough, but she doesn’t say the same prayers they do.

As easy as it is to forget sometimes, diversity is everywhere if you know where to look. Diversity isn’t just black and white. It has variety and depth, ranging from skin color, to body modifications, to religion, to handicaps, to nationality.

And diversity is a good thing.

How boring would it be to have a conversation with someone who looked just like you? Who thought just like you, who watched the same television shows you do, ate the same food, shopped at the same stores, had the same beliefs, the same sports interests? Would you ever have a reason for passion of any kind if you never met anyone different from you?

I’ve been lucky enough to encounter many diverse people. My military upbringing forced me into new situations almost everyday, where I had to meet new people, move to new places, try new foods and learn new concepts. It was scary, definitely. But it started a passion to know more. I wanted to understand and learn about all the things and people that were different from me and what I had been taught growing up. Some things and traditions have been easier to understand than others, but they’ve all been worth knowing.

That’s why I’ve created this blog. (Not just because I have to have a blog for my class, haha) I choose this theme because I want to know more about the diversity around me. When you look around Auburn, Alabama, it’s easy for your eyes to glaze over and start believing everyone is just the same in this town.

But I know there are thousands of unique perceptions waiting to be seen here and I know there are people like me who want to learn more about things they don’t quite yet understand.

So here’s to first blog posts, may this be a set up for good quotations, the continuation of (hopefully) acceptable grammar and the start of a new look into diversity.