Originally, this blog was going to be a completely random mix of things—about which I range from interested-to-passionate—including humor, politics, civil engineering, roller coasters, music, race relations, bagpiping, marketing automation, and parsing of modern-day colloquialisms in the English language. However, the violent racial incidents of 2015—many of which occurred in my “hometown” of Baltimore—as well as the majority of Americans’ ignorant responses to said incidents (more on that later) have deeply frustrated, angered & saddened me to the point of needing to channel this anger and frustration into something positive (hopefully this blog) before it consumed me.
But why did I feel that way? I looked at everyone around me, completely unaffected by what atrocities against African Americans in this country were being reported by the media on an almost-daily basis. Why was I of all people caring when seemingly nobody else was?
“Spin me back down the years to the days of my youth…”
I grew up in the mostly-white middle-class suburbs of Baltimore, MD to a staunchly Republican father (who is also a police officer) and a less-staunchly conservative-democrat mother (a policy lawyer). My first elementary school had very few black people, none of whom I’d befriended. Interestingly enough, when I moved to a new neighborhood at age 8, during the first week at my new school, a strange black kid kept saying hello to me, and even knew my name! Turns out he’d also gone to my previous elementary school, moved to the same neighborhood as my family at the same time, and happened to know (of) me. It so happened that he and his brother were the only black kids attending this school at the time!
In middle school, the amount of diversity increased slightly because this middle school was fed from slightly outside the lilywhite enclave I had now lived in for 3+ years. Our Vice Principal was black, although there were still no black teachers to be found. But there was usually at least one black student in each class. And it was in my sixth grade English class that I had managed to say something horribly racist, offending the lone black girl in the class.
As a Republican-raised, middle-class white boy, I grew up completely oblivious to systemic racism. Indeed, I only believed that racism was judging someone based on the color of their skin, and that the disadvantages that people of color face every day were just excuses. Hell, slavery had ended over a hundred years ago! The only time I ever saw more than a handful of black people at a time was when my father would drive me through some rather depressed neighborhoods in Baltimore on my way to the barber shop to get a haircut. It was obvious that most of these folks were indeed poor, but I didn’t know the reason(s) why. Because of this, I had begun to subconsciously associate African Americans with drugs, being poor, and “the ghetto.”
In class, we had just finished watching a movie of some sort about African Americans. While those details are hazy, what sticks out in my mind to this day are my comments about how “African Americans were poor and live in the ghetto because they sell and do drugs.” Naturally, the rest of the class, and the lone black girl (named Eboney) who happened to sit next to me, turned to me and appropriately scolded me, telling me how she and her family didn’t do drugs; the hurt visible in her face. To this day, the look on her face—one of sheer sadness, pain, and disappointment—is forever burned into my memory. To Eboney: I am truly sorry.
The next several years are a bit of a blur, thanks to having a brain tumor removed via surgery at age 14, followed by depression and migraines as a result of said surgery (the after school drinking & toking probably definitely added to the haziness). I was quite an emotional wreck at the time; it’s amazing that my parents didn’t give up on me. I was a real shithead throughout high school; skipping classes, acting a real twat, and doing things that should have gotten me suspended or expelled. My dear mother claims that the only reason I wasn’t expelled was because of my 504, and later, IEP plans (essentially, Special Education plans that allowed me to get away with a whole lot of bullshit). Now, knowing what I know, I’m convinced that had I been anything other than a middle-class white boy, I most likely wouldn’t have even had a 504 or IEP plan, and would have likely been suspended and/or expelled multiple times, and possibly even had a juvenile criminal record. Because the high school I attended was in a slightly-lower-middle-class area than that of my elementary and middle schools, my (fellow degenerate) friends used to disparagingly call me “Mays Chapel” for the neighborhood I lived in; a name that perfectly described my middle-class white privilege.
So did I ever stop being a shithead? Find out in Part 2: Xander Grows Up >>