Rantings of an Old White Woman

Sarah Williams 

Racism – a topic that is tearing our country apart and after the death of George Floyd, one that has turned violent.

Let me express my opinion of racism – it is often used when the situation is not racist.

Now, don’t go get mad at me – let me explain. I have been wanting to say these things for a very long time and after I saw the treatment of George, I feel compelled to speak out.

When I lived in Washington D.C. and worked at Gallaudet (College for Deaf Student), I also tutored deaf children. Imagine my surprise when the Superintendent called me into his office and told me that I could not work with this little boy in Southeast. He told me that the parents did not want me to teach their son because I was a Southern White Cracker.

I had no idea what that meant, and was shocked to learn that this was a racial slur. The parents objected to my southern NE NC accent and felt that I was a racist because of my accent.

I asked him to give me 30 days and I would get rid of my accent in order to keep working with the child. And I went home and I watched the news channels and practiced annunciating like the newscasters and 30 days later was given another chance to work with the little boy.

Was this racism? I think not – it was simply a perspective based on stereotypes, and I worked hard to get rid of that stereotype being used to define me.

When I lived in California, I rode the bus in Glendale to my job at the community college. I was the only white person on the bus most times and would hear in different languages the bad words that were being used to define me.

Imagine the shock of the people on the bus when I responded to their slurs in their language letting them know I knew what they were calling me. You see, my student assistants had taught me all of the bad words in Russian, Farsi, Spanish, and other languages. I stood up for myself by letting them know that I understood the bad names they were calling me and the abuse stopped.

Now, don’t think that I wasn’t afraid – I was – those kids were bigger than me and I would have been hurt if one of them tried to turn to violence. Was this racism? I don’t know — as the Russian speaking and Farsi speaking kids were considered to be of the white race. I think it was simply hatred of the American white person in general – a bias that was taught to them in their homes and culture.

While in California, I tutored part time, and in one of the sessions, I had about 12 kids of different ethnicities from across the globe. In the very first session, I started off by asking them what they saw when they looked at me. “A nice lady”, one timid girl replied.

My response was “How do you know that I am nice by looking at me? I am asking what you see.” No response. So, I answered for them – “You see an old, fat, white lady.”

They were shocked that I would say should a thing. I further explained that unless you can define what you factually see, then you can not begin to get to know someone or to get by your pre-set biases. So, admitting that when we see someone for the first time, we see their weight, body type, height, color of hair, dress style, AND (gasp) the color of their skin.

If we can admit that this is what we see – then we can move past any biases that we may have to engage fully in getting to know someone for who they are – not letting the outside appearances define them.

This particular class topic was an evaluation of internet resources, but I wanted the students to see how our pre-set judgements can also influence our ability to research topics. Racist activity? No, just the opposite.

A few years ago, in a committee meeting, one woman complained about the police in Edenton ‘keeping an eye’ on the gathering of black teenage boys playing basketball in a nearby park.

I responded that it didn’t matter the race, when teenagers gather, sometimes they can get into trouble. As teen’s brains are not fully developed to make good decisions – all it takes is one to come up with a bad idea and then you have kids in trouble.

I remember that I was one of those teens who didn’t have a lick of common sense and was into some mischief as a teen. But – she did have a point – why where the police interested in only that gathering? Or were they? No one knew if the police were keeping tabs on other teen gatherings in order to determine if the cause was racist or not.

So, a simple observation, without further investigation, can seem like racism at work. But without full information – something is being called racist before the facts are known.

As to the death of George Floyd, I am outraged at the treatment of him that resulted in his death. His race has nothing to do with my outrage. My outrage is at the officers who have taken an oath to serve and protect.

And that oath was broken – as they did nothing to protect his life. I don’t know that it was racist – it appears to be; but it may just be bad cops who need to be brought to justice for treating people unjustly. It may be racism on their part and that is something we will have to let the investigators find out.

I do know this; no one should be treated this way when pulled over, questioned, or arrested. If someone is resisting arrest, I understand that methods (but not a knee on the neck – where did this deadly tactic come from?) may be used to calm the situation, but George was not resisting, and I feel the officers need to be charged with murder.

Until our justice system is revamped to protect the innocent – and we are innocent until proven guilty — whatever the race, whatever the personal wealth – we will continue to question whether actions are racist or not. And our country will remain divided until we can look at the facts, without our own personal bias affecting our judgement and actions.

It is time for us to stand up and learn to evaluate the craziness that we see in the news – don’t just believe it – I don’t. I watch and search many news outlets to try and get to the truth – BECAUSE no one is going to define my truth for me. I define my truth based on the facts and my core values.

So, I am outraged – not at the death of a black man, but at the death of George Floyd. Can we please honor him, by creating a movement to address and heal racism in our country?

Call it out when it is actually racist or find out what is causing the death of so many at the hands of law enforcement – root out the bad cops, while recognizing the officers who are good public servants.

That would be a great gift to celebrate the memory of George Floyd.

Sarah Williams lives in Edenton.