All eyes were on me when I walked into my history class. I didn’t pay them any mind. I took my seat quietly. Stephine buried her head in one of the assigned books that were mandatory to read before the end of the semester. I noticed two ladies were standing in front of the classroom — one black lady with an afro, and a white lady with long brunette hair. Long story short, they are the teachers who will be taking Mr. Callaway’s position.
The lady with the afro introduced herself, “Hello, everyone. My name is Mrs. Oliver. I will assistant Mrs. Chester for the remainder of the semester.”
Mrs. Chester called the roll and asked everyone did they complete the assignment. Everyone was quiet. Some nodded their heads, and some said yes. I felt the tension in the room, but I decided not to assume. Therefore, I tried to keep my cool and, as always, keep my eyes on the clock on the wall.
“The assignment didn’t have anything to do with the 1800s,” said Robin. She has red hair, and I love the freckles on her face.
“Why do you assume that?” asked Mrs. Oliver.
“Because … I didn’t find the answers in the book,” replied Robin.
This Mrs. Oliver is going to be a problem. I feel it in my bones. “If you read it correctly, it wasn’t a chapter in the book. It was an assignment to speak on your behalf about how you feel about race.”
Robin’s voice was calm, “Why is that important? Haven’t we had enough last week?”
“I wasn’t here last week,” answered Mrs. Oliver in a disrespectful tone.
Mrs. Chester stepped in, smiled slightly, and took over respectfully, but that went left quickly. “We weren’t here last week, but we are aware of what happened. We do not want that situation ever to happen again while we are in charge of this classroom. Therefore, we ask you all to talk about your feelings about racism. We want to know, what are your thoughts?” She folded her hands in front of her beige dress, “We want everyone to be able to express themselves. After all, this is a history class.”
Cannon, the captain on the softball team, raised his hand, “This is a setup for failure.” He shook his head, “Nothing good is going to come from this discussion.”
“That is your opinion. However, in order to earn a grade, you must participate,” said Mrs. Chester.
“So, if we do not participate, we will get an F for the assignment?” asked Cannon.
Mrs. Chester quickly answered, “Yes.”
“Race is made up and created by human beings. If we stop talking about it, it wouldn’t exist, but it is people like you who keep bringing it up,” said Nate. He is the quarterback on the football team. He continued, “Why are you all here?”
“Excuse me?” asked Mrs. Oliver.
His tone was louder than before, “I asked why are you two here?” He put his hand on his desk, “What are you all trying to prove or get out of this discussion?”
“We want to hear your thoughts since a teacher was fired because of this touchy topic. We should talk about it in a responsible manner, and maybe then, we will help be the change.”
Tabitha fueled the conversation with her comment, “Why do people try to make me feel guilty because I am white? I was born this way.”
Nate put his hands in the air. “Out of all people, Tabitha, you would say that. What is your reason for saying that? I swear you talk just to draw attention to yourself.” He rolled his eyes, “Who makes you feel guilty, Tabitha? Would you want to be black instead of white? Would you want to be any other race?” asked Nate. He closed his eyes for a second, “Now all eyes are on you.”
“No,” answered Tabitha quickly. She looked at me and some of the mixed students, “I wouldn’t want to be mixed either …” she swiped her hand as if she was sweeping dirt off her desk and made a sour face, “That would be too complicated for me. I wouldn’t want to be …” she paused, looked at me, and rolled her eyes, “A half-ass anything.”
I looked at the teachers for their response. Sadly, they gave us this assignment for us to battle our race in class. Neither of them corrected Tabitha. They looked at me for a response. I wasn’t going to give them that. I looked at the clock on the wall.
“Stella? Correct?” asked Mrs. Oliver.
I looked at her for a split second and then back at the clock, “Yes, that is what my parents named me.”
She forced a smile on her face, folded her arms across her chest, and nodded her head, “Oh, yes, I heard about you.”
I kept my eyes on the clock. I said to myself, Please do not spread your gasoline on my fire because you will get your ass burned today. I kept my cool and didn’t say a mumbling word.
“Aren’t you curious about what I heard?” asked Mrs. Oliver
My eyes were still on the clock, “No.”
“Well, I am going to tell you anyway. I heard you have a slick mouth and that I need to be able to stand toe-to-toe with you.” She walked towards me, “I know how to water down my challenges.”
I said to myself, She wants a reaction. I didn’t give her what she wanted, but I did look her square in the eyes without blinking, “See, that is the problem; when you water down your challenges, it makes you weak.” I added, “When you water down the truth, it becomes lies, and when it becomes lies, people like you, Mrs. Oliver, will fall for anything.” I smiled, “There’s no need to try to stand toe-to-toe with me because your watered-down thoughts are always washed down the drain.”
She squinted her eyes, “Is that right?”
I nodded my head, “Absolutely. If you didn’t know, water cannot put out a gasoline fire.” I continued as I got further under her skin, “My mental capacity wouldn’t give someone like you the time of day.” I said to myself, I have better things to do.
She laughed slightly, “There goes Stella Chapman.”
I didn’t respond. She stood there and stared at me, “Can I help you with something, Mrs. Oliver?”
She shook her head no and walked away.
“You are always so disrespectful, Stella. Why is that? Is it that your ‘white rage’ is coming out?” asked Tabitha.
I sat firmly in my seat, “What is ‘white rage,’ Tabitha?” I put up my two fingers, “Or it is something that people made up, and you are going to say something you heard that is so meaningless and disrespectful.” I scooted up in my desk a little, “It is people like you and our teachers who spread racism like an uncontrollable wildfire.” I looked at Mrs. Oliver, “It would be great if you could use your ‘water’ to put out the fire of racism, but no, you enjoy spreading it as opposed to making peace with everyone of all kind.”
Tabitha was so clueless she yelled, “If you didn’t know, ‘white rage’ is when a white person decided to have a temper tantrum.”
I shook my head, “I heard of that statement before, and for your information, “white rage’ is when white people think they are the sole definition of America. Meaning white people think they are the only race that is legitimate in America.”
She crossed her arms, “Well, truth be told, we are the only legitimate race in America.” She threw her hands in the air, “The rest of you came over here and took over.”
Once again, I nodded my head, “Is that so?” I was curious, and I had to ask, “Tabitha, do you read or do you listen to what everyone says and run with it and use other people’s words to justify your actions?”
Her face was fireball red, “I do read, Stella! The saying goes, if you do not want a black person to know what is going on, then put it in a damn book!”
I laughed slightly, “Wow, you are pathetic.”
“Am I supposed to apologize for my whiteness?” she yelled.
“We all should love the skin we are in. However, to my knowledge, your parents are German and English. Oh, and you have Irish in your blood as well. Therefore, I have to know; why do you identify yourself as white?
“I was born in America, Stella! Therefore, I am white!” she yelled.
“That is not what I asked you. How did you become white if you are German, English, and Scottish Irish?” I looked at her and asked again, “How did you become white? How do you just so happen to ‘turn into’ a white person when your parents are not white?”
She breathes hard, “If people think I am white, then I am okay with that.”
Cannon joined in on the conversation, “Why are you okay with that? Is it because you are scared you will be judged and mistreated if they know you are German, English, or Irish? Are you afraid of not being treated equally? Are you afraid that your white privilege will be taken away?” He put up his finger, “To be white, you ‘assume’ that you are the dominant race.”
She nodded her head, “Yes, we are the dominant race.”
Cannon was frustrated as he brushed his hands through his gelled blond hair, “You know that you sound like a white supremacist right now. One of the KKK’s slogans is that all races are not equal or the same. Are your parents KKK and or white supremacist?”
Tabitha rolled her eyes and shrugged her shoulders, “I don’t know … umm, maybe they are.”
Cannon said very slowly, “Tabitha, do you know what the KKK is and what they did? Do you know what white supremacy means?”
She didn’t say anything.
“Hundreds of years ago, the whites thought they owned the souls of the black man. The only person who has the right to accept someone’s soul is God. Therefore, white supremacists thought of themselves as God or thought they were higher than God. Long story short, after John Bingham believed that everyone should be free, the white supremacists didn’t accept it, and they were worse than ever! John Bingham called it for what it was. He said ‘whites were the real niggers’. He helped rebuild the 14th Amendment, and it was approved in the Constitution that everyone was equal and protected by law. However, Tabitha, that was short-lived. Come to think about it — the white supremacists never lived up to it. Needless to say, it was written in stone, but the white supremacists felt like they lost it all. Suddenly, they played the victims out of selfishness and wanted to continue to have the upper hand and control. The KKK and white supremacists caused so much trouble for the coloreds.”
I nodded my head in agreement with Cannon.
He continued, “If blacks wanted to earn a living, they had to make year-long contracts with the devils who were once their ‘masters.’ The contracts were once again like signing their soul away to the white man.” He yelled, “How is that fair! Blacks helped win the war for our country, and they got straight-up bullshit! They only could work as a farmer or servant! Tell me, Tabitha, how do you think that is fair!”
Once again, she nodded her head and shrugged her shoulders.
Cannon looked like he wanted to snatch Tabitha’s heart out of her chest. His eyes were glued on her, “Would it make you feel better knowing that one of the white supremacists killed Abraham Lincoln for you to love the privileges, justice, and luxury that comes with having the fair color of your skin?” he growled.
Tabitha wrinkled her brow. “Okay. Well. I love my skin, and I am not going to apologize for being a white American.”
Cannon’s face was flushed as he shook his head, “Everything I said just went over your head.” He shook his head, “Tabitha, you are not a white American.”
“Yes, I am!” she yelled.
He couldn’t take it anymore. He yelled, “You are oblivious!”
Robin stepped in, “Tabitha, I agree with Stella and Cannon; you are not white. See, some white people that I know deny the reality of racism and the privilege they have. However, I do not understand how they are blind to the fact because most of them do not accept that they are privileged. Sadly, they know the benefits they have over blacks.” She pointed at her chest, “I know without a doubt that I will not get pulled over if I drive over the speed limit, but a black person will.” She shrugged her shoulders, “Let’s say I was pulled over. I bet you I will not get a ticket. As a matter of fact, more than likely, a police officer will apologize for pulling me over.”
Tabitha folded her arms, “You do not know that for sure.”
Calmly Robin said, “Yes. I do. My parents got pulled over just last night because we were late for our dinner party. The police pulled us over, asked my father for his license, looked at it, gave it back to him, and apologized to my father. My father was going way past the speed limit and didn’t get a ticket. The officer didn’t ask my father to get out of the car; he didn’t pat my father down; he apologized and told us to enjoy our evening.”
Robin paused to collect her thoughts and looked around, “If it had been a black person…” She threw her hands up, “If it had been a black person driving over the spending limit, they would have been dragged out of the car or shot with, I do not know how many bullets in their car and body. They would have been treated unfairly or killed because they were black.” She softly looked at Tabitha, “And the fact that you are German, English, and Irish, you are clinging onto the fact that you are white. You cannot ‘turn into’ a white person.” She asked respectfully, “Have you ever asked your parents how it felt for them to escape their roots to say that they were white to fit into this place we call America? If not, maybe you should ask them.”
Tabitha was very hostile, “Do not bring my parents into this! You cannot tell me who I am! I am a white American, and my parents are white too, and we are proud of it!”
Out of nowhere, Cannon yelled, “You and your parents are a sellout! Your parents gave up who they are! They gave up their roots! They gave up their identity to be called and accepted as white — white Americans!” He couldn’t help himself and loudly said, “They gave it all up!” He raised his hand in the air to prove his point, “They gave it all up to be white … for the sake of whiteness… …white supremacy.” He stared at Tabitha for a while before he asked, “…and you do not see anything wrong with that?”
Tabitha yelled, “I do not identify as anything less than a white American.” Her eyes filled with tears, “When my parents came to the States, they needed a job. So, yes, they gave it all up. All of it! Their last name, and first name too. If they didn’t pass as white, we would be poor; we wouldn’t have anything! We weren’t going to suffer like the blacks or any other race. We weren’t going to be treated like dogs on the streets. People respect cats and dogs more than they respect blacks. We weren’t going to be killed because of who we are, and we for damn sure weren’t going to be treated less than a damn stray dog on the streets.” She banged her fist on the desk, “Yes, they passed as white! Yes, they change everything about themselves to make a living as a white person in America. And I do not see anything wrong with that!” She took a long deep breath, “I would rather be a part of the majority than the minority.”
Cannon took a deep breath, “I respect black people because they were never ashamed of their race. Out of all the hell they’d been through, they stayed true to themselves. They stayed true to their roots.”
“But you know, there is more minority than the majority,” said Phoenix. She, too, is white
Tabitha shrugged her shoulder, “So, who cares. Being white is more important. My parents say if you are white in this country there are a lot of advantages. The power of being white is that I have a choice. I will always have a job, a well-paying job. I do not have to work harder than blacks. I will be given a higher position without having any experience. I will be given more because I identify as white.
“Wow,” said Phoenix.
“So, you know it will always work out well for you?” I asked without any expression on my face.
“Yes, everything belongs to me because I am white. Yes, I know without a doubt, even if I don’t deserve it, everything will work out for me. There is not a doubt in my mind that it will not work out in my favor,” Tabitha replied with confidence.
Garret, a black guy, chimed in, “My father has been working at the warehouse since I can remember. He got a promotion here and there. However, a white guy came in, and within three months, he was the manager. I am assuming he had the same mindset as you and your family. My father works to provide for his family. However, his pay isn’t the same as a white employee. He is given more work on top of the work he already has to do … and you and your kind do not see anything wrong with that?”
“No,” replied Tabitha.
Garret looked disappointed. “As long as you are white-passing, you are okay with that? Wow. Speaks a lot for your character.” He paused, “Who am I to judge, but you are the problem … you and your family.” He looked at me, “Yet, you called Stella all kinds of cruel names, yet your family has sold their soul to America to white-pass.”
I smiled at Garret, but it was more so a smile of strength.
“Your parents cannot be struggling that bad … you are in a good school,” said Tabitha.
“My parents work hard to live in this neighborhood. Unlike you, we worry if our parents will make it home for dinner. A black person’s life is uncertain in this world. It is impossible for us to be comfortable. If my parents are late, we blow up each other’s phones. The first thought that comes to my sister’s and brother’s minds is, have our parents been murdered? If you didn’t know, black people are killed with impunity, but you do not care. If blacks are lucky, we are arrested, detained, and asked questions later. It sounds crazy to say we are lucky — actually, we would be because they didn’t shoot us down in the streets.”
Garret humbly tells her, “I bet your parents come home in enough time to make dinner. I bet you are not raising yourself or have to get a job to help with the bills.”
“No,” says Tabitha with an ‘I don’t give a shit’ look on her face.
“I’m sure. Unlike your parents, my parents have to earn their keep. Regardless of how hard they work, it goes unnoticed. With that being said, my parents and I pay a price to stay here, and the price is we hardly see each other because we have to work to earn our keep. We cannot white-pass, and we are given nothing. Basically, you can say today’s era is the new Jim Crow. A new system has been born again in America because somehow, in America, blacks are repeatedly controlled throughout our country. Somehow and someway, white supremacists still find a way to separate families. Either we work late and don’t see our family, or they put us away in prison for life or kill us.”
Tabitha raised her voice, “What do you all want from me? Okay, I am aware of my white privilege. I told you all that — I do not ask for it; no, not at all, it is a given and just … there.”
“My parents and I will never pass as white. Never. We would rather die knowing we stood for something than die knowing we disrespected our roots,” Garret replied quickly.
Cora’s blue eyes were filled with tears, “My parents do not talk about racism. To them, it doesn’t exist. They say it is all in the minds of others and not white people. However, I see it with my own eyes — it does exist. Most white people that I know deny the reality of racism and the privileges we have. However, I know that I have more privileges than others.”
Tears traveled down Cora’s cheeks and landed on her desk, “Sometimes I do not like being white because I am hated for my skin color. Some people, more so blacks, assume that I am racist. It is hard to make colored friends because I am judged because I am white. Yes, I agree; it looks different when I drive through the black folk’s side of town. They have more than one liquor store on each block. It is trashy and dirty, and their community does not have upscale stores, etc. I passed by their school once, and it looked like an abandoned building. I agree we as whites have more, all because we are white.”
Cora played with her fingers, “We as white people do not have any worries. We have mostly whites running the country, and if there are black millionaires, most of them had to sell their souls to sell out their own.” She looked around, “The truth of the matter is, white people can move through the world fearlessly, and to be honest, blacks cannot. White people are treated equally, and blacks are not.” With sad eyes, she continued, “I never asked my parents or discussed my whiteness with them. To be honest, I didn’t have to because I see it with my own two eyes.” She stuttered, “If … If … If we are really honest here, we as white people do not have to talk or think about racism … and that is a privilege itself. It shouldn’t be, but it is.”
“I am not ashamed of my whiteness,” said Cannon. He continued, “But I know that I can slack off at my job or come in late, and I won’t get fired. Hell, I will get promoted. One of my black co-workers told me that whites never earn it, but we as whites are quick to steal a black person’s idea. I can see some truth in that, the reason being, if I am being honest, the idea will be received better and accepted if it is coming from a white person.”
“Cannon, how many times have you been followed in the store?” asked Garrett.
Cannon shook his head, “Never.” He hesitated, but he asked Garrett, “How many times have you been followed in a store?”
“One too many times to count,” replied Garrett. He put his pen down on his desk and asked, “So, do you feel like you can go anywhere you want and be acceptable to everyone because you are white?”
“Yes. Please do not take this the wrong way, but we, as white people, know that we are important. We live well, have the best healthcare because we can afford it. Did we work for it? Some, but not all. We have everything and more in our community … and blacks, well, they do not have what we have because of their past and skin color. Our parks are decent, but in the black community, they aren’t. However, from what I see, blacks make the best of what they have. More blacks are on welfare, but not by choice … it is because blacks are not given a fair chance.”
He paused for a second, “But if people do their research, it’s more low-income whites on welfare. I guess people purposely target blacks because it is much easier to target them. People think whites have the power and money — they listen to us, respect us, trust us, and are very comfortable around us. Should we be trusted? Some, but not all. Should blacks be trusted? Yes, some, however, not all. Do black people work harder? Yes, I believe so because there isn’t anything given to a black person; it is always earned and never given at all.” Cannon answered honestly.
He stared at the floor, “However, I am happy that I am white because I am not profiled. I got pulled over many times for drag racing. I got a slap on the wrist every time and, most of the time, by the same officer. I never had a body cam on me. I have never been frisked. I have never been pepper-sprayed, beaten, or shot by the police. My car was never destroyed or impounded. I got and still get away with it all because I am white. I am privileged, and I am not ashamed to say it. Is it wrong? Yes. Can I do something about it? Yes. Have I done anything about it? No. Why? Because I am comfortable with the way of the world. I know I am wrong for saying this, but I will not apologize for being white. I am worthwhile because of the way I am treated. My life holds value and is validated without any exception or expectations whatsoever.”
“I respect your honesty, Cannon. However, do you think if you stood up against your white privileges, would the world be a better place?” I asked.
“With all due respect, Stella. Please do not take this the wrong way when I say this, but I cannot sign away my whiteness, and even if I could, I wouldn’t. I am white. Some people think I should hate myself, but I do not, not at all. I do not feel guilty because of my color. I wasn’t alive when slavery existed. Would the world be a better place if I stood up against my privileges? Who knows? Maybe or maybe not, but I am not going to figure it out. It isn’t my place.”
“Fair enough. However, if we all take a stand to speak the truth, the world will change. I know I am biracial, and I love the skin I am in. I love that I have the opportunity to learn about both of my races, but my life isn’t easy because most of the time, I do not fit in anywhere. I think if we all come together, all of the hate can and will end.” I said.
“You mean, we as white people should work against what we didn’t do?” asked Tabitha.
“Tabitha, white supremacy has done a lot of things and is still purposely hurting blacks. To be honest, there is a huge racial wealth gap, a huge racial healthcare gap, a huge racial discrimination of employment gap for high-paying jobs, and to be fair; blacks are always targeted. It is like blacks are born into a body and soul they will never own; we should all work against racial injustice. I wasn’t born in the 1800s or 1900s. I was born in the 2000s; therefore, I can’t change anything regarding the past. However, we all can do something now. We, our generation, can make a difference. We can be the change. We can dare to think differently. We can break down the racial barriers.” I answered.
“If the shoe was on the other foot, I wonder would you be begging and desperate for justice to be served?” murmured Tabitha.
“The shoes are on both of my feet. Yes, I would want justice to be served. Right here and right now, in the United States, there is a sense of fear and anxiety in our nation. The reason for this is because the white supremacists think the tide is turning. Therefore, some states have passed bills to stop teaching our history. They do not want us to know the truth about the Civil Rights Movement, KKK, white supremacy, Jim Crow, and the truth about the 13th and 14th Amendments. There is so much to learn. We should know about our history — all of it, the good, the bad, and the truth. I think America deserves to heal. For our great nation to heal, the truth must be told, and we all should effortlessly come together. America needs deep healing and cleansing. We owe it to ourselves and our nation to speak the truth about our roots. That is the only way to heal completely.”
Tabitha blinked once and took a deep breath, “Again, you mean, we as white people should work against what we didn’t do?” asked Tabitha.
I didn’t say a mumbling word to her. I just shook my head.
She snapped and kept running her mouth, “Don’t get mad at us because blacks are at the bottom and whites are at the top. It is not our fault we participate in a racist system. It is given to us — it always has and will be given to us. We were not the slave owners our people were — not us!” She hit her desk and stomped her foot, “I never did that shit! I wasn’t a black person’s owner!”
I started packing my things because I was so sick of Tabitha’s dumb-ass comments.
Before I left the classroom, I looked at my teachers, “Neither of you participated in the conversation. Was the conversation what you all anticipated?” I didn’t wait for an answer.
However, I wanted to leave the class with something to think about. I looked at everyone, “The 14th Amendment prohibits a person from being treated differently because of their race. The truth of the matter is that — that law is broken every single day. Segregation ended in this country 70 years ago, but the fact is that segregation is still alive and sadly thriving in our country. When you really think about it, our school is still segregated. Look around! Most blacks sit and only associate with blacks; whites sit and only communicate with whites. We all see that black and white communities and the schools in each community are totally different. White schools have more books, computers, better lunches, etc. Need I say more? What is happening in the world today is unconstitutional and violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I hear all the time that racism is not a white person’s problem. However, it should be; it is a Catch 22 to that statement. First, it is not a problem for whites because whites are not discriminated against. Therefore, you all do not look at it as a problem. However, if you open your eyes to see it for what it really is, you will see that it’s a huge problem. No, you didn’t choose to be white. I am not saying you should feel guilty for being white, either. Secondly, just because you all think that it is not a white person’s problem — I believe everyone should stand up against racism. I bet if the shoe were on the other foot, then everyone would be saying racism is everyone’s problem. I respect what everyone had to say, but some white people are part of the problem because you all do not do anything about it. Sadly, the only thing some white people are doing is milking and benefiting every single day from their white privilege. How is that right? White is embedded in some whites, and that should be a distasteful pill to swallow. If the tables were turned, would you all feel the same as you do now? Some, but not all, white people are the oppressors, and it has made you all spoiled and weak. I bet if your privileges were taken away, you wouldn’t know how to survive.”
I gathered my things and walked out of the class. The last thing I heard was Tabitha saying, “I claim my identity as white! I cannot and won’t give up my white privilege. As a white person, I am important, I have leverage, and I matter!
I kept walking. After all, it is people like her who turn a blind eye to what is happening in the world. It will never change if everyone never acknowledges the blind side of the honest truth.
Why Are You Obsessed with My Race?
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