Two days ago I received yet another one of those despicable email screeds. It was entitled "Proud to be White," and claimed that it reproduced Michael Richards' defense speech in court. It was, of course, a load of horse puckey. Snopes.com cleared up the author question: it wasn't Michael Richards. Those distasteful messages that claim to have been authored by any celebrity, I find, rarely were. I am offended particularly because I received that ignorant, evil message during Black History Month.
I don't know why people send me that stuff. I won't be reading any more of that person's emails: my personal email will recognize her now as Junk. For a while I was receiving lots of Let's All Hate Mexicans rantings. The last one of those that I received was the last one because I replied, mentioning my Mexicana friend Estela. I can't respond to this latest email, though. I am too angry.
For years, I worked in the heart of a black ghetto. I was never mugged, never shot at, never carjacked. I was never called Whitey, Cracker, or Honky. I was never sneered at as I passed one of the residents on the street. When I was in high school I telephoned a black friend. Her brother answered the phone, I asked for Margery, and he hung up on me. She called me back and said, "He doesn't like white people, and . . . you know . . . you can tell from the voice..." To that young man, I was a white voice, nothing more than one of them, and therefore disconnection-worthy. That's about as close, I think, as I have ever come to suffering racial discrimination, and it felt awful. I felt . . . invisible. I can't imagine what it would be like to, daily, get that treatment to any degree. Other than that one incident, I am not aware of ever having suffered from any kind of discrimination. I have always been white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant. I've always been female, but I think I was always able to work that to my advantage.
A black coworker once told me that her cousin had started work on their family's genealogy. She got back a hundred years or so, and couldn't find a thread to follow: there was no record of her family. Another friend of mine, a Jew, told me that her mother had corresponded with her cousin in Poland every week since she was a little girl. During World War II the letters sent to her cousin came back; her cousin's town no longer existed. Presumably, neither did her cousin. Those of us who are able to trace our family history, who never had people just . . . disappear . . . from the face of the earth or from historical records are fortunate indeed.
My email correspondent who is now Junk needs to be educated. But you can't educate somebody who has so little empathy, and limps along under such a big concrete chip on her shoulder, that she will not learn. I am in a poor position to enlighten her: she is one of the people who pay my salary via her tax dollars, and a member of one of "my" boards. The emailed diatribe was preceded by a personal message that people should turn the other cheek, that when she was a kid she had been called names, and she never let it bother her. If being called names had been the worst thing that happened to you, I guess that would be relatively easy to overcome. If members of your lineage had been tortured and killed while being called those names . . . that's a different kettle of fish, isn't it?