Watch. This. Show.

A new show about race relations in America on FX in Dallas at 9 PM Wed evenings(from LA

In “Black.White.,” two families – one black, one white – switch places through the magic of movie industry-caliber makeup. The Sparks family of Atlanta becomes white and the Wurgel family of Santa Monica becomes black. The families lived together in Tarzana (California)for six weeks last summer, and the show traces not only their struggles with experiencing life in another person’s skin but also tensions within and between the respective families.

Now. I watched this show last night with my husband, and at times, I cringed. There was a white man on the show who said he washed his hands every time he shook hands with a black person. Another white man talked about his pure white neighborhood as if it hadn’t been infected by other races. It made me a little bit ashamed to share a race with these guys. I would like to say I am above it all, but race is a big issue in the US, and if you live here long enough, you get tangled up in it.

The white father on the show says it’s not racism, it’s just how people are. That blacks misinterpret the everyday slights and injustices that black people experience. That seems, on the surface, logical. Is it logical to me though because I am white? He goes through the show as a “black” man, and experiences black culture in a superficial way, but it never affects him, and he never sees the other side.

Is there racism? Yes, of course. And there’s sexism, and you-look-like-my-ex-girlfriend-ism. When I go to Asian markets I always get the look, like “What are you doing here?” If I am sans husband, people feel the need to look into my basket and inspect my groceries. I have had Asian people tell me what the groceries are for. That this is really spicy, OK? I am prompted to remind myself of the story at the Asian store last October (see 10/24/05), when I think of this, but it isn’t the same.

About sameness, over and over again, white people are told
“It isn’t the same.”
“You’ll never understand.”
“You can’t understand.”

And I know that in this show, the reason the white guy never comes across is because he knows this change is not permanent. There is no way he will be black forever. He knows at the end of the day, deep in his heart, that he is not black. That’s why it all rolls off his back; he knows it isn’t real.

I like hip-hop music. I love listening to it, and I have a major-league crush on Vince Carter. I was brought up right, and I would never say the n-word, which is just as offensive to me as the c-word. I cannot say those words. Not even whispering to myself right now at my desk, as an experiment. Because of the hate and disrespect infused into those words, I am unable to utter them aloud. I was brought up right, I think. Back on topic, however, the n-word occurs in many hip-hop songs, unacceptable when uttered by white people, or even Latinas (remember the whole J-Lo debacle?). So when I sing along with the songs, sometimes I sing it mindlessly (don’t shoot me! Do you really pay attention to all the words in a song?) and sometimes, esp. if there are others in the car, I simply don’t say that word. A word, off limits because I am white.

Off limits, also, is the black club. Black girls give you these looks, and they say, “What do you think you’re doing here?” and in Dallas, sometimes, it can be dangerous to try to get into a black club. Not so much for the woman, but for the man. Because testosterone is an ugly thing, it doesn’t always work out. But I like hip-hop music, and there will be black people at hip-hop clubs. And our friends, nice as they are, are racist. Against Asians and blacks. They don’t want to go to a club with too many Asians (I have no idea why), and they don’t want to go to a club with too many blacks. I wonder if there’s such a thing as too many white people. But then some of them ask me insensitive questions about me and Tony, as if our race keeps us apart, as if we had problems or have problems because of the differences in our races.

I had one of the girls ask me if we had marital problems, like if we ever fought, because of our race, and said that I would never understand my husband fully because I am not Asian. Hmm. I have trouble understanding what my sister is thinking sometimes, and we’re both white. Tony and I never experienced racial issues. At least none that I know of.

Shoot, I have to go to work again. I have so much more to say…