All We Need Is Love!

NOTE: It’s hard as a white dude to write about race issues. I’m sure what I write below may offend some people, but again, this is my journal that I’ve decided to share with whoever decides to read it. The crap in our world has been bugging me on the inside, and this is my way of getting it all out of my head and onto some sort of digital paper.

If you haven’t already noticed I’m white. I’ve always been white. I have always grown up in primarily white communities, with little to no black people in those communities. It kind of sucks, because I tend to like the black culture. My favorite baseball player was black (Tony Gwynn), I always chose Magic over Bird (now I am West Coast bias, give me Tupac over BIG all day, every day), I preferred black Michael over white Michael, Taye Diggs is a hunk, my mom sometimes thinks she’s black (and we sometimes think she is also).

Okay, so I may have a slight man crush on Taye Diggs. Admit it! You do too!
Okay, so I may have a slight man crush on Taye Diggs. Admit it! You do too!

I originally had in my mind to write a post about Ferguson, and the conflicting messages I was getting on my Facebook wall. Good cop, bad cop. Black or white. Guns or no guns. My head hurt. How am I going to raise three kids in this world we live in?

I don’t know what it’s like to be a cop. I don’t know what it’s like to be a black man. I can only imagine that both are very difficult.

To me, the real hurt came in two separate occasions that didn’t involve Ferguson. First, the 12-year-old black boy from outside of Cleveland, playing with an air  gun in the park, that was gunned down by a white cop. I’m sorry, I know cops experience a lot of crap, but this is a 12-year-old boy. Sure, the boy reached into his belt, thus giving the officer probable cause to shoot him (?), but if I’m a 12-year-old and two cops draw weapons on me, I’m probably not going to react like a 37-year-old might. My son is 10, the neighbor is 13, they both play with Airsoft guns in the back and front yard. My son wouldn’t know what to do if two cops drew weapons at him. He’d cry and panic. But then again he’s white, so maybe he’d be safe, still … hits home.

The second was when giddy Kevin did the stupid thing of reading the comments immediately after the Star Wars teaser trailer was released. Oh forever more! A black Stormtroooper! Sounds silly, but this really bothered me. Who cares?! It’s a galaxy far, far away! Yes, I believe true Star Wars fans could care less, but the fact that hundreds of people had to point this out, makes me SMH (shake my head, just learned about this in 2014) in disappointment at this world I had hoped had changed. This parenthood thing is going to be incredibly rough.

Stop the press! A black Stormtrooper?! Who cares!
Stop the press! A black Stormtrooper? Who cares?!

A friend of mine once called me racist. She was dating a black man at the time and told me that all white men were born with a silver spoon in their mouth. I disagreed. Saying that disrespected the life my dad lived while growing up. My grandma went nuts so my dad was in and out of foster homes, orphanages, spending nights behind packages of bark lined up in front of a grocery store. Silver spoon? Not quite, he had to work – and work hard – for everything he’s ever had. Because I stood up for my dad, I was labeled a racist. That moment, and that label has stuck with me since. Am I really a racist?

On a bus in Seattle two black guys started beating up another black guy. While everyone else darted off the bus, I told my buddy we had to do something (maybe it was the alcohol talking, or the fact that two dudes – no matter the color – should not be beating on one dude). Being two fairly tall dudes (my buddy was a bit broader than I), we stood up and told them to stop. The two said they wanted no problems and rushed off the bus. The dude we helped wanted off as well because they had taken his hat. Um … what?! Still one of my all-time highlights, only because I seemed tough for an instant.

I used to look forward to our annual American Cancer Society Summit, mostly because on Friday night my buddy and I would head up to the nightclub at the top floor of the hotel we stayed. We were the only two white guys in the place. Did that matter to me? Heck no! As I told the bouncer, “They’re playing my jams!” Did I ever feel threatened? Heck no! Even though this funky white boy had some of the better moves on the dance floor. Shake what your mama gave you, that’s my philosophy!

I have one black friend and he lives on the other side of the country. I would love to have more (ask Lis). It sucks, because we both have similar tastes in music, our love of writing, our love of being easily annoyed and stressing over little and big things, but also for caring about everybody. If we had grown up together I would bet we’d be besties! His take on this whole Ferguson thing is here.

I don’t consider myself a racist, but I know that racism exists in every person. We make jokes, we have our stereotypes (NOTE: the black guy isn’t always the best player on the court), we discriminate, heck, nowadays I go out of my way to smile at anyone and everyone that is black, just so they know I’m not racist. Guess you could consider this a type of racism. Busted!

Where am I going with this? I’m not quite sure. As I mentioned I’m confused.

Instead of being angry I try to think of ways how can I help? I guess it goes back to being a parent.

Lukas asks me why New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham as red hair, when the video game says he’s black. I explain that he’s mixed-race, and that it doesn’t matter.

Earlier this year he wanted to watch 42, so Lis, Lukas and I watched it and we explained those were different times. (But are they?) Always treat everyone as equal.

Why do we have to put labels on everything? Especially these days when more-and-more people are coming from mixed races. My kids are labeled white because of their skin color. If we want to get technical we can call them Brazilian-American. If we want to get super technical, Brazil is an American, but South American, so … who cares?! I don’t. Call them what you want, Lord knows I do. Busted again!

Sure, it’s easier to label if you’re looking for something. “Guard the dude in the RED shorts!” “She’s the hottie in the BLUE dress.” “Those two funky WHITE boys on the dance floor!” But why do we have to label when sharing a story that has nothing to do with race? Why do we need to list Jimmy Graham as black on the video game? Why do we have to say Halle Berry is a black actress when her mom is white? Why do we have to blast Stacey Dash because she’s a black Republican?

After all on the inside we are all the same people, it doesn’t matter if we’re black, white, red, brown, or yellow, in the end all we need is love.

I think a group of four WHITE dudes sang about that in the ’60s. And to be honest, lately it’s been feeling like we’re headed back to those times.

But it’s true. Every person no matter wealth, color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, male or female, in the end all we really want is to love and be loved.

As a parent (and for myself), this will be my goal. To teach my kids to love everyone – even their siblings.

The Beatles – All You Need Is Love

2 thoughts on “All We Need Is Love!

  1. Very good, Kevin! I was thinking about the fam the other day… How your kids are half Brazilian, our nephew is half Mexican and my niece is half Black. I was thinking it was interesting we were gonna have the only ‘boring’ kid. Diversity is awesome and people are ignorant. Always have been and always will be!

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  2. You had to know I would comment.

    I agree with you almost completely. You know where I stand on a lot of these issues. Regardless of the situation, any time a cop (regardless of ethnicity) kills an unarmed person (regardless of ethnicity) people should be outraged. The fact of the matter is that this happens in disproportionate levels here in the U.S. with white cops and black citizens. There’s no way anyone can look at that sentence and logically disagree with it. Stats back it up. My experience-as a black man who’s lived in all-black communities and now lives in a virtually all-white community and thus has a broader view than most of many of these situations-backs this up.So not only am I outraged on principle, I’m outraged (and scared) because I know it can happen to me. I also know full well that I don’t have to be selling loose cigarettes or shoplifting from a convenience store for this to happen to me or a member of my family. It’s maddening. And frightening.

    I think many of us have been fooled into thinking that race relations have improved in the U.S. And they have, to an extent (I guess.) But this dream of “post-racial America” is an absolute crock of you know what. The main difference between now and when I was a kid (and when our parents were kids) is that the racism is a lot more coded and covered in subtext now. A big part of my disappointment these past weeks has been due to the fact that I have to explain the same things to myself as a 38 year old (regarding issues that have to do with race) that I did as a 15 year old. I’ve been stuck somewhere between extreme disappointment and disbelief over this fact.

    Having conversations (admittedly most of which were on social media) with people I know and care about has been challenging these past couple of weeks, as well. I’m worried about being understood clearly during the best of times, it’s been frustratingly worrisome of late. It makes me realize how ignorant some people are. It’s a lot of pressure to be empathetic and try to figure out, when people say/do/write certain things, if they’re saying/doing/writing these things out of willful ignorance or just because they don’t know any better. But in the end, empathy (in addition to love) is what’s going to bring us together and create situations where our kids or our kids’ kids ideally are not going to have to deal with these issues. I think if more white folks tried to understand systemic racism, tried to understand what it’s like to be viewed as a target by people who don’t know you, tried to understand what it’s like to feel like a second-class citizen in society-they’d “get it.” You don’t know what it’s like to tense up every time you pass a police officer on the street. I’ve been doing that since I hit puberty. You don’t know what it’s like to walk down the street and have people cross to the other side just because they’re threatened by the color of your skin. I-skinny, short, nerdy, unthreatening-looking Mike Heyliger- still have to deal with that. There’s a joke going around that has elements of truth to it. Michael Vick went to jail for killing dogs. Numerous black men have been killed by police and their killers haven’t even been prosecuted. Imagine what that does to someone’s psyche.

    I don’t envy you as a parent. I can’t imagine what I’d say to a child about situations like this if I had one. I think the best thing you can tell your kids is to treat everyone with compassion and love no matter what-doesn’t matter if they’re white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Christian, Muslim, atheist, Jewish, gay, bisexual, asexual, disabled, healthy, ill, wealthy, poor. And make sure you set an example for them in their life. They’re going to look to you for guidance. Too often, people have kids without realizing how much of an example they’re gonna have to set.

    Again, I think much of what you say is correct, and I hope you know that I think as highly of you as I think you think of me. I’m glad you wrote this: it’s a difficult subject to approach, and I think it’s brave of you to be as honest as you’re being. More people should follow your lead. And here’s another example of empathy: you can go through life not having to be aware of certain things. You have the benefit of being able to walk into a room, or an office, or walk down the street or to the supermarket and be “a guy.” I don’t have that benefit. I’m a black guy before anything else, and I come into a situation being viewed with whatever mental baggage the other folks in the situation may have about black folks. You don’t represent anyone but Kevin Johnson. I represent people other than me, whether I want to or not.

    P.S.: I don’t think your friend was right for calling you racist, but she did have a point-she just expressed it improperly. A lot of white folks who are not well off dismiss the notion of “white privilege,” which I think your friend may have been getting at. Of course, not all white people are born with silver spoons in their mouth, but all white people (at least in America)–or at least all heterosexual white men–are born with a distinct advantage in this country simply by virtue of being who they are. Most of them don’t realize it, and when they’re called on it, most of them tend to react angrily/negatively. But read the paragraph before this one-the fact that there are things you don’t have to deal with because of who you are–things that women have to deal with, people who are openly gay have to deal with, people who are racial and ethnic minorities have to deal with–that’s the definition of privilege. And, whether you see it tangibly or not, you are privileged.

    I may not be as privileged in some ways, but I am privileged to have you as a friend. Sorry for hijacking your comment section.

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