02 December 2013

0 ahhhhhhhhh

the dane is here. she has been here for not even twelve hours and already it is like YES.

maybe it's because i've been homesick and all in the throes, for the last few weeks in particular, of thinking about america and britain and what americans think of britons and what britons think of us and how incredibly annoying and taxing and trying all this business of being from different nations is and living in different nations and WHY CAN'T WE ALL GET ALONG whilst simultaneously quaking in my boots with fear that i'm not going to be able to bear america (which is, at present, like a TV show i can just avoid, with minor characters i occasionally skype) when i return to it because it is- in my mind now- just a place where everyone's screaming about obamacare.

from far away, my friends, america seems SO LOUD.

but yeah. dana's here. and, for the first time, i'm aware of the work i've been doing. not as in jackie (the work i actually came here to do), but in life, most especially conversation.

today, we went on a long walk through kensington and wound up at my church, where we ooooooohed and ahhhhhhhed. then we walked out and dana asked about the congregation.

and i said it was surprisingly diverse... there were young people and old people and...

[INSERT MASSIVE PAUSE]

black people.

the dane noted the pause. i noted the pause. we laughed at the pause.

we had been standing in an intersection where a light pole was gone crooked by maybe 15° and firemen were trying to repair it by blocking off the street and pulling it up with a rope while the pedestrian traffic was being guided by extremely polite police officers wielding uzis, all of which was temporarily distracting. but later, over fish 'n chips, we circled back to the pause.

because it was a loaded pause. honestly, in the moment, my mind was trying to figure out if i could get away with saying that. if it would be acceptable for me to point out that there were black people in our congregation. or if such an awareness of race, just the acknowledgement that it is a thing that exists- even though the presence of these people was being evoked as a positive thing- would be seen as crass, or offensive, or- even worse- american.

then i remembered i was talking to an american and i said it. because it is a thing that can be said.

but it can't be said here. or, at least, i feel it can't or have been made to feel it can't. race doesn't exist here.

which isn't true at all. but the people i've encountered seem to believe americans as a whole are terribly racist and, because we are american, any acknowledgement that race is a thing that exists- my mention of the demographics in the congregation, for instance- is perceived as racist. which is bunk. but also something that requires careful conversational maneuvering.

i am, i realize now, on guard against discussions of race. which is, like, white privilege in the extreme.

i'm from the south. i went to school in the south. i worked in the south. i left the south. i lived in chicago. in chicago, i went to a church that had as its primary aim racial reconciliation. i know we have racial problems in america. i know race is a thing.

and while i don't know that we as a country are getting better at talking about that (and i would argue the existence of the term 'post-racial' implies we're not), we have to talk about that. which is why it's hugely frustrating that, in britain (in my experience thus far), any discussion of that is automatically flagged as racist american talk.

america has a legacy of racism. but not all americans are racist. and americans need to be able to talk about racial inequalities without being branded as racist americans.

this post really isn't anything beyond a sustained grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, because i don't know that there's anything to be done about this, i just know that it is the way it has been. and that i do not like it.

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