Other kinds of racism

As the supporters of Elenita Muniz suggest, there is racism beyond that overt racism of which Muniz’s outraged critics protest themselves innocent. As part of the discussion of other forms of racism, I offer the following from my racial past.

In high school in the 1950s, my English teacher told a story on herself: She’s in a crowded bus and when jostled against a black kid (of which there were few in that time and place) involuntarily, as she tells it, pulls away from him. There’s that level of racism, seemed to be her point. The president of student government at that time was the only black kid enrolled in high school.

When maybe 40 years ago my cousin called her parents and told them she was going out with a black guy, my liberal family applauded. But the big deal of it, the self-congratulations—if that was not racism, it was in the ballpark.

On a trip to a Caribbean island walking on one of our first nights along an unlit road, suddenly realizing we were the only white people walking along that road. We were unused to being a minority. (We lived in Hartford at the time but didn’t hang out on that side of town.) Wow. The only white people amongst all these dark-skinned people and, pretty clearly, nothing to fear. How much of our apprehensiveness, natural enough perhaps, given the history of the colossus to the north, was racist? That experience alone should be a basis for understanding profiling by cops.

Another instance of profiling of the non-law enforcement sort. We are in downtown Wellfleet restaurant with our son, age five; the only other people a black man and his daughter about the same age, who was dancing amongst the tables. Later when we talked about our time there, there was absolutely no sense that Ben saw the color of skin as anything worth mentioning about the girl. It was as if he hadn’t seen it. “Little girl” he said, perhaps mentioning the color of her dress, the fact that she was dancing around. In telling another party the story, his parents said “little black girl.” It would have felt coy to fail to mention the girl’s skin color.

The racial innocence of early childhood is a wonderful thing and in a way a model and goal. But in the adults protesting their outrage at Muniz’s insult to their racial innocence, it’s part of the problem.


Orion, Apollo and the Model T

Want to know what’s weird? My 27 year-old son calls, wants to know if I’ve been watching the Orion test launch. He’s been up since seven to watch with his four year-old son. “Dad, you’ve got to see this. This Orion mission will be to our generation what Apollo was to yours.” TV coverage has […]


The politics of an apolitical movie

If you’ve been wandering around in a post-election funk, shaking your head, beseeching the heavens (Why? Why?), I’ve stumbled upon a small source of comfort. If you are seeking a clue to what seems like the maddeningly illogical Republican victory, I recommend “St. Vincent,” the feel-good Bill Murray movie appearing in local theaters. “St. Vincent” […]


Black Friday eating the Thanksgiving turkey

Forget about “The dingo ate your baby.” Black Friday is eating your Thanksgiving turkey. Thanksgiving has always had an unhealthy (and lord knows unsustainable) emphasis on consumption. But there has always been, along with the gobbling, a shot at some creative ritual, an element of mindfulness, rising to the occasion with heartfelt toasts. Sure, the […]


More accidents: what’s going on?

Still more accidents on route 6, two within a couple of hours and a couple of hundred yards of each other last Saturday. Another fatality. Middle of the day, off season. Can’t blame tense tourist traffic this time. Early in the day to be driving drunk. These added to the two big ones in the […]


P’town leaders can’t afford to live in the town they lead.

After a long and exhaustive, as well as exhausting, search Provincetown recently chose a new Town Manager. But the newly anointed one turned them down. Reason? Can’t afford to buy a house in town. Couldn’t he find a cheaper place elsewhere and commute to work? Maybe, but that wouldn’t be allowed. P’town requires its town […]


NStar’s “rape” of the Cape.

On a walk I noticed NStar’s sub-contractor’s trucks parked in our neighborhood. I assume that means they are about to do it to us. That’s what it feels like. “Nstar’s Rape of the Cape.” Has a nice ring to it. But is “rape’ too strong a word for what NStar has been doing to this […]


Ocean View Drive’s surprisingly obscure origins

The other day I was walking on Ocean View Drive here in Wellfleet and realized that if I’d ever known when it was constructed I’ve forgotten that. OVD is the road that, as the name suggests, runs along the top of the dunes connecting four main town ocean beaches. I was surprised that I didn’t […]


OVD: how soon we forget

The other day I was walking on Ocean View Drive here in Wellfleet and realized that if I’d ever known when it was constructed I’ve forgotten that. OVD is the road that, as the name suggests, runs along the top of the dunes connecting four main town ocean beaches. I was surprised that I didn’t […]


Civilly disobedient grandmothers

Ralph Waldo Emerson, famous 19th century idealist, upon finding his buddy Henry David Thoreau in the local jail: “Henry, what are you doing in there?” Thoreau (in there for protesting a poll tax): “Ralph, what are you doing out there?” Once again the clear will of the community is being spearheaded by a handful of […]