Excerpts: Pages 128, 129, 211, 212 from a book
Power Lines by Jason Carter (forward by Jimmy Carter);
National Geographic Press, 2002
128 POWER LINES
"No, the people are really nice and I have been there a while so they know me. It's really great."
"Are you going back there right now?"
"Yeah, and actually, I need to go catch a taxi."
"A black taxi?"
I should have said that most of them were actually red or green or white, but I just said, "Yes."
"My God." They were still interrupting each other to show their concern. "Honestly, you must be careful. You know, they'll kill you and take your money just like that." Snap. "Please be careful.... My God, you just walk over to the black taxis? Behind the shopping center?"
"Yes, ma'am, and
I actually do need to go. Thank y'all so much. I'll be sure to go by the
I walked down the
street and across the parking lot to the taxi rank. In so doing, I realized I was crossing a
border that few others could cross. As I
sat in the taxi, I reflected that I must be one of the freest people in
Fear is the key
emotion between white and black in
Anna Domenico, for
example, is white, from
The Peace Corps had placed her on a farm near Piet Relief. That town was more conservative than Ermelo and farmers in general were not known for their cosmopolitan views on racial justice. Anna’s supervisor, the principal of one of the schools built on farmers’ land, had asked permission from the owner of the farmland for a volunteer to come and live in a tiny community of mud houses on his farm. He agreed.
When Anna arrived, she had a nice place to stay It had no electricity and no water, but she met fun and friendly people. Eventually she went to see the farmer and his wife. They had a beautiful home with a computer Internet access, plenty of food, extra guest rooms, and satellite TV.
We think you should stay with us," the farmer said.
"No really, thank you so much." Anna replied. "But I like the place where I am staying. The Peace Corps requires that you live with the people you work with, and that you live as close to their lifestyle as possible. The last thing she needed, as a white American, was to be set further apart from her community and teachers than she already was.
The farmer would not have
it. Anna eventually had to leave the community until the Peace Corps leadership
It was an interesting question. Not everyone, it seemed, was ready for the answer.
IN CONVERSATIONS WITH
WHITE PEOPLE, I FOUND THAT MOST WERE not necessarily against the idea of
Americans coming to
<< snip, snip, snip >>
surface of what
racism meant. In
Coming to an utterly race-obsessed society where people in
my small group of closest friends were harassed, where my job, my neighborhood,
and my life made me constantly aware of my color, allowed me, for what-ever
reason, to finally look black Americans in the face and talk clearly and
truthfully about race. And, I think,
212 POWER LINES
who is biracial and was dancing with another white volunteer, was just too dark for some of the boys at the bar.
I overheard: "Can you believe they're in here dancing with white girls? I'm going to kill that guy." They started bumping into us, spilling our drinks. We were all tottering a little after a night of drinking, and I started to get fired up. My freedom-fighter attitude was in full swing, and I wanted to tell these guys what I thought. Thankfully, someone in our group less belligerent than I decided we had better leave and began to usher us out.
As we left, a college student reached out and grabbed C. D.'s hair. C. D. pulled away and glared at him, but he refrained from saying any-thing and continued walking. The young man and two of his friends followed him out. "Hey, you! I can touch your hair if I want to! Are you telling me that I can't touch you, if I want to?"
"What do you mean?" asked C. D., maintaining his normal diplomatic demeanor.
"I'm from the
"What?" C. D. said. "That you're an asshole?"
I had had a few too many drinks, and I ran up behind them cursing and yelling, just in time to hear the man call C. D. "boy." I thought C. D.'s eyes were going to pop out of his head.
Kathleen, a white woman from our group, offered a few
conciliatory words, and the group of Free Staters turned around and walked back
into the bar. C. D., Marcus, and I were led back to the taxis yelling, but a
fight was avoided. On some level our behavior was a provocation, and we should
have expected this response. But that did not make our anger less justified.
For the African Americans in my group, the possibility of this type of
confrontation was always in the back of their minds. Their freedom in white