Home > Family, Love, Parenting > lily-white eugene, oregon

lily-white eugene, oregon

my family and i
paid for our hotel room
in usually lily-white eugene, oregon
before we were actually able
to enter said room

(it
was
not
yet
clean)

we all
went for a walk
while waiting
for our room
to open

almost immediately,
we crossed paths
with a white
teenaged
girl
who
looked
with horror
upon my black husband

(nevermind his two
boisterous young sons,
running circles
around him)
before we heard
the customary
click of
car locks
being
engaged

hubs and littler

aaaaaargh!
i roared
after the teen
(and her teenaged friend)
sped away.
stupid eugene!

“hey, hey,
let’s give them
the benefit of the doubt,”
said my husband,
calmly

“yeah,
i grew up here,
and i can tell you,
we don’t deserve the
benefit of the doubt,
here where dark skin is
rare and thus immediately
suspicious by its rarity”

“mmmm,”
my husband murmured

the next morning,
we went to a local public park
for an early morning walk

(we awaken
very early
compared to
almost everyone
we know;
it was waaaay
too early to
show up
at our friends’ house)

a bald man
in a bright yellow truck
parked in front of our car
and stared us down
(with his older woman passenger)
while alternately
typing furiously
on his phone

the two made
three or four
rotations past
our car as i looked on
with wary suspicion

“maybe they’re playing
pokemon-go,” my husband said

but then,
when i got in my car,
i glanced at the back of their truck
and found an explanation:
a bumper sticker featuring
the slavery-positive
confederate flag

“i guess
they’re trying
to get rid of
undesirables!”
joked my husband

i glared
at him

when we
encountered
the truck doing funny
maneuverings a few minutes later
i almost drove into it

“please don’t rage-drive
with our kids in the car!”
implored my husband

he’s had
a lifetime
to deal
with
daily
racism;
i, only
a handful
of years

i was
shaking
by the time
i reached
our friends’ house
a few minutes
later

“in this town,
where people don’t
hardly see dark skin,
dark skin is suspicious!
just by being dark! and yet
these people will call themselves
liberal and pride themselves,
despite being raging a-holes,”
i ranted at
anthony

“there are
lots of people
who try hard, too,”
he told me

we got our
two young sons
out of our car
and made our way
to our friends’ house

i beamed
when i saw
a sign in a neighbor’s lawn:

BLACK
LIVES
MATTER

black lives matter eo sign

“look, hon!”
i called to
my husband

“even in white eugene,
some people get it!”

“uh-huh,” he said,
shepherding our sons
to our friends’ house,
“and look: [our friends]
have one
in their
window,
too!”

i rose from
taking a picture
of the neighbor’s lawn
and smiled,
and sighed;

maybe
some people
don’t have to see
that hatred
first hand
to know it
exists

(later,
another neighbor
saw my husband and
paused before calling,
“good morning!”
my husband
responded
in kind, and
then said,
“bless
older
liberals,
for kindly trying”

“right?” i replied.
“it’s almost like
they watched
how to talk
to black
people'”)

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  1. Nomolanga Achieng
    August 15, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    You get accustomed to it. It sucks, but yes, it is relieving to know decent people exist and all others can go back to living in 1876.

    • August 20, 2016 at 1:04 pm

      Would that we could create a time machine to send them back! But I kid, I kid. Part of the marvel of this world is all its many differences, and how we learn to bridge them. (I’d like to accelerate my own learning, for the sake of patience and thus positive discourse!)

  2. August 15, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    Ugh, I was struggling with some of this from the “trying” side of things these past few weeks. A few interactions that were very positive putting my mind in the frame of “why can’t all people be like this? Have human interactions, not race-based interactions?” I will keeping trying in my own ways and hopefully it will contribute to the bigger picture in the long run. Love you guys. Sorry I couldn’t have come down to see you all, but happy you had some family time. ❤

    • August 20, 2016 at 1:09 pm

      Me, too! It was so good to be there, even for a few days. Now that I’ve got good vacation time accruing, my next trip should be a slightly longer one without two days of travel time. That’s good once in a while, but I’d have enjoyed an extra day and a half actually there. It would’ve also given opportunities to do a little more and see a few more much beloved people.

      I still haven’t looked at the link you sent, but it’s in my inbox and I hope to look at it this weekend. I love that you sent it to me. I love that you have your eyes open and are willing to engage. My own goal is to get better at engaging without the rage. That’s where I think the most good will originate, so I’m working toward it. Part of that is spending more time with the good things, so that the sense of love and peace carries over to discussions about the rougher ones.

      I love you. ♥

  3. August 15, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    Hey Eugene mama. A friend of mine in Toronto reads your blog and send me this. I’m a white Eugene mama and organized a buy of 20 of these signs to get them in yards in town. A friend of mine organized for 20 more. There are 40 in town and I am working on 10 more. We’re here, we know your family is struggling, and we’re trying to make sure we are vocal and supportive. Much love to you and I’m following along now.

    • August 16, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      I recently returned to Eugene from living In Portland where I bought 10 signs for friends and now have bought 10 more. I think the sign the author saw was one a friend had put up. I will keep ordering more as long as people want to put them up until Eugene is covered.

      • August 20, 2016 at 1:18 pm

        Ooooh, this means two separate groups! I’d wager the friend I mentioned here (Darth) got hers from you, but that’s all the more exciting, because that means many people working to create that awareness. ♥

    • August 20, 2016 at 1:17 pm

      That makes me so happy–thank you! By “that,” I should be clear I mean the organizing, the buying, the distributing, your comment. ♥♥♥

      Our friend mentioned she’d gotten it from someone who’d organized getting a bunch, which makes me think she got it from you.

      Thank you again. I am so inspired by your thoughtfulness combined with loving action. ♥

  4. Paul
    August 15, 2016 at 7:38 pm

    Awww, such crap that Anthony has to put up with. Such stupidity on the part of racists. It reminds me of an old Star Trek episode in which aliens come in two versions; one white left side and black right side while the other is white right side and black left side. The ludicrousness of their warfare based solely on the reversal of their colors was blatant. So silly and yet evil. My apologies to Anthony.

    • August 20, 2016 at 1:27 pm

      I’m going to search out that episode! I watched many episodes with my mom, who adored William Shatner and appreciated the perspective science fiction sheds on the world today. I don’t think I ever saw that episode.

      Anthony deals with it daily no matter , but feels more comfortable overall here in SoCal due to the fact he’s much better represented here; he’s not nearly as conspicuous. He’s always getting on my case for shouting excitedly while we’re driving, but he actually did it this trip. He shouted in wordless excitement, startling me so that I almost admonished him before he continued, “OTHER BLACK PEOPLE!!!”

      Oregon is extremely white; even Portland, which is comparatively diverse, is “the least diverse major U.S. city.” Tides will change as the population does, but for right now, it can be pretty discomfiting. I’m going to be writing a follow up post inspired by a lady who accidentally posted a (moved-to-trash) comment here about how her black husband did well and I’m probably just paranoid. I think she meant to post the comment to a Facebook share of this post (since she spends most the time referring to me as “she” before concluding with a sentence directed at a “you”), but I’m glad she shared it here. It gives me an opening to talk about “black exceptionalism,” or how the occasional successful black person is critical to propping up the effect caste-based system of race-based incarceration: “See? This one guy I know succeeded, so those other hundred must have just made bad choices!”

      But, ahem, more on that in a future post, which I’ll try to keep short and sweet.

      The more I practice being non-aggro, the easier it will come to me. 🙂

      • Paul
        August 20, 2016 at 2:07 pm

  5. August 15, 2016 at 7:43 pm

    Sigh.
    Like so much in life there is sadness here, but also hope. I choose to focus on the hope.

    • August 20, 2016 at 1:28 pm

      I try to focus on hope as well, for which there’s abundant inspiration, but it can be easier some minutes than others. Practice, practice, practice for me!

  6. Deb
    August 15, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    I am only liking this post for the few in Eugene who do ‘Get it’ and are willing to openly proclaim it.

    • August 20, 2016 at 1:30 pm

      I am soooooo glad to have weigh-in on this post from some such folks! It’s a very, very hopeful thing to me that between them (per some comments above this one), there’re already a few dozen signs throughout Eugene.

  7. August 15, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    I actually got a headache reading this, Deborah. I think my blood pressure spiked! I just cannot imagine–and I don’t want to be either blind or naive to racism and how it is both expressed by some and experienced by others so I’m appreciative of how honestly you write. You have a beautiful family and it seems to me that you have incredible strength together. I’m glad you have a strong group of friends, as well.

    • August 20, 2016 at 1:42 pm

      Thank you so much for your kind, thoughtful words. I see much goodness and cause for inspiration moving around in the world, so I want to be careful that I show the cause for hope as well as the moments that gut-punch me.

      The school to which we were first planning on sending Li’l D for first grade was an overwhelmingly white private school. In Anthony’s penultimate meeting with the school, the administrators tossed out a few comments that were troubling. We dismissed them until the final meeting with the school. When Anthony walked in wearing his YALE tee, the principal asked, “Oh, you collect T-shirts?”

      They then administered their entry test and, afterward, pretty much described admitting him to the first grade as a sympathy act.

      When Anthony relayed all of this to me, I told him I’d have left after the T-shirt comment. I wouldn’t have even heard that for what it was a half-decade ago, but now I’ve heard enough to hear it for what it is. It’s right there with backhanded comments like, “Oh, you’re so articulate!” Uh-huh, ’cause those “other ones” aren’t as articulate.

      Li’l D has been around educators since he was a baby. Those I emailed about this exchange were astonished by the test administrator’s statements, and supportive of our taking D somewhere where they’d recognize both his strengths and weaknesses … thereby not dragging down his confidence as did some of Anthony’s early teachers.

      He did great where we sent him, and we’re all looking forward to his second grade year at the other school … even if his new teacher isn’t quite as friendly as was last year’s!

      But I digress. Sometimes the not-so-good helps lead to the better, and that’s worth celebrating!

  8. August 16, 2016 at 9:08 am

    Love this post. I could literally see and feel everything you were going through, but your husband was right…you can’t have road rage with the kids in the car. I would have been there with you trust me, but thank God for calming husband’s huh? But, we have to have faith that a change is gonna come.

    • August 20, 2016 at 1:47 pm

      I’m so thankful for his calming presence, in the car then and every day! Thanks to his words then, I’ll be better able to respond calmly and peaceably. I do have faith that change will come, and I’d like to be part of it with my love! (Somehow, “road-raging to a better world” doesn’t sound like a successful approach overall. Ahem.)

  9. August 16, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    Thank you for writing this. I saw another friend in Eugene post it on FB. I feel this daily after having moved back to Eugene from 16 years in Portland. Although Eugene feels much more diverse then when I left in 1992, I feel more of the looks people give me and my black daughter that are sometimes curiosity of how we fit together but often feel like looks of disgust. I believe she can feel it too at times and it breaks my heart I can’t protect her. It still is the right place for us to be now as we have supportive family and friends and I am getting to know a new family of social justice warriors that she will grow up with fighting for her and all of us.

  10. August 17, 2016 at 8:01 am

    It’s shameful that racism is still alive and kicking in this day and age. I’m sorry for what you and your family have to endure.

  11. August 17, 2016 at 8:55 am

    I guess because I live in the Tampa Bay area where blacks and whites are mixed about 50/50, it never occurs to me that towns like that exist. God bless your husband for his kindness, patience and optimism (and you for not running anyone over, haha). I laughed at the last line you posted, but I really, really hope that in the next 20 years your beautiful boys will also be kind, patient and optimistic… not because they acquired those traits to deal with racism but just because they have wonderful parents and live in a world where the gap between white and black is smaller.

  12. August 18, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    Oh gosh….we were up in Florence in June and headed back to Eugene to see if we’d like retiring there….I don’t think I like the thought of little diversity…..shoot. Thinking maybe Seattle area would be better….hm…..

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