Yesterday I was in the unfortunate position of needing postage to mail my cousin Melissa’s birthday card – the card I already know will be late – when, alas, the postage stamps I’d ordered from the usps hadn’t arrived in the mail. At various times during the past 20 years Pretty has offered her stamps in the unlikely event I should ever run out. I routinely rejected her offer but I was in a bind yesterday and had forgotten why I refused her generosity in the past so last night Pretty found her stamp collection in a small retail shop bag she had carefully kept in the bowels of her office.
I rummaged through the bag and a flashback hit me. Pretty doesn’t buy forever stamps because that would be too easy. Instead I found an assortment of stamps ranging from 2 cents to 33 cents. Seriously, Pretty? I couldn’t call this a stamp “collection” but it was a collection of stamps. I managed to come up with enough postage to mail Melissa’s card; usps now says a card from South Carolina to Texas could take until her next birthday to get there. Regardless, thanks to Pretty for saving the day.
But greater thanks to her for this nugget of writing that was copied on a sheet of regular 8 x 11 white paper, folded in half and oddly mixed in with the stamps. I felt these words about racism from the American author and poet Scott Woods speaking directly to me – I wish I had written them.
“The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know /like it or not. Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes Black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything.”
Sometimes I’m a storyteller. Sometimes I’m a word collector much like Pretty’s stamp “collection” which saved those words for me, for all of us.
Stay safe, stay sane, get vaccinated and please stay tuned.