Antonio Cayonne | Actor

...racism's still alive

Antonio CayonneComment

I thought I'd get home and write a whimsical blog about how much I hate Brunch. About how the way people behave hurt my feelings. About how the actual process upsets me, and how real food, good food, get over looked for all that is Brunch. 

But fuck that. 

I came home to 32 'Niggers'.  

You see, I left my window open (the weather here is nice) . The people across the hall were having a 'party'. There were people outside when I got home, but a different group were congregated outside by the time I got into my room. I had the lights off, because I didn't want anyone looking into my room, as it faces the street. It took me a second or two, before I heard the first slur. Clear as mud, I doubted myself. It was late, and I'd had drinks. So what did I know. I stood still. I wasn't sure at first. But there it was again, plain as day. These guys outside my window, on the street, laughing, using this word to describe people, making voices, impersonations, derogations. 

I walked over to the window. Because I needed to hear, I needed to know. But I wasn't in disbelief.

Racism occurs daily.  That's a sad fact. 

I had a great - and I mean important, difficult, honest, but not entirely fun - conversation with a friend recently who felt that it was okay to say he didn't see color. That's problematic, given that we are all different. And choosing to 'not see' me is not a compliment, or a furtherance of who I am, but rather a reduction of an aspect of my personhood. Acknowledging that you work to not pass judgement on anyone without meeting them, is a much clearer approach to what I believe he was intending to express. 

We got into it. Because we're friends, and friends don't let friends drive drunk. And we came to terms. It was important, because racism still exists. And it should be addressed, and confronted, when appropriate, with the intent of educating and eliminating. And even if you don't want it to exist, and don't think it does because YOU don't see it daily, or at all, it's not because it's not there. You may not see it, because you don't live it, because it doesn't happen to you, or because you're not part of the group who, once they've encountered it, have nowhere to put the experience. Believe me, it's there. In many forms. Some, you may not even recognize or identify. But it's there. Attached to shit you forgot to reassess.  

I stood at that window for about 6 minutes.

32 niggers. That's what I stood there for..... 32. 

That's a lot. That's not using a word to explain something. That's not telling a story and daringly using a dangerous word for impact. That's egregious and that's not okay.  

I didn't storm down and fight them. I also didn't open the door, go down, and educate them. I was tired and drunk and more that anything, really just wished that this were not happening at all.

I stood at the window, and made eye contact with one of the boys on the street. He saw me, I saw him. I nodded at him. He nodded back. And 'conversation' subsided. The whole group did not return to the building, but one guy did. I went into the hall to wait for him to come upstairs. I wanted him to see me, before he went inside. 

He saw me. He averted eye contact. I would too.  

32 times. Put that somewhere. 32. 

The laughed. A lot. They impersonated, they mocked, they thought it was fucking hilarious. I didn't. I was told recently, by someone who thought they had the best of intentions, that it'd be better to not bring up racism. That the reason it's still a problem, is because 'people' (she said, meaning black people) keep bringing it up, and won't let it go. That if we don't talk about it, we can move past it, because in her perception, talking about it made things worse, and made things uncomfortable. It made more people upset. ..She was white, for the record, with bi-racial family members. I pointed out the problem. 

You would rather not talk about it so that it's comfortable for you. What you are asking me to do, is solve your problem by living with the 'discomfort', the harm, the offence, so that you can feel better about your day to day and believe it isn't happening.

I'll never get on board with that. 

Here's the thing.  Those guys have already forgotten all the things they said. They don't go home with it. They say it, it means nothing, on they go. There was no value, and no stakes. Going to racism for them is just one of the many options they can entertain in looking to, well, entertain each other. They won't think twice about it. Not even the two separate guys I made eye contact with. It cost them nothing. 

It costs me something. Even as a bystander. It costs me something. I carry it around. It attaches to me. I have nowhere to put it. I get to wake up and remember that right outside my door, right across the hall, there live people who threw a party and whose friends all think it's totally appropriate to toss around racial slurs. Who are in fact, racists. Because that's how it works. 

I didn't say anything last night. It was a conscious choice not to engage at 4am. It was late. I had been drinking. So had they. There was no good that was going to come of that. I get that it's not my job to confront or challenge, but I take it on, because I have to believe that if I can get through to someone, I can help stop this from happening to someone else, somewhere down the road.

I talk a lot about being an ALLY. This is why we need allies. These conversations get easier over time, if everyone says no, instead of just the one person who gets hurt in the transaction.