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Open Letter to Gen-X: #4
Now What? The Now-Normal Sure Feels Familiar: Like Chaos
I have been doing some focused reading on the impact of the pandemic on the workplace. Specifically, how it relates to Gen-X, and where we go from here. Then I went down the rabbithole. Again. Look for that topic in a post soon.
There are some great writers here on Substack. I typed Gen-X in the search bar and these eight platforms popped up, in this order. I subscribed to all of them. I decided to pay for one, LoVe Letters by Lola Venado.
All of us come at this from a different take. Obviously. But all of us write with a tone and attitude that is unmistakable. Because of our Gen-X childhood. It is a bond for life, and of life. Please check these writers out. Well worth the read.
How close did we come to losing the ancestors of every single one of 6.42 billion of us alive today? Well, we came within 1000-10,000 people of it.
He posits, using mind-blowing DNA and Human Genome Project data, that over 6.4 billion of us earthlings descend from a population that had constricted 60-120K years ago to between 1000 and 10,000 individuals. And he says it seems more likely to have been on the lower side of the range.
The following paragraph made me consider the writing I have done, and how we talk about and live with tribalism and racism. And how the color of a human being's skin matters not at all in the grand circle of life.
Go forth and multiply
Those 1,000-10,000 human beings who made it through their ordeal, smuggled out in their nuclei all the genetic diversity 6.42 billion not-very-diverse humans among us today would have to draw on ever after. Take a native each from say Santa Fe, Stockholm, Shanghai, Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia, Uluru in the Australian outback and a Sentinelese person from the Andaman Islands and you behold a little of the amazing superficial variety of the human race. They and their relatives have peopled almost every corner of the earth. They speak a riot of different languages and they look nothing like one another. And yet, aside from a dash of Denisovan here and a trace of Neanderthal there, as far as we can tell, they all trace the entirety of their ancestry back to a single founder event about 60,000 years ago. An event when just a tiny subsample of 1,000-10,000 humans of that day passed through a brutal, extended bottleneck. Whether it was in Africa or just after leaving the continent, they burst out of that dire strait and re-peopled the globe.
This is not what genetic diversity looks like: human faces in Santa Fe NM, Stockholm Sweden, Shanghai China, Ulaanbaatar Mongolia, Uluru Australia and North Sentinel Island.
All those faces. All those lived experiences. All those differences. All of those create an unparalleled tapestry of beauty so deep and so precious, it physically hurts to think how anyone can hate any of those faces, just by looking at it.
So as this post shape-shifted away from me and out of my control, I realize that all of my writing, and most of my thinking, revolve around one central question
Why are we calling tribalism racism?
Because it is easier to label others than to confront ourselves. It feels better to castigate another. Period. Once we deny human nature, we truly are Science Deniers.
I believe Gen-X is naturally suited to confront this uniquely American problem. Our very nature caused us to ally with others based on what they brought to the rodeo. We really didn't care a lot about skin color, and you can see it in our childhood photos.
You can see it in our dating choices. You can see it in our marriages. You can see it in our children. We are mixed-race, biracial, mutts, heinz-57, half-breed, mulattos, mongoloids, and a multitude of other names and slurs. My first post here on Substack was about this topic. You can read it here.
My white-mans life includes a 30-year marriage to a proud 3rd generation American woman of Mexican heritage (by way of Jalisco and Guadalajara, shout out to mi suegra, Jennie, RIP).
I have seen the double-pain of tribalism in action. My biracial daughter's experienced bias and prejudice by Mexicans and whites alike.
And to add insult to injury, living in Pomona, not too many blacks were fond of the Mexican side of them.
So why are all of these smart, educated people beard-scratch about starting conversations that actually have been on-going for decades? Because they are so focused inwardly on soothing their guilt, they project out these inner demons. It’s not me, it’s you!
Two examples just came glaringly and jarringly into focus this week. After a brutal weekend in which over 100 were shot, Mayor Lightfoot said criticism of her was 99% because she is black and lesbian.
Seriously? All the parents burying their little kids who got shot in the head are pissed at you because you are black and a lesbian? Does that make sense to you? Not to me.
If my little kid got shot in the head eating an ice cream cone in the park, I would be really pissed off. At almost everybody. But mostly at the person who has the power to affect policies that could bring about meaningful change.
If they were a straight white male, I would be pissed at him. If they were a gay Mexican dude, I would be pissed at him. If they were non-binary Siamese-Twins, I would be pissed at them!
Here is the kicker. I really didn’t care a lot about Mayor Lightfoot’s personal story, but when she started blaming white people for the record-shattering violence, I read up a bit. She has a white wife.
I don’t care if she is black and gay. I do care if she blames an entire segment of society, falsely, for violence because of skin color. Specifically, white. So white people are the problem. Not the person holding and shooting the gun?
she is married to white woman
Come’on, man! How can we seriously dignify her? This constant patronization and condescension is laughable at this point. It used to really bug me. Because of my weird childhood, I have always had an inferiority complex.
It has taken me some time (like most of my adult life) to figure out it isn’t a me problem. It’s a you problem. If you are so unproud of your actions and behaviors that you must blame a concept for them, you have some serious issues.
The other example was a dad who spoke up at a school board meeting
Black dad. White Mom. Mixed kids. All blacks are oppressed and unable to direct the flow of their lives because of evil white people. All whites are white supremacists that actively hate all people of color, and go out of their way to actively damage the lives of different skin-colored people.
The black man, gullible as he is to the guile of a clever, evil white woman, is unable to control the direction of his emotions and life choices because the evil white woman is manipulating his racial insecurities.
So, using this logic, the white lady who marries a black man secretly harbors evil white supremacism ideology, and then gets pregnant and bears said black man’s children, creating biracial human beings.
White woman then hates those mixed-race children she birthed by her black husband. And does everything in her power to destroy the lives of her husband and children. Because she is white and they are black.
DOES THAT SOUND INSANE TO YOU?
I hope so. Because if it doesn’t, my writing isn’t working! I cannot stand this crap anymore. Can we take a minute and just look into the mirror? Take three deep breaths. What we hate is often what we are afraid of in ourselves.
Two cases of a black person married to a white person. Opposite feelings about the intentions and racial integrity of the entire group of skin-colored people their spouses belong to. How can that be?
How can two black people, married to white spouses, publicly express diametrically opposite perspectives about the exact same issue-white people?
BECAUSE INDIVIDUAL PEOPLE ARE DIFFERENT AND UNIQUE AND BELIEVE DIFFERENT AND UNIQUE THINGS
If this doesn’t prove to you that what we are calling racism is actually tribalism, I am not sure what would be sufficient proof then. The mayor belongs to one tribe and Ian Rice to another. Both are black. This happens a lot.
I am writing a book about my crazy life, and more than a few chapters deal with this issue as it has woven itself through-out my lived experiences.
I specifically write about tribalism in prison, and how it is expressed. Here is a passage
I met a dude called Island. His skin was the color of a chocolate covered macadamia nut. He was from Hawaii. And he ran with the whites. Another dude called Ghost ran with the Southerners, the Mexicans from SoCAL. An albino guy with yellow eyes. He said his mom was Mexican, and his dad was a dog. Whatever that meant. I learned that there were different subcultures of different colored inmates. And, occasionally, skin color was not the deciding factor in a race-segregated society. Ironic.
Like the Captain said to explain his beating of Cool Hand Luke
"What we've got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can't reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it. And I don't like it any more than you men."
People like the mayor, and her supporters, are failing to communicate. Intentionally. Which is the way they want it.