Imagine if you were black

June 14, 2020

Dell Franklin


We, as white citizens of this country, owe it to ourselves to try as hard as we can to imagine what it is like being black in America, and, more urgent, what it’s like growing up black in America. We need to try and place ourselves in the shoes of a black person in the town or city we grew up in, and wonder how different our lives would have turned out.

If I had been born black I doubt very much I’d be where I am today. I think I would probably have done some jail time and maybe be dead. As a person who has always been rebellious and defiant and at times confrontational with irrational and unfair authority, I don’t see how I would have survived as a black man.

I don’t see how, as a free spirit who wanted nothing to do with the grown-up world, I would have been able to hitch-hike to Mardi Gras in New Orleans from Los Angeles as a 25 year old and, after spending every cent in a week of partying, landed a job as storekeeper on the riverboat Delta Queen.

I was the only white employee among deck hands, porters, cooks, waiters, maids, etc, and somehow I secured the best job on the ship, hired by the captain (a white man) without even offering a resume, but just on my word as a stock-boy and order writer in LA.

You think there wasn’t resentment, even hatred of this lucky white guy? You better believe it. I understood it, and deserved it, despite the fact I was a liberal who attended an integrated high school. I had close black friends there and while serving in the army.

The black men on the Delta Queen knew they could not hitch-hike across America without getting killed, much less roll onto a ship as a complete stranger and cop the best job with the most responsibility.

They were instead to be thankful to have dead-end jobs that paid diddly squat, put a roof over their heads, and fed them. It was the best shot they had as young men with no future and older men who’d paid their dues to Jim Crow America.

That’s the way it was in the south, where I did not grow up in the 1950s as a black man, and was forced to to sit at the back of a bus, to drink out of my own fountain, to never dare use a white man’s bathroom no matter how desperately I needed to urinate or move my bowels, to lower my gaze and shuffle like a beaten down lowlife whenever I approached a white woman on the sidewalk; or was forbidden to enter a public swimming pool, because, evidently, I was dirty, scary, amoral, and, yes, a monstrous potential rapist and murderer.

How would I feel about myself walking in those shoes as a white boy? I’d probably be pretty pissed off. I’d probably have a pretty big boulder on my shoulder. I’d probably want to fight and kick someone’s ass. I’d probably want to show any image of authority, if the occasion presented itself, a riotous rage, a fury at the bastards who had reduced my life to an existence one step above slavery.

I grew up in the 1950’s in Compton, California, where our cops were an even more brutal extension of the LAPD. If you were white and talked back you got smacked around and sent home with a warning. If you were black, you got smacked around and went straight to jail.

Once you were in jail you got booked. Once you got booked you had a record. Once you had a record you had an even harder time finding a good job or even getting into the army. This wasn’t the south. This wasn’t Jim Crow. This was paradise Southern California.

Thing is, blacks in Compton kept their mouths shut. They trod lightly. They did not dare come to our white part of town, because they knew it wasn’t only the cops who would pull them over and take them straight to jail, but the white thugs who used the N word constantly would jump and beat them half to death like a frothing dog-pack

In those days, I never considered what it was like to be considered a nigger, or called a nigger. I was too young and arrogant to try and place myself in the shoes of a black kid. What I did realize was that as an athlete they were hungrier and more punishing when I competed against them, and that in high school many of them (not all) exuded an anger that was palpable, and aimed at white kids.

Was it because they could not go to places we could, nor do things we did? Was it because all movies and TV shows were about white people, and if a black person showed up in a film he or she was usually an obsequious servant? Was it because they were completely left out of anything seen as worthy and important in our country, outside of sports and entertainment?

Today, many white people, mostly young, are united with their angry black brothers and sisters after the hideous murder of George Floyd, and they are protesting, not rioting. They seem as angry as their black friends. But they are not. They cannot feel what a black person feels. They did not grow up knowing that wherever they go they are marked as dangerous and largely of no account and potentially, if they are not very, very careful,, candidates for the prison industry of America, where hopelessness and misery exists and has existed for centuries.

Yet white people are trying. They observe white vigilante types belonging to nationalist militias storming the capitols of a state like Michigan, dressed like commandos and holding automatic weapons, and nothing happens.

They get away with it. If you are white, put yourselves in some black shoes when you see this in America, and try and imagine how you would feel. If you see no problem with this, then we are in bigger trouble as a country than it appears we are.

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Imagine if you lived in another country where you are not free to do what you want. Anyone can make it here. It requires effort and good decision making. If you are not successful in America it’s your fault. How is it that Mexicans can come over the border and not even speak the language and be successful? Hard work maybe. I don’t think I’ve ever met a poor Asian. Seems to me that blacks are the only ones that flounder.

There are currently over 40 million slaves in the world. Yes slavery is still alive. Protest for those people. Or for the people of Darfur who are fighting genocide with over 400,000 people murdered.

Stereotype, much? Unfortunately, your stereotype is fake news. Hispanics are only slightly better off than African-Americans when it comes to a comparison with whites. Whites hold 10 times more wealth than African-Americans and 9 times more wealth than Hispanics.

And, while Asian-Americans (and, for that matter, Middle Easterners, both Arab and Persian) fare much better than their Hispanic and black counterparts (although there are still huge wealth disparities with whites) most of that comes from previously acquired wealth (generational inheritance) as well as increased access to higher education.

Of course, the biggest difference between blacks and other minorities is that Hispanics, Asians, Arabs, Persians, et al. came here of their own accord and did not suffer several generations of chattel slavery which tore families apart and relegated blacks to the back seat of the bus for literally hundreds of year.

As I said in a previous post, I really wish many of you would sit this one out when it comes to commenting on things you have no idea about.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met a poor Asian.”

You may firmly believe you’ve made an honest observation, but it’s really an admission of your blind, normalized racism.

I would wager you would never feel so comfortable to wear your words on a t-shirt and wear those in public.

As an ‘outlaw biker’ type, I can tell you that it is easy to be profiled by militarized police departments in modern day America. Heavily tattooed seems to equal black in police’s eyes. Injustice for people of color is still worse for the average black person than it is for white trash like me. That’s pretty lame. The same system that locked me up and took my rights seems to me to grind down the black men I have known even harder. African Americans (many of whom are currently feeding confirmation bias by looting and smashing) deserve better from police. What we have is not so much of a race problem, but a class one. Cops have become some protected class in their own little military grade departments. The good news for blacks is, cops break white heads too. Yay equality!

BLM, minorities matter. Stop police brutality, lawsuits and cover ups. Stop the 1% enslaving and indenture of the minorities and the poor. Ban the Confederate flag, cleanse our country if its slave based roots. Eradicate the hate.

Sorry Dell….

I’ve never been a fan of pandering or kowtowing.

Imagine we were all human beings.

As the victim of direct, personal, violent, and in the case of the shooting, nearly fatal, crime – both white on white and black on white, I feel ENTITLED to take the law into my own hands and even the score. It doesn’t matter that my attackers are probably dead by now.

I was run out of SLO County because of racism. My race was I didn’t fit in with the other liberals even though I was, I feel, the finest liberal in SLO County. But I was discriminated because I didn’t wear and eat what the others did and so my rent was raised and now I’m stuck in freakin’ MISSOURI. You try it and see how you like it.

Well said, Dell. Hoping most of the “Conservative” commenters on this site will sit this one out, but I already see one comment that has me shaking my head.

The point is….. black people are discriminated against? Well, so are Hispanics and Asians and anyone else who isn’t in the ethnic majority. That happens everywhere in the world. Good feelings, cultural awareness sessions, demeaning “woke ” expressions of caucasian penitence will do nothing at all except to raise money and increase partisan political power. Wallowing in self pity, blaming the world for one’s failures, being an apostle of victimhood doesn’t improve schools, fix broken inner city families, violence, drug cultures…nope, doesn’t work. You know what does? Hard work, hard work, studying long, modeling after successful cultures and mentors, not asking constantly for hand-outs because your are entitled to such. And NEVER wallowing in self pity. That will work. Ask the Chinese, Korean, Syrian, Persian and Filipino immigrants.

Wow. You simply have no idea what the Black Experience could possibly be. This reply is not only clueless and demeaning, it is the epitome of racism in itself. Blaming the victim is a common way of abdicating responsibility for bad behavior, lack of empathy and a need to see others as less worthy than yourself. Obviously you didn’t either understand or chose to ignore every word that Mr. Franklin said in order to justify your obnoxious reply.

I grew up in the South and saw, first hand, what happened to anyone who was Black or even a little bit Black and attempted to aspire to ANYTHING. What happened in the South went far beyond what happens even to Latinos here or Asians who were put in internment camps and the like. The only race treated more horribly is our own Native Americans who are killed by LE in even larger percentages than Blacks. You know what will “work”? For people to get their heads out of the places where the sun doesn’t shine and realize that the sooner we level the playing field for everyone, the sooner we will see the kind of society that will make us all proud. and America the land it has always promised to be.

Francesca Bolognini: Yes, the South is bad, especially Oceano, but because of your experiences there you have a clearer outlook on racism than most of us.

Although entirely predictable , the response of crying “racism” to every thought and concept contrary to your own is becoming weary for so many . EVERYONE is asking for a level playing field . African Americans are not incapable of speaking up for themselves . Newsflash —- they don’t need free money, reparations, affirmative action and the ingratiating gifts of the guilted elites . Just opportunity. And , in spite of the false rhetoric, there are more and better opportunities now than a generation ago . No tokenism , just real success . They are free . Yes , all of us have suffered from the idiocies of common human nature , but the old recycled ideas of the past won’t work .

Listing, or assigning, pretty much every stereotypical attribute one can think of, to the entire population of blacks, as you have done puts you at risk of being labeled a racist. Sorry, but true.

All those same ills you mentioned are shared by white people too my friend. The fact you don’t that see is another indicator.

Right on. I see the far right has flagged you way down, they are losing big time, this time. The BLM wave is sweeping the planet, finally. If I was a bigot and felt inclined to vote you down I would be bummed out as hell, seeing the ‘times they are a changing’.

Yeah BLM!

Oh, in case the fools think I am a biased whiny ethnic lazy drag on society (as many have accused our abused neighbors of color of) I am a white ally of all those who seek justice.

OK fools, vote me down, it’s the only power you have left.

You said “wallowing in self-pity” twice.

I know some Filipino’s that aren’t all that ambitious, so don’t try to brush the paint with the stroke of one brush.

I’m assuming you’re black and speaking from experience…