I am white.
I am actually pretty damn white like so white that you don’t want to look at me in the winter because — well, all that pale — it hurts your eyes. Like snow in sunlight or sparkly vampires.
When I was little, I lived in NH. NH’s big cultural diversity at the time was:
1. Some Greek people
2. Some Portuguese people
3. French-speaking people originally from Canada
4. A handful of Jewish people.
One of the big insults someone once spat at me that didn’t have to do with my sloshy s-sounds was that I had “Jewish hair.” I’m still trying to figure that one out. Our school had constant diversity and tolerance trainings despite the fact that it was so incredibly white. It was a public school because I was poor, but it was really into anti-bullying, pro-diversity education.
But that doesn’t mean that I never saw racism. That doesn’t mean it didn’t exist.
When I was a little kid I would go everywhere with one of my dads who I loved more than anyone in the entire universe. He was Portuguese. He normally had dark skin but he worked outside and he tanned so deeply that sometimes people thought he was African American. How do I know this?
I know this because one time we went fishing at one of the many N.H. fishing streams. We were always fishing. I put ham and cheese on my hook because I couldn’t handle piercing the worms. I was kind of a wimp, but my dad didn’t mind. He was made of awesome. He didn’t mind that I never caught anything either. Or that I sometimes cried when he did because I felt so bad for the fish.
We were standing there, happy and quiet. No dead fish involved yet. The sun was making golden shadow-light on the water. I could smell the good-good smell of my dad – old spice, coffee with sugar, fried potatoes. Then some other men came. They saw my dad. They saw me. They saw the difference in our skin.
And they said something.
And they used the n-word.
And they said a white girl like me shouldn’t be standing there with a dirty n-word like my dad.
And they stood tall.
And they made fists.
And we left.
And I cried in the truck and I couldn’t understand why people could be so mean.
And I was so upset for my dad. And one of the things I said when I was sobbing was that he wasn’t black.
And he grabbed my chin and made me look in his eyes. And he said, “Carrie, that’s not what matters. What I am or am not is not what matters. What matters is the hate and the ignorance.”
And he was right.
I’d like to say that was the only time something like that happened but it wasn’t. While he was alive, it happened a lot.
I will never be mistaken for anything but a white woman of mostly Anglo-Saxon descent. I do have ancestors who are not, but that’s it. I present and was raised as a white girl. That’s part of my identity. I will never know what it’s like for someone to make a massive litany of negative assumptions about me because of the darker color of my skin. Some day I hope that will be true for every damn person in this country and this hemisphere and this world.
The one thing I know is that racism (or sexism or classism or religious bias) does not get eradicated by:
1. Pretending it doesn’t exist
2. Telling other people to shut up about it
That’s how it’s perpetuated. Yeah, the talk may not be comfortable. But the talk HAS to happen. When President Obama won the election someone hung black effigies in trees in Bar Harbor, Maine. Bar Harbor is very white and very liberal. It’s full of scientists and professors and lobstermen and health-care workers and born-again hippies.
But it still happened.
It happened here.
And it keeps happening in other places. It’s happening a lot because of CoVid-19 right now. It happens in our story lines. It happens in our lives and we have a responsibility to talk about it, to face our own actions, to face our friends’ actions. We have a responsibility to SPEAK and to READ and to WRITE about it even when there are trolls out there who tell us not to, even when we’re afraid of our responsibility.
God, how can we not?
And also in times of pandemics, scapegoating races or countries or people isn’t the way to go. When you think back on this time, don’t you want to think of how you acted with grace and not ignorance. Don’t horde your biases like toilet paper. We can all become better together. I know I have a long way to go, but I’m going to keep on trying. I hope you will, too.
WRITING TIP FOR THE WEEK:
Imagine your main character is in a Nashville bar the night before the world ends. What music is playing? What does it smell like? How is your character reacting?
WRITING AND PODCAST NEWS
Over 170,000 people have downloaded episodes of our podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, you should join them. There will be a new episode tomorrow!
The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song? It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.
I HAVE A NEW BOOK!
THIS IS WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Rosie Jones, small town reporter and single mom, is looking forward to her first quiet Maine winter with her young daughter, Lily. After a disastrous first marriage, she’s made a whole new life and new identities for her and her little girl. Rosie is more than ready for a winter of cookies, sledding, stories about planning board meetings, and trying not to fall in like with the local police sergeant, Seamus Kelley.
But after her car is tampered with and crashes into Sgt. Kelley’s cruiser during a blizzard, her quiet new world spirals out of control and back into the danger she thought she’d left behind. One of her new friends is murdered. She herself has been poisoned and she finds a list of anagrams on her dead friend’s floor.
As the killer strikes again, it’s obvious that the women of Bar Harbor aren’t safe. Despite the blizzard and her struggle to keep her new identity a secret, Rosie sets out to make sure no more women die. With the help of the handsome but injured Sgt. Kelley and the town’s firefighters, it’s up to Rosie to stop the murderer before he strikes again.
You can order it here.
IN THE WOODS – READ AN EXCERPT, ORDER NOW!
My new book, IN THE WOODS, is out!
It’s with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!
Order this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?
Buy limited-edition prints and learn more about my art here on my site.