Published on September 27, 2004 By d3adz0mbie In Misc
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My anscestors hail from Scotland and Germany. At 5'11", 215lbs I have icey blue eyes and wavey blonde hair. At first glance I am the physical sumation of the Aryian ideal. To compliment this genetic cocktail I was raised in the southern USA (Texas, specifically), thus branding me a "redneck".

I am a racist, and you might be one too.

Let's take a step back 20 years ago to one fine summer morning. I woke up and discovered a terrible itching on the underside of my forearm. The skin had turned a deep red in small blotches. As I came to learn, I have the genetic immune disorder known as psoriasis. Perhaps you've seen the shampoo commercials? Psoriasis ranges from a small itching and flaking of the skin to a complete disfigurement of the dermis (skin) and in some cases extreme arthritis of the joints. Psoriasis is entirely genetic (it can only be spread by passing along the proper DNA) and it is estimated that over 4.5 million US citizens suffer from this dreadful disease.

Suffer indeed. Not only does psoriasis cause extreme, constant, never-ending itching at random areas of your skin, many cases cause the skin to blotch, flake, or even burst open and bleed. The afflicted react to treatments differently. Certain steroid based injections relieve psoriasis in some people, for others bathing in certain salts make the disease receed for a small period of time. For me, my 'fix' is sunlight. And this is how I began my journey into the understanding of racism and the human reaction to appearance.

20 years ago at the age of 14, I had many friends, of all races. To me, people have always been just that, people. Skin color, ancestral origin, bigoted opinions never mattered to me. I assumed my friends felt the same. Imagine the surprise of discovering that many of my friends (and strangers alike) of whatever color were repulsed by my disorder. Oh, it was never obvious. Usually a glance, sometimes a gaze at my knuckles or elbows, both of which have the terrible habit now of letting the skin tear apart while being surrounded by pockets of dead skin. Believe me when I say it's not attractive. But that glance... I would see that glance many times in the years to come.

That glance given by someone who is uncomfortable with anothers appearance wasn't just limited to me and my skin. At first I thought I was overly self concsious of myself, but once I discovered that sunlight made my skin appear nice and healthy, that it suppressed my disease, the glances stopped. And yet every winter as the sun hid itself on those too short days and my disease would once again appear for all to see, the glances would return. To top this off, I discovered the glance in other areas of my life.

At the age of 23 I was talking to a friend of mine. An African-American teacher my own age, we were discussing racism in the United States. After an hour of arguing over if racism still existed (which I naively believed was almost stamped out) he said something that caught my attention; "You just wouldn't understand". he said (a little put out with me I imagine), "it's not that people are born racist or taught to be racist, but sometimes I get this look from people that just reminds me my skins different from theirs".

Wow. Not only was I in a unique position to understand, it was the first time I ever dreamed someone without the disease might understand those 'glances'. Needless to say, I bought coffee that night.

Over the next few months I was alert to this new insight shared by my friend. Did all caucasions give this glance? Am I guilty of this? Well no, not really, only some of us humans do it. Interestingly enough, people of all races do it to other races. Some of us, regardless of background, belief or dogma, are set off by appearance. Be it skin color or hair color or the shape of a body we all have inate preferences built into us. I've seen hispanics give this 'glance', this unconcsious look of uncomfortable proximitey to asians, I've seen Rowandans new to these shores give the same uncomfortable look to caucasions. Although I've never been given a grant to study this, or run a study with a control in place, I can tell you I have seen that uneasy glance given between humans regardless of race, based specifically because of race.

And that's ok. Because in my observations I noticed something else, that people can overcome their inate preferences. A person uncomfortable around a certain race can look beyond the skin; a person uneasy with a genetic disease or a malformed baby can reach out and show compassion, no matter how uneasy they feel inside. Look at the men and women that care for the deformed babies of Chernobyl, grossly malformed children being shown the love that only a human can provide. Look at my Italian in-laws with their tight black curly hair and try to deny that true love is possible across any race (my wife and I still laugh trying to figure out her full ancestry, it's a mess).

Did I say I was a racist? I am you know, I believe in the human race. I never said I differentiate because of race, so try not to be to cross with an author that needed a hook. If I led you down a path to believe that I held a negative view of other races, well forgive me; it's to be expected from my blog.

As the years creep up on me, this redneck doesn't spend nearly as much time in the sun. Skin cancer is lurking spectre for anyone that has willfully exposed themself to as much UVA that I have. I've grown accustomed to the glances now, knowing that people sometimes can't help themselves. When Kyan from 'Queer Eye' has a tip for skin care I pay a little more attention now (dont let the RNC know I have gay friends as well, I might have my RNC membership card revoked) and usually just a few hours in the yard each week is enough to make me presentable to the public.

In the end, we all share this country, this planet, this life. I would give almost anything to have nice smooth healthy skin, regardless of what color it is. But I won't give up my belief we are more than what is built into us, that each of us can strive and dream and be better than what was given to us at birth.

Comments
on Sep 27, 2004
After an hour of arguing over if racism still existed (which I naively believed was almost stamped out) she said something that caught my attention; "You just wouldn't understand". she said (a little put out with me I imagine), "it's not that people are born racist or taught to be racist, but sometimes I get this look from people that just reminds me my skins different from theirs".


Excellent article, way to self examine yourself....One thing though, I think she mean't you can never grasp her pain and experience just like noone but you can never understand what its like to be "you." It's one thing to empathise, that's accepted and very much welcome, but walking in someone else's shoes...now that's one thing only the owner can and should endure.

I would give almost anything to have nice smooth healthy skin, regardless of what color it is. But I won't give up my belief we are more than what is built into us, that each of us can strive and dream and be better than what was given to us at birth.


Now that, noone can take away from you, not even a "look" should be allowed to phase your beliefs.
on Sep 27, 2004
Good article. I do get those glances when I'm talking with my friend(s) in public place. It's getting rare however. Ah yes I'm deaf, so I talk using ASL.

One of my friends has that problem, so I can relate on how ugly this genetic diease can be.
on Sep 27, 2004
Thanks for a sensitive and unique perspective on the subject. Very well written.
on Sep 27, 2004
I enjoyed your article very much; you're to be commended for your outlook.
I was in a discussion on racism myself, not too long ago, with a co-worker. As a young black woman, her contention was that racism is everywhere. She sees it all the time, she says. I replied that I do, too: BET, JET Magazine, Ebony Magazine, The United Negro College Fund, The Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP. All these institutions are race-biased, geared specifically toward the black American. Whites, for example, are not allowed this luxury. The UNCF is especially disciminatory. "A mind is a terrible thing to waste;" unless you're not black.
I have no answers here; racism is a complex thing. How can we overcome it? Can we overcome it?
Whites are not allowed to make race-sensitive comments anymore, but I hear Chris Rock and see other black comedians all the time making comments about us goofy honkies.
If they say that whites walk like they're trying to get to the bathroom before they go, it's a joke. If I say black people walk like they're trying to keep their pants from sliding down, I'm a racist. Who's right?
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