Each year I go through the motions of Christmas, rarely ever feeling fully present. I spend the days leading up to the holiday cooking for my family and baking for my neighbors. I send out Christmas cards. I purchase whatever gifts I can afford. I spend the nights sipping bourbon, wrapping presents, and wondering why the holiday doesn't fill me with the kind of joy and lightheartedness we see in movies. Then the day arrives and I remember why: my family can be intolerable.
I realize you’re not supposed to say that. To be clear, I don’t mean “intolerable” in a cute, bickering, loud kind of way. I mean that since my mom died, I’m the lone woman in a family populated by troubled white and brown men—white and brown men who seem to only be capable of bonding over one thing: antiblack racism.
After the Soviet Union collapsed, Christos Gabriel and Yannis Lubovicki left the faltering Eastern Bloc and came to Greece in pursuit of a happier life. But as the energy and promise of Greece’s once-fiery economy has dwindled away, immigrants like them have experienced homelessness and hostility—as well as a peculiar yearning for the old communist ways.
“America is a racist country,” Mychal Denzel Smith wrote earlier this month in an article at the Nation. Smith called on whites to acknowledge racism’s pervasiveness and eliminate it. I won’t debate the accuracy of Smith's assessment of what America is, and I don’t know whether or not he was using hyperbole to make his point. Either way, however, his demand that white people admit its truth as part of their pledge to fight racism only discourages some of them from doing what the article’s title rightly demands.
"Today, we're not just burying the N-word, we are taking it out of our spirit, we are taking it out of our minds…To bury the N-word, we've got to bury the pimps and the hos and the hustlers. Let's bury all the nonsense that comes with this."
"This could be the beginning of a movement. I forgive those young people who do not know their history, and I blame myself and my generation for not preparing you. But today we are going to know our history. We are not going to refer to ourselves by anything negative, the way the slave master referred to black people, using the n-word."