Hostel Conversations with Peter about Racism

Peter and I sat near what the Theater International Hostel of Guatemala City copywriters describe as an indoor pool and a magical garden discussing why he, a white man from Amsterdam, born to British parents, could not reciprocate the racist jokes his Black family members in Martinique threw at him. And in one breath and one long sentence he shares both his empathy for “Blacks in America,” and a joke about Black behavior around American police, based solely on what he’s picked up from the news stations around Europe and Central America on his pilgrimage away from Medical School.

I blamed him, his parents, their parents, and their cousins. We talked about how my mom’s dad’s side of the family has gotten as far as 1812 in the quest for putting together our family tree and can go no further because of erasures. I also needed to nail to his brain the thought that every anomalous act by a Black man or Black woman in the world, and specifically in America because I can speak on America confidently, must not be looked at and analyzed and judged and those doers must not be labeled until we look at everything that happened between the sale of the first Black person on white property, to 1812 when my family magically appeared, to today; Black babies in sacks were cut from stomachs, hanging from umbilical cords while their mothers hang from trees, husbands were forced to stand and watch their wives bend over for oppressors, and any babies she birthed, whether from her husband or the oppressor, were sold to men far away. “Before you talk about the behavior of Blacks folks anywhere,” I told him, “I need you to admit guilt on behalf of your people, and the people you created who created America.”

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