Race

This past winter solstice was special because on that night there was a full lunar eclipse. It was quite a significant event, so I thought it would be a great night to trip acid. Sure enough, it became quite a significant night for me.

Io and I started the trip out separately for the first few hours. I went to the college library to draw and muse, and she entertained herself in her room. I had a great time drawing a fractal pattern for many hours, but as the lunar eclipse began around 3 in the morning I headed back to Io’s room.

After meeting up for a short time we decided to go outside to smoke pot and look at the moon. We picked a spot nearby and in short time a friend of ours, Chiron, and two of his friends found us and joined us to smoke. we had previously tripped with all three of these people, but knew Chiron the best. It was chilly out, of course, but we all had a pretty good time.

After about about a half hour things took a turn for the worse. There weren’t many people walking around, but two figures in the distance were walking by, and we all noticed them. I saw one point at us, which put me on my guard. After a few seconds, I took a hit from my pipe, and once again the two stopped and pointed. This made me quite nervous, so I put the pipe away, thinking they could be campus security. One of them called out to us, but the 5 of us were too confused to know what to say back. After some doddling, they began to approached us. At this point Io voiced her discomfort with the awkward social situation that was about to ensue.

As they approached I could see that they were too black students, one of which had been in a class of mine last year, though I doubt he recognized me. The two guys were pretty obviously drunk, and after all it was three o clock in the morning on a friday or saturday night. The one guy who I had had a class with broke the ice by saying “you guys out here for the moon? you know it’s a hoax, right? it’s all a hoax.” none of us knew how to respond to this, it was obviously a joke, but still none of us knew what to say. The other guy went to pee nearby.

The two hung around for a bit, but after about a minute decided to leave, one of them saying “well, we came, we saw, we conquered.” as they left, one of Chiron’s friends meekly said “goodbye… I guess…” We stood in confusion as to what had just occured. After a few minutes of mulling over the events, I came to a conclusion which made complete sense to me, and which I offered to my friends: “So… they just wanted to score some weed from us.” After all, they had spotted me out because of the pipe, twice, and seemed to be looking for something while they were here, and if I was drunk I’d want to smoke. My conclusion was greeted with silence.

As the discourse continued I began to feel increasingly uncomfortable. Io began by saying that she didn’t think that they were students, which we all quickly rebuked. Io then said she felt as if she was attacked, bullied, and set upon, and I felt discomfort from Chiron about these descriptions of the event. Finally I went out and said “I think that that encounter had a definite racial component, but more importantly our discourse of it has had a racial aspect to it which I am extremely uncomfortable with.” Chiron wholeheartedly agreed. I tried to sort these things out, to explore the truth of the situation. I did feel set upon, and I did feel like they wanted my weed, but this is exactly what a racist person would say about an encounter with a black person. The language Io was using made me see her as an intolerant oppressor, I felt like her identity was somewhat indistinguishable from mine, and I couldn’t handle it. I got intensely wrapped up in this conflict between what I thought had occurred and the thought that my perception could be completely altered by underlying racial assumption. I’m afraid I funneled this intensity toward Chiron, trying my best to convince him that I wasn’t racist. After all, this is all about outside observation, it’s such a vital part of one’s identity. I settled eventually for asking Chiron to acknowledge that I’m doing my best to navigate these issues.

At once I felt very cold. I had stayed outside too long, and I needed to warm myself. Io and I rushed inside and I shut myself in a room, frantically tossing things aside and walking in circles. Io came around shortly, warmed me up, and comforted me as we began to talk about what had occurred. Even after I had warmed up, every time I would get back into a negative place I would be cold again and start to shiver. Even as I wrote down this story today I had to put extra layers on.

We sat there thinking and talking. We thought about how it was such a shame that humans have a great capacity to form in-groups and out-groups in our minds. We talked about how we felt resentment from black students on campus, though we understood that resentment. We talked about how it’s great that our college encourages solidarity amongst black students, and how that is so valuable, but the segregation of the campus causes many problems itself. We thought about how to solve the race issues that are plaguing humanity, and concluded that we either need to drastically change the way we think, or all look the same.

After the singularity I hope we’ll be able to refine the ways our minds discriminate, stereotype, and draw quick inaccurate assumptions. Or perhaps what will come first is a blending of our races. As it is now though, race is something that needs to be continually thought about, and we all need to be active in reflecting on how our actions may result from implicit assumptions, or even how our actions may be perceived as racist when no implicit assumptions exist, for this perception will add to disunity as well.

Io didn’t see the encounter as racially charged, she saw it as strongly gendered. When the one guy peed nearby she could easily see everything because she was perched up high on a rock, and she felt uncomfortable. The two guys probably didn’t see the encounter as race charged either, or think about it much at all. These issues are so wrapped up in our own minds, and we need to be honest about them so we don’t falsely assume that everyone is thinking at the same level.

-Prometheus

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