I’ve recently read some thought provoking posts about race. Like this one from Alexis, or this one. Or this one from Benjamin.
So I have a question for you. When you look at this picture, which one of the people in it would you be afraid of? Which one of these people would you cross the street to avoid?
A huge thank you to my dear friend @Reshaud for graciously allowing me to use pictures of him for this post.
If you had never met me or read any of my blog, which one of those faces would you think belonged to a junkie with multiple felony convictions?
I can’t tell you how many law enforcement officers I heard say “she doesn’t fit the profile” as I was perp-walked into yet another police or sheriffs station. If I were behind you in line at Target, you wouldn’t lean away from me as you instinctively moved your hand to make sure your wallet was still in your purse or pocket. I don’t look like what most people think of when they hear the word junkie. I don’t fit the profile.
And yet, here you are, reading the words of a junkie with multiple felony convictions and several stays at the “gated community” as a guest of the state.
I don’t want to hear a word about how “that’s all in the past” or how I’m “a totally different person now”. Those statements may be true, but the cunning, baffling, powerful nature of addiction means that I am, right now at this very moment at 10:06PM, closer to my next high than my next day clean.
Side note: the knowledge of that fact scares the shit out of me, which is why I make meetings, and stay in contact with my sponsor, and work steps, and try and help my fellow human beings by being of service to them. However, should I stop doing those things, my good intentions and desire to be a decent human being don’t mean shit. Because addiction wants me high, and addiction is a motherfucker.
I’ve been arrested multiple times for drug charges. I’ve been arrested for fighting. I’ve crashed more cars than any human should ever have a right to crash. I’ve left a string failed marriages and relationships in my wake. I was an angry, raging, self-centered fuckup for the first 35 years of my life. I did prison time for drug charges. Then I did prison time for a parole violation. Then I did prison time for another drug charge. Then I did probation. While on probation, I was still an angry, raging, self-centered fuckup and I was on my way BACK to prison when I got placed into a drug court program under the care of a counselor who somehow managed to keep me out of prison until I decided that I couldn’t live that way any more.
I wasn’t brought up to be an angry, raging, self-centered fuckup. I wasn’t brought up in a family of addicts or alcoholics. I wasn’t abused. I had a good home, a good family. As an adopted child, I believe that I am proof that addiction is a genetic disease; because there is no logical reason for me to be sitting here saying “I’m an addict named Cindy”. Yet here we are, discussing my sordid history and how I don’t fit the profile.
Then there’s Reshaud. He’s never been arrested. He’s a kind person. I’ve never seen him angry. Well, except when I eat cookies and try to call it lunch. He’s a great employee. He’s an even greater friend to both myself and my Sunshine. Reshaud was the only person I invited to my wedding.
Side note: I’d have invited my family but they wouldn’t have come. Let’s face it, this is my third marriage, and Sunshine & I had been living together for almost 10 years, so the wedding was long past overdue. All of Sunshines family was there: his dad, all the way from Utah; his two oldest sons; his four grandchildren; his nieces and nephews… I saw that I was going to lose the battle for a very private thing like I wanted, and Reshaud dropped everything he was doing on 5 minutes notice on Christmas Eve to make sure I had somebody there that was there just for me. I’m crying as I type this, because that’s a friend right there. That’s the kind of friend I’m not, and the kind of friend I don’t always deserve.
It was my time in the gated community that started opening my eyes to the insidious nature of racism and inequality in this country. I saw the disparity in sentencing firsthand. I witnessed unfair treatment with my own eyes. I also saw more grace and dignity in the black and brown women in the “gated community” than I saw out of the white ones. White people are fucking crazy, y’all, and you will never convince me otherwise. I did time with white people, hell I AM A WHITE PEOPLE, so I know exactly what we’re capable of. And it ain’t nothing nice.
What really drove it home for me, though, was Katrina. It wasn’t the horror everybody saw on the news that did it. It was what I saw with my own eyes in the rooms of 12 step fellowships. I saw people who claimed to be spiritual–who claimed not to care about age, race, creed, religion, or lack of religion–act in despicable ways when the evacuees started arriving in our area. I saw the people who looked like me get hugs and dinner invites; and I saw the people who looked like my friend Reshaud get ignored. I heard those people share their pain, and I watched them be shunned by people who should have been doing everything in their power to make those people feel welcomed and safe at one of the most horrible times of their lives. Racism is alive and well in this country. It’s just a bit more covert than it used to be.
I don’t fit the profile. I am blonde, with blue eyes, and pale skin. I was treated respectfully, politely even, by law enforcement and judicial officials. Well, except for that time my attorney got frustrated with me for being an absolute ass in a courtroom and threatened to slap me. Seriously, he was not having any more of my shit, no matter how good I was for business. And yes, he actually once said that I was good for business.
Every time the police shoot another black person in this country, I can’t help but cry. Black people are dying in these streets like it’s open season, for infractions as minor as wearing a hoodie and eating Skittles… And I spent years getting away with so much shit that I never got in trouble for… And I know it’s because I don’t fit the profile.
I’m here to tell you that the profile is wrong. I’m a white person who has done some pretty ugly shit, behaved in some really ugly ways, and treated people horrendously; and Reshaud is a black person who is so many of the good things I could never hope to be, never been in prison, never been an addict, and can be trusted with my car keys and credit cards and even with little kids. How the hell does it even make sense that I don’t have to fear for my life for wearing a hoodie and eating some Skittles? I don’t even have to fear for my life while going on a drug fueled bleep fest of a rant at a cop, and yet Reshaud had better be polite and do as the cops order him to or he risks dying. I am heard when I speak, while so many are ignored. I am allowed to speak, when so many are being silenced.
I don’t fit the profile, and that is fucked up. That’s privilege, folks. White privilege.
The profile is wrong. Maybe the only way the profile is going to change is if people who look like me quit being ashamed to say “I am the profile”.
Now, I’m going to leave you with two last images, then I’m going to retreat into my corner and go back to listening to people like Alexis and Benjamin. Because they are worthy of being heard. Their experiences matter. And to be honest, their experiences are most likely a whole lot less sordid than mine.
Which one of these people would you be afraid of?