It’s 4:30 in the morning, so that means it is time to change buses in Richmond, VA.
We have many different Americas in the USA, and as a white middle-class man, I rarely get to see most of them. That is some of the privilege of my race and class and gender. But when I take the bus in my city or cross-country, I meet different people than on my plane travels or in a rental car. I hear different stories, stories I am not suppose to hear.
Mostly everyone on this bus and the last is Black. So many people traveling to funerals. I met a man who lives no more than a mile from me in the same city. He is a year older than me. He had five sons but now only three because two were killed because of the violence in the streets. His one son got shot to death outside a pizzaria on Christmas Eve 2005. Most of these stories don’t even make it into the newspaper. Too much Anna Nicole, too much crazy astronaut stories, too much entertainment news to lull me to sleep.
In my new play “The Re-Education of George W. Bush,” one of my characters, Tex, had to live one week as Earthel, a Black woman, and then report back to the audience about the experience. In preparing the piece I spoke with over 20 Black women and asked them, “If a white American man woke up one days as a Black women, how would his life be different?”
After premiering the play in Portland,OR, a Black man in the audience spoke to me privately to thank me for Earthel. “When I tell my white friends about this stuff, they don’t believe me, but they will believe you because you are white. They don’t realize there are some doors you can walk through that I can’t even knock on.”
I know that as a gay guy I have experienced some oppression, especially in the church. I can relate to other oppressions, but I cannot fully grasp them because they are different from mine and because I experience so much privilege and power in white America. I do well to sit and listen to stories I’m not suppose to hear. This is part of my own re-education.