Saturday, September 10, 2005

Blue Blood, Skin Cancer, and Other Signs You Might be White

My daddy lost his left ear to skin cancer the other year, after the doctors had carefully carved away only the alien, blood-red and pulsating lump off it for two years running, saying he needed the rest of the ear for "cosmetic purposes". Now, Daddy is going to be 88 years old this year and his vanity has dwindled down to the occasional rearranging of the three or four thin strands of white hair still left on his scalp, so you know he ain't going to be sticking no Botox in his wrinkles and getting facials or any fool thing like that. He just didn't want to die of no alien ear-eating cancer. He always preferred the direct route anyway.

I remember him saying this well, because things like that just stick with me. I remember that every single time the doctor told him the lump needed to be removed he'd say, "Cut the whole dang ear off. Just go ahead and do it. I don't care."

And each time that profit-focused, flesh-carving doctor shook his head and told him no. And each time the lump grew back, only closer to his head and nastier looking each time.

But nobody listened, and the cancer finally got so close to his skull that there was no question, the whole ear had to come off.

So now he looks like a lizard on one side, and claims that my mama "don't enunciate any more". She's getting tired of repeating herself, 'specially when no one else notices that her voice has changed.

Now, this could all have been prevented had Daddy understood that he was White, and that smart White Guys wear hats and don't take off their shirts when they go fishing and above all don't bake in the sun until their crust turns brown. But he liked the clean heat of our enemy, the sun, musta been endorphins or something. I don't think the fish were worth all the pain, but that's just me. I never liked the smell of the deisel and fish guts anyway.

This all got me thinking. I do a lot of thinking. Some people say I think too much, but I can't help it, it's just me. So hear me out.

I started wondering how White Folks can tell they're White, and what to do about it once they've finally figured it out. And all the little do-nots that go along with it as well. My daddy was a victim of the do-nots.

So I came up with a little list. Bear with me a minute, and post some comments if y'all want to add to, or take away from, Laurel's Little List of Lilywhiteness!

1. You can tell you're White when the skin on your wrists (and with me, other portions of my anatomy) is so thin you can see the blue of your arteries just sitting right out there. The Spaniards used to call this being "blue-blooded", meaning special and artistocratic and all that. Not being Spanish, I wouldn't know about the aristocratic thing, but I do like to think I'm special, and that being White is a good thing. There's a Do for this one: Celebrate! and smile the next time you look at your wrists.

2. White skin has other interesting qualities and characteristics, among them freckles and that nasty tendency to sunburn the minute you step out the door. A two hour assembly in junior high school plus a sleeveless green linen dress added up to an uncomfortable visit to the school nurse for me and treatment for sunstroke.

I DO understand that those "freckles" I have on my hands these days are not the original issue freckles, but age spots (another lovely feature of white skin), but I like to think of them as freckles all the same. Freckles are like confectioner's sugar dusted across a cake, age spots are, well, age spots.

There's bunches of Do's and Do-not's for this one. Do enjoy the fragile beauty of your ivory skin when you're young, and don't mind the age spots (freckles!) or wrinkles when you start to age. Remember, every wrinkle, especially those smile lines by your eyes, is a sign of wisdom and endurance. Don't go sitting out shirtless in your bass boat, or on that very nice beach in South Carolina. Get familiar with SPF ratings and slather yourself with sunscreen before heading out the door. And don't miss the crease on your scalp when putting on that 'screen. Beautiful things (that's you!) are worth taking care of.

3. Another sign you might be White is when people who don't even know you try to blame you for everything wrong with people who don't even look, and certainly don't act, like you.

I remember sitting in a class in teacher school where the oh-so-enlightened lady professors lambasted the poor white guys in the class (liberals, all of those poor suckers!) until they squirmed with shame for all the injustice they had somehow produced even though they were yankees and none of their ancestors had even met a slave and most had arrived here after the Civil War anyway. Each of them inwardly vowed to himself that he would make it right for those poor minorities, somehow, in his classroom once he got one. I don't think I saw even a spark of resistance in that room, 'cept in me.

Yup, it's great to be White sometimes.

There's a Do and a DARE in this one.! DO stand up for the people who look and act like you. DARE to call the professors' bluff, because you know the reason there's so many lilywhites in that college classroom is because the minorities didn't pass the test to get in, even though you know the school was holding places for them and kept you from entering until the admissions committee finally figured out that it might be a year or two before the students they really wanted to be there made it past the test.

Off on a bird walk here...but keep reading...

It's things like this that make me think mamas need to be educating their own, loving them with God's Word and homemade brownies in between the phonics and handwriting practice. Mamas! Those boys in that class had the best intentions, but would you really want them telling your little darlin's what to think?

Back from the bird walk...

4. You can tell you're a White Woman when you understand how it must have felt to be one of those British tourist girls embedded in the ring of White British boys who organized to keep them safe. The Superdome in New Orleans was not what I'd call an island of racial harmony in the aftermath of that hurricane. God bless those little White boys, may they have many sons and be a blessing to White Folks everywhere.

I know there are more signs of being White, but I am running out of steam and need to go lay my head down on my (white) pillow and get some sleep.

I'm figuring some of y'all might want to add a little bit here, feel free!



Mrs. Blessed said...

Another great post, Laurel!

Scorebored said...

You can tell that you're White if you feel a sense of guilt or shame after doing something wrong. Think about it...when you say something uncalled for, or commit a huge error in judgment, what is it that you most likely do? Wince, shake your head, and say, "Oh, I'm very sorry. I didn't mean to do that," or "You're right. I shouldn't have done that, and I apologize."

When's the last time you saw a Negro or mestizo do this? I can't tell you how many times I've been in the presence of Negroes and the subject of apologizing or admitting wrongdoing came up. "That's a sign of weakness" and "I ain't EVER gonna tell somebotty I'M sorry!" are common responses. It's generally not a part of their way.

Laurel1861 said...

Thanks, Mrs. Blessed. And Scorebored, you hit on the very reason those college professors could handily manipulate those poor White fellas in that teaching class (I think the name of the class was cross-cultural sensitivity or somesuch).

I believe that in response to the haranguing each of those boys was saying to himself, "Oh, I'm very sorry. I didn't mean to do that," even though he HADN'T done that, nor had his ancestors. The innate sense of guilt or shame in a White person makes for an easy manipulation point. Pick on that place of guilt and you control the man.

Kinda sad but encouraging as well, if you are aware of how people use a White person's tendency to feel shame or guilt to manipulate them, you can arm yourself emotionally against the manipulation. And it's good to know how to feel guilt and shame when you truly should.

God bless y'all,

Lawrence said...

My wife and I are really enjoying your blog. We found you originally through the link at Scorebored's. Welcome to the blogsphere.


Laurel1861 said...

Thank you, Lawrence! I am glad you and your wife are enjoying my little "room with a point of view"!

Please feel free to drop by whenever!


Bad said...

I loved this post! I'm so glad we've got ladies like you and Mrs. Blessed who aren't afraid to defend our people. May a thousand more lovely flowers bloom!

Anonymous said...


I have those three numbered items that you list. May I share my thoughts with you?

1. My blue veins do show in my wrists. As well as the green, purple, and red. Seeing a red vein does not sit well with my history of passing out while looking at blood.

2. I, too, get sunstroke so easy! It's rather irksome during protests. I always have a bottle of water and advil on hand to combat said sunstroke and heat sickness. It must be because of my black hair.

3. I am ashamed of the things my ancestors did. The Aztecs were very uncordial to their neighbors, the Spanish Inquisition was quite a nightmare, the French Revolution was very bloody, and my ancestors shouldn't have put pressure on my younger ancestors not to marry or miscegenate.

The point of this post is, I do not have ivory skin. I have beautiful bronze skin, the kind that men find attractive and healthy looking. So, are these things signs of "whiteness", aside from skin cancer?

Again, my condolences concerning your father. I have no knowledge of any of my family having skin cancer. However, considering that it's supposedly the largest organ, that must have been quite an emotional burden on you and your mother.