Jul 29, 2015 08:46PM
Right before the not guilty verdict was released in the Ferguson case, I was staring at a laundry basket filled with dirty clothes. Instinctively, I wanted to separate the coloreds from the whites. Somebody a long time ago told me I shouldn’t mix them together. Is that such a bad thing or am I overanalyzing?
Should I mix the coloreds with the whites and challenge age-old conditioning which makes me believe it’s not proper, in my best interest, or, for that matter, an effective way to wash clothes?
My Dilemma: One—I’m almost positive clothes don’t have feelings, although this can never be proven since we are not clothes. Two—I wondered if black on black crime was worse than white on black crime. Three—how would the water feel if I added detergent?
From that, I realized a few things. One—if I washed the coloreds with the whites, I could get all of my clothes washed and dried faster than if I washed them separately. Two—I would save water, detergent and dryer sheets. Three—I am privileged to have a washing machine.
Right after the riots broke out in Baltimore, I found myself in the laundry room again. This time my glance traveled upward. I read the label on a peeling box of old detergent that said, “New and improved: protects colors from fading.” I wanted to challenge the notion. I decided to test the revolution by adding to the machine an innocent boy walking home and being murdered because of racial profiling.
Two hours later, I got a drawer full of pink socks. I’m pretty sure my clothes got clean, so I guess it wasn’t all in vain. It’s happened before. I believe his name was Amadou Diallo. If you don't recall, Diallo, unarmed, was shot and killed by four NYC police officers in 1999. All four officers were charged with second-degree murder and later acquitted at trial.
There’s something both liberating and disturbing in finding out that my white socks turned pink. For a few moments, I pushed blame from the washing machine, to the detergent, to the clothes. The washing machine was the institutionalized racism, the detergent was justice and the clothes were our emotions.
So whose fault was it that I couldn’t wash all the clothes together at the same time—or, was that notion actually a lie? Did the people in Charleston really forgive the murderer who killed their loved ones? Was hatred a law of nature, or, could we create a washing machine that adjusted so it could wash everything together at once? Or, maybe it was all in our minds and pink socks were actually a good thing. So what do we do?
Do we break the washing machine (and hope it’s still under warranty) or not use detergent (in order to spare the water’s feelings) or not wash the clothes (to keep the dirt happy)?
Or, wash each article of clothing separately (so each piece knows it is special and deserves personal attention and care)? You see, after the colors fade—what remains?
It is possible that the fabric is both black and white—and the white people derived from those with black skin, and the black people derived from those with white skin. Perhaps before all that, we started off as a shade of pink.
If we all wore pink socks then is it possible that racism would no longer exist? Something for the detergent to ponder and the washing machine to dream.
HawaH has authored four books and produced three documentary films. He is co-founder and executive director of the non-profit organization, One Common Unity.