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John Lennon's death didn't affect me much

Marvin Gaye’s in 1984, however, did. My early childhood was spent in Michigan, that’s where my people are from.

White people.

I remember going to see my grandmother. This was the early 70s.

We went to the mall. We went to Tigers games. Gates Brown was my hero.

I had an odd childhood. But maybe not from the perspective of a black person who watches white people appropriating things all their lives....


I was 5. We went to the mall.

I said, MOM, WOW, LOOK AT ALL THE BLACK PEOPLE. They had black people in Muskegon heights, unlike where i lived 30 miles away. Invariably, black and white people shopped a the same mall for clothes and furniture and whatnot. Go figure....


they, for some reason, allowed the black people to go to that mall. Mom was, of course, mortified at my outburst. Embarrassed that i was innocently pointing out the obvious, not because she had any probbem with black people (like my grandmother), she’d just never met any black people. Ever. So she was just nervous and uncertain.

I didn’t know that then, of course. I was just amazed to see all these people who looked different from me. I waved at them. They’re dark, not white! How interesting! Hey, hi! How are you! I was an innocent child. I had not a clue.


Everyone else didn’t find it as innocently interesting as I did, however. Their looks at me were as mortified as my people’s looks at me. I immediately felt bad, because I felt like I’d fucked something up. Why is it so weird that I’m noticing people who look different from all the people I’m used to? They don’t seem bad to me in any way, they’re just different than what I’m used to and why are you guys giving me weird looks for noticing? In short, what the hell is going on here?

That’s kind of fucked up if you think about it, because my parents were the ones who made me feel weird about that, yet they also had all the motown records.


It makes me kind of sick now, actually. We just kind of consume things. That’s a nice song. That’s a nice painting. That’s a nice....whatever. I like that...thing. With no thought as to what might be behind it. That’s kind of the definition of white privilege, isn’t it? Basically, enjoying things without a thought as to where they come from.

It wasn’t until I was an adult, in the early 90s, that I learned about what happened in Detroit in 1967. They never told me about that.


So I didn’t really know why marvin gayes death was significant when it happened. I just knew that this man with this amazing voice wasn’t going to make any more music. And he wasn’t going ro make another sexual healing. *Jr high school child giggle*

Now I’m a trans woman. I’m the Last Acceptable Prejudice in the country. I get it now. In a way. I still have my white privilege, but I’m still an outcast, even more than you are in some ways.


Neverthless, I still think about being a clueless 5 year old white child making that exclamation in a mall to people who were just shopping for a damned pair of pants or something. All they wanted was to go buy a damned pair of pants without incident and go home, a thing we wipipo totally take for granted. To this day.

We like your music, black people. Please just continue producing it for our entertainment while not inconveniencing us with your actual presence...



I was friends with those girls in the army from Atlanta who borrowed my sade cds, but not really, even though I thought we were. We’re still totally segregated in this country. The fact that it’s not legal anymore doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot, even if having a black president means a whole hell of a lot, which it does.


We take less than a minute, even us good liberals, to contemplate how white and exclusionary our lives are. But we don’t really care. Voting the right way is good enough.

Then we get to feel ok about listening to the good music that belongs to us. Let’s get it on.

Someday, that voice will be all that’s left. And people will be ok with that unless we make something more happen.

Illustration for article titled John Lennons death didnt affect me much

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