It was an otherwise ordinary snow day in Hartford, Connecticut, and I was laughing as I headed outside to shovel my driveway. I’d spent the morning scrambling around, trying to stay ahead of my three children’s rising housebound energy, and once my shovel hit the snow, I thought about how my wife had been urging me to buy a snowblower. I hadn’t felt an urgent need. Whenever it got ridiculously blizzard-like, I hired a snow removal service. And on many occasions, I came outside to find that our next door neighbor had already cleared my driveway for me.
Never mind that our neighbor was an empty-nester in his late 60s with a replaced hip, and I was a former professional ballplayer in his early 40s. I kept telling myself I had to permanently flip the script and clear his driveway. But not today. I had to focus on making sure we could get our car out for school the next morning. My wife was at a Black History Month event with our older two kids. The snow had finally stopped coming down and this was my mid-afternoon window of opportunity.
Just as I was good-naturedly turning all this over in my mind, my smile disappeared.
A police officer from West Hartford had pulled up across the street, exited his vehicle, and begun walking in my direction. I noted the strangeness of his being in Hartford—an entirely separate town with its own police force—so I thought he needed help. He approached me with purpose, and then, without any introduction or explanation he asked, “So, you trying to make a few extra bucks, shoveling people’s driveways around here?”
All of my homeowner confidence suddenly seemed like an illusion.
“Whiteface in America has a long, hurtful history. The first mass distributed instance I remember is the Eddie Murphy SNL skit in the early 80’s. This was extremely hurtful because it followed the roundup and internment of white Americans from their native lands of Wyoming, Utah and Idaho. The next instance I recall was that “White Chicks” movie which followed the Supreme Court decision to restrict white voter rights. Then, here comes Dave Chappelle, playing his white faced reporter just after BET denied white reporters the right to work for their network, using an insidious “grandfather clause” as their basis for denial. There is a long, painful legacy of whiteface and I stand along with you to ensure that that tradition is killed, along with the practice of restricting white rights in this country.”—Comment response on Gawker to the “White Chicks” Blackface deflection: Because Mere Blackface Wasn’t Offensive Enough For These Partiers (via givingmelife)