When you are “WhiteUnc” to a whole bunch of Black nieces and nephews in their teens and twenties in the United States in 2019, you have to proceed with caution when giving advice on situations that might be racially motivated. Bonus difficulty points if you just happen to be the nephew – four times removed, but still – of a certain Confederate general named Lee.
This was the challenge facing Henry Fitzhugh Lee as he listened to his 20-year-old nephew Morris Morton talking about his awful boss ...
“I am so tired of this racist bigot fool – sorry, WhiteUnc, but it is what it is – making it so I'm going to have to kiss his a--.”
“Morris,” growled Mama Morton.
“Sorry, Grandma – but how are we supposed to talk about the obscenity of this country without using the properly obscene terms to do it?”
“You're smart, grandson. Find a way.”
“Well, at least you think I'm smart. My boss treats me like some dumb beast of burden – I'm not paid enough to be treated like this! I went there to learn how to get into the administrative side of things, and he has me doing stock work! Stock work! I have the same position as the white kid – but I'm the only one asked to do stock work! I'm about to tell that bit – I mean bast – I mean, man off and get up out of there!”
“Excuse me,” Captain Lee said. “May I ask just one question?”
“Look, WhiteUnc,” young Morris said, “please don't gaslight me. Please don't say anything to make me think that you White folks do nothing but stick together at the expense of people like me.”
“Morris!” Mama Morton snapped.
“I'm grown, Grandma,” Morris said. “I'm a Black man in a country where I grew up being told we were past all this in America. That was a lie. I feel betrayed and abandoned by this whole nation right now, and I really don't want to hear anything from another White person who doesn't support Black people.”
Captain Lee saw red … after 28 years in the family, supporting its every and many advances… still … but he controlled himself. He knew his nephew went through a daily experience of racism that would make any man angry.
“I just have one question, Morris.”
“Ask, Uncle Henry.”
“Have you documented everything that has happened, with times and dates?”
“No, I haven't. Will you help me do that, Uncle Henry?”
“Yes, I will.”