Whites v. Color(ed)s

I debated on whether or not to post something surrounding the rising racial tension we’re currently facing after the election of President Obama.  Originally, I decided not to.

But then I got the craziest notion after watching my girlfriend do her laundry.  That’s right, her laundry.  A notion that I just have to – nay – must share with all of you.  She doesn’t separate her laundry: the whites from the blacks from the colors.  It baffled my mind.  I mean, didn’t everyone learn the same way I did that you must always, always separate your laundry based on color (or lack thereof) to ensure their safety and durability?

The whites go with the whites, the blacks go with the blacks and everything else that isn’t quite white or black goes in the pile aptly named, colors.

Over the years, I’ve made countless blunders: turning white shirts pink, stealthily yanking white lint balls off of black sweaters…it’s like they can tell that one is not like the others and they attack it.  Like when I make a wrong turn in downtown Atlanta and all of a sudden I feel like a bullseye has been painted on my bumper.

Why can’t all laundry just get along?

Well, let’s consider the water temperature as a contributing factor.  Hot water, for example.  It’s great for getting out stains, germs and other undesirables we collect while wearing our favorite garments.  Buuuuutt, it makes for a high probability of a short shelf-life: shrinkage, wrinkling and, my favorite, fading.  Ugh, I absolutely hate when a beautiful shade of green turns muddy.  In the end, hot water kind of sucks.  It’s a very extreme temperature, similar to hot-tempered individuals whose political views are so extreme (right or left, not picking a fight here), that they muddy the process of making things better for everyone involved.  In fact, hot tempers may lead to shrinkage (of the brain), wrinkling (of the skin) and fading (of any hopes and dreams).  I know.  I’m deep.

And then at the opposite spectrum, there’s cold water.  It’s great for all loads, easier on the heating bill and apparently, you can mix everything together.  Winning!  But there’s a downside to being a passive, go with the flow and does-it-really-matter kind of person.  Otherwise known as frigid.  It’s not great for heavily-soiled items.  In fact, you may have to soak them for a while, wash them longer, ponder things a bit more.  So it takes things that much longer to get done.  So is that really effective time management?  You sit at the center of the issues, not having an opinion and being rather indifferent.  Sure, the colors get along and may not attack each other, but how effective is the wash?

But, wait.  There’s warm water! God bless warm water: the happy medium.  A great mix of hot and cold for the majority of American laundry.  I mean, it gets it done with very little wrinkling, shrinking or fading.  But there isn’t an absolute temperature: should it be 60/40 hot to cold, 50/50 perhaps?  And that’s the thing with moderates: in trying to make everybody happy, they’re never fully sure which side of the temperature gauge they’re going to be on.  “That idea sounds great.  It’s completely opposite of what I thought last week, but I see your point and let’s go with it.”  No clear sense of self.  Does it want to be hotter, does it want to be colder?  More red, more blue?  Very wishy-washy.

Water = Politicians

Colors = Citizens

Washing Machine = America

So what does water temperature have to do with American politics?  Well, by my logic, it has a direct correlation to how damaging it may or may not be on the quality of your clothes. I mean, colors.  Colors of people.  People come in a rainbow of colors.  And depending on how the water is treating it, the colors could become very tainted.  I really hope you’re still with me.

So I asked a friend of mine – he’s black – what he thought about mixing up his laundry.  He shuddered.  No, he said.  That would just ruin everything.  Keeping in mind that my girlfriend is white, that got me thinking a bit more: is it a black thing?  Are we the ones holding ourselves back by assuming that everyone else does their laundry the same way – as separates?  Did all black people really vote for Obama just because he’s of minority descent?  Will I ever be able to knowingly and willfully put my black socks and sweaters into the wash alongside my whites?  Or should I put forth a supreme effort and separate my colors, too: reds, greens, blues.  Laundry would take me forever, but everything would have its place – with other clothes that look just like it – no mixing, whatsoever.  Separate, but equal.  And little to no fading, heaven forbid.

And then I got to thinking even more.  In what load would I put myself and others like me?  I’m not 100% of anything.  Am I a garment that could theoretically fit into any load and avoid being attacked, no matter the water temperature?  Am I a medium shade of gray?  I was always called an Oreo growing up.  Maybe this is where that’s supposed to pay off.

I’ve done a couple of loads of laundry since this epiphany and I really, really tried to mix it up.  I figured, why not?  I normally wash everything in cold anyway.  Thankfully, I’m not afflicted with intense body odor and I don’t generally roll around in grass, mud or muddy grass.  Cold water may not be as steamy and sexy as hot, but I have found from experience that cold water is gentler on my clothes, less expensive and still gets the job done.

But when I tried to put the whites in with the colors, it was like an invisible force field prevented me from placing it into the tub with the wrong people – I mean colors.  All of the angst (gray t-shirt – blacks or colors?), the lessons learned (my new dark grayish, pink tinted t-shirt), the clothes lost (faded red sweater), came flooding back – the words of my mother, father, grandmother, great aunt – don’t put that in with the color(ed)s!  So I didn’t do it.  Not this time.  I really can’t afford to replace half of my wardrobe and I don’t want to imagine what my co-workers would think of pepto-pink socks and too-dingy-to-be-gray button-down shirts with linty sweaters.

I couldn’t help but mentally argue with myself: this is how you were raised.  This is how it is.  If it works, don’t fix it. Would great granny steer you wrong?  And then I remembered.  My great grandmother was a pioneer.  A Native American, Chocktaw pioneer who married a white man.  I’m fairly certain that wasn’t how she was raised.  And yet there they were.  And here I am.

Here I am, assuming that everyone does their laundry the same way, that everyone adopted the same rules of clothing maintenance from their parents, who got their rules from their parents, and so on.  Because that’s just the way things are.  You adopt the same values and ideas as your parents because that’s just what you know how to do.

I can admit that I’m a work in progress.  I really want to mix things up.  There is something satisfying about seeing all of my laundry – whites and colors – co-existing in drawers, closets, the hamper.  Kind of like when I saw the many, many faces in line at the voting booth: talking, laughing, making their voices heard.  And amazingly, everything turned out alright – just like all of my girlfriend’s laundry.  I have faith that my laundry will turn out fine, too.  Funnily enough, I found a random white sock in my colors as I was folding* them.

Next topic: Adding Bleach (The Electoral College: really necessary?)

*not so much folding them as searching for a pair of panties while they were still in the dryer – what?  I was running late

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