Wednesday, January 21, 2009

About Color

Growing up in Garden City (Kansas) has allowed me to have a completely different outlook on the subject of race relations in America. Garden didn't have that many blacks but more than 50% of the population is made up of "minorities", mainly mexican and asian. When I was younger the idea that someone is judged solely on race was an idea that I had thought lived in the past, since it was never a case in Garden (that I saw).

My ideas started to change when (ironically) I got to college. I noticed that some people were treated slightly different, but nothing really that huge. During the same time I would grimace when I would overhear a group of white students talk in the coffee house about race relations and about how everyone was raciest out in western Kansas because we don't have blacks, and that they had a black friend, or whatever snooty thing they would say.

One major observation occurred when I went to a graduation at college and they talked about how going to college is good because of the "integration" that it has. Then I went back to a high school graduation at Garden. That was integration, there we had mexican families celebrating with white families, asain parents talking to black parents (Garden has gained a fair amount of black population recently). Mixed race families were common. No one mentioned race during graduation, and no one talked about a need to work together. That is just the way life is.

Currently I live in Tulsa and I have no doubt that racism goes on. People here make it quite obvious that people of mexican heritage are on a lower rung than the privileged whites. Ironically everyone here also has some sort of reverend for native americans, probably because they feel guilt for living in "their land". At times the comments are annoying, at times they are infuriating. I really had no idea that so many people made their decisions about people based off of what they thought their heritage was.

Now let's move to the election of Obama. We all have heard about how it was a historic day because he was black. But there has been some outcry because of this, take for example this thread on BGG on a topic about the significance of Obama's color:

stayman:I was mentioning to my 7 year old son that we have a new President. He says, "yeah dad, it's Barack". I then mention that it's kinda historic day, to which he seems puzzled. I explain he's the first African American President. He was still puzzled.
It then occured to me that my son (remember he's 7) is utterly and completely oblivious to race.

jpat:I say this without any criticism, but I seriously doubt that your son (or anyone else's in this country) is complete oblivious to race. While he may well not be bigoted, it's nigh-impossible to be unconscious of it. Nor do I think colorblindness (or "postracialness") is a goal we can afford at this juncture in our political history. It's too much to me like forgetting rather than forgiving, and it's often been an ideal promoted by whites, who as a group have been able to "afford," in a broad sense, to ignore race.

To that I replied

As a white person I view the election of Obama, as "the best person for the job won". However I think the black population as a whole felt that the election showed that really ANYONE could make it, and a fulfillment of MLK Jr.'s Dream. So I think the significance for the day is different for each race.

That being said I believe that race can be as non-issue as hair color if we let it be. When was the last time that the press questioned the lack of red heads in coaching positions? Race should only tell people about your heritage, like eye color, or height, not who you are.

The thing is that the election of Obama is a historic day. And it is historic like Jackie Robinson playing MLB baseball, or Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech. As a matter of fact it is even bigger than those, because yesterday Obama proved that there is no excuse that anyone can't become the most powerful person in America (the world?). The truth is that until someone actually fulfilled that spot, like Obama did, it was still an unrealized dream. But now there is credit, an example, when someone says that anyone can make it, just look at who has done it in the past.

It was a historic day for everyone. But here is my personal hope now. We have witnessed the last, greatest, "barrier" being broken down. Race should now not be an issue. I don't ever want to hear about how someone was the first black to win the curling championship. I don't want to know that no mexican has ever been vice president. It is not news anymore, Obama was the last one, the biggest one. The only way that this stuff will continue to be news is if we let it be news. It must stop.

It would be stupid to say that racisim is over, it is not, I know that. But the fact is that most people are good, and most people do not make decisions based on race. To allow the news, and the "minorities" to cling to the idea that failures occurred in life is due to race, without proof, is a disgrace and a disservice to them. We should not expect "minorities" to get ahead in life in spite of their race, we should expect them to get ahead in life due to their own hard work and abilities.

We are now past the issue of race in terms of something that makes barriers for people.

A final related anecdote. At some point when I was going to college it was asked of me if I know anyone who was black. I thought about it for a long time and said no, noting that Garden doesn't have many blacks in general. But then I remembered, one of my best friends in Garden had a black step-father. I would saw him multiple times each week. I had forgotten that he was even black; to me he was just his dad, and I should say -a really cool guy. I am thankful that I had that experience because that showed me that it is possible to be "colorblind", and not see someone for the race that they are born with, but by the character of their soul.


Irene said...

Well said. I lived in NY most of my life, I had friends of every race I could think of in high school. I knew, and still know people who would act like they like someone of a different race so no one would think they are prejudice. I always felt, if you are nice, I like you if you are a jerk I don't... period. So I like and dislike people of all races. I tried to teach my children that it is the person not the persons color, or heritage that mattered. So after reading your post, I thought, as an adult, are all my friends white? After thinking very hard I realized, why do I really have to think so hard about it? shouldnt it be obvious if I do or dont? I guess not because I never really paid much attention to that. I never did a 'head count' but it seems a large majority of my friends are not white. Maybe you are right, maybe now we can care more about what our president is going to do for our country and less about the color of his skin. I didnt vote for him,but now that he is my president, I'm 100% behind him and hope he does a great Job and wonderful things for America.

Anonymous said...

excellent post, i agree that it's a major historic time and i am quite excited to be alive for it.

Ookami Snow said...

Irene - Yes I have the same hope too.

dailypiglet - It is a good time to be alive, despite what our economy may think.

Think Frustrated said...

I voted for him because he was the better candidate. Race had nothing to do with my decision. I am so far impressed, but let's see if we all made the correct choice. Our country is in a shambles now. Can he help us? I hope so.