Monday, March 14, 2016

Why do Democratic Presidential candidates think I should be a racist?

We had some great commentary on race relations from the recent Democratic debate. I for one don't want to let Bernie Sanders hog the spotlight because Hillary Clinton deserves it too. Of course Sander's comments were more incendiary but we should be just as frustrated with Clinton's pandering remarks that were laced with backhanded rhetoric.

Let me summarize how I took their combined comments:
  1. If you are white you don't have any worries
  2. If you are black you don't have any control over your life
  3. To "non-whites" - white people hate you
  4. To white people you should hate all "non-whites"
  5. To whites - you have it so easy you don't have to work for what you get
  6. To "non-whites" you have it so hard it's not even worth working for what you want
Ok - in  fairness I am reading more into it then the comments and context warrant. But that is my perception and frustration with "race relations" in the US. Here is what I don't understand, why do we continue to make a big deal of this? 

Don't get mad, let me explain. Firstly I am not naive enough to think that racism doesn't exist or that racial discrimination is made up - that is not what I am saying. In fact there is more than enough research and data to indicate a very real (although slowly decreasing) racial divide. A great article from Janell Ross  works through that. 

What I am saying is that I don't understand why we still haven't figured out that we are teaching self-reinforcing ideas. Meaning; why have we not figured out that teaching a new generation that we are different because of the color of our skin will result in a generation that treats people differently because of the color of their skin?

I still vividly remember the first time our new son realized that he was looking at someone with different color skin. He was just over 1 year old, we were at a local pizza restaurant and there was a black couple sitting at the next table. At the time we were living in a part of the country that was not all that "diverse" and we didn't have any close friends that were "non-white" - so to him it was new and he was intrigued. 

Guess what - my wife and I were smart enough to know that our reaction to his curiosity would potentially shape his view of different skin pigmentation for the rest of his life. Naturally we quickly grabbed him and told him that all black people are criminals (I'm joking of course). No, that isn't what we did. We also didn't say "did you know that the majority of people incarcerated are people of color?" No - What we did do is react the same way we would have if it had been any other couple, any other "white" couple. We sat back and as he looked we watched the reaction of the couple - if they got irritated we scooped him up, if they were ok we let him be. 

I was delighted that the couple took his curiosity and found humor in it - maybe they had had the same experience with one of their kids. I also like to think that they understood that we were trying to teach, through our reaction, that skin color is no reason to act any differently towards a person. Our pizza came and I said "ok give him knuckles and come eat your pizza" and I silently mouthed 'thank you' when they looked at me. 

I am proud to say that one way or the other that has held on. I have seen my son act the same way towards people of color as he does people with white skin. To him it is no different then people with different hair color or different eye color. It's just a physical attribute - it doesn't impact who you are. 

Please don't interpret that as me saying that "non-whites" are treated equally or that there are not barriers to a universal, cultural shift to thinking like that. I am saying that the comments of people like Hillary Clinton and Berry Sanders if they are not making the race relations problem worse they are not making it better. Let me make it clear, in a country where we as a whole don't hate very many things - one thing we almost universally hate is racists.

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