I guess if anyone’s going to talk about race, you have to preface it with that bullet point. A white middle class guy like me can’t really say anything that has anything to do with race, ethnicity or culture without having to clarify that he, in fact, does not hate, distrust, slander, pillage, or beat up people of different skin color. I’m finally posting a blog entry that I haven’t known how to write for several months. This week, I decided I’d just write it and see what comes out.
Okay, here we go.
I don’t watch basketball. Because I have things to do. But the controvery over LeBron James leaving Cleveland has proven just entertaining enough to make basketball temporarily tolerable. The majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert, wrote an open letter to the Cleveland fans, a letter which had all the maturity and eloquence of a pimply eighth grader being dumped by his first girlfriend (for a much less pimply eighth grader) on the night he was hoping to get to second base. For real, it’s pretty sad, and by sad I mean hilarious, like reading your sister’s diary. Then the other day, Jesse Jackson called Dan Gilbert a racist who looks at LeBron James as a “runaway slave.” This is getting juicy.
I remember a couple of years ago, on the eve of the Presidential election, people were hoping that America would soon become a “post-racial” society. Obviously, that hasn’t really happened. I’ve got three completely non-racist thoughts about why that is.
People don’t want to be raceless.
I guess if you asked someone what “post-racial” means, they’d say that it means that people no longer see each as different races. The fact is, we’re all too dang proud of our race and culture to be able to give it up. White people don’t want to give up their white culture. Neither do blacks, hispanics, or Asians. We like what makes us unique too much, even when our cultural habits make us look stupid and/or inept to other groups. If people want a post-racial society, they should stop listening to hip hop music, eating with chopsticks, and driving around in minivans and just be homogenous.
America is thought to be a melting pot, but that doesn’t mean people just grow out of their cultures. Even though most of us have absolutely no connection to the country our ancestors came from, we still like to hang onto that. People are proud to be Jewish, Italian, Irish and Greek, even if they’ve never been to those places! You’d be hard pressed to find a member of most races that wasn’t proud of their heritage! And if you’re a white guy like me whose family line is so muddled, he doesn’t know what he is, your race is just made by where you live. I’m a midwesterner, specifically from Kansas City. That means everyone on TV learns to talk with my non-accent, I know how to make better barbecue than all of you, and I may be a country bumpkin who does not own shoes. If someone says they live in New York, Boston, Texas, Seattle or Los Angeles, many of us can make a lot of assumptions about that person’s “race” with some degree of accuracy. People like to be different.
We like blaming each other too much.
Look, I get it. The story of human existance is one group of people exploiting another group of people. I really don’t like that. I try to live my life with justice and mercy in mind.
But if there’s one thing we don’t like to give up even more than our own culture, it’s blaming another group of people for our problems. And when we run out of problems that we can legitimately place on someone else, we start blaming them for our other problems. Can you think of any group of people that has never been hated by another group of people? I can’t…maybe New Zealanders.
Anyway, right now Americans are having a tough time trying to figure out how to deal with illegal immigration (consisting primarily of one particlar ethnic group.) We don’t want to look like racists, but it’s kind of hard to not look like racists. We’re worried about our jobs and economy. And a bunch of people are whining about how, “These people aren’t assimilating! They aren’t learning the language or becoming ‘Americans!'”
The fact is, anyone who knows history would be able to tell you that this isn’t a twenty year old event in the making. We went through all this a century ago when approximately a million-bajillion Europeans immigrated here and took a bunch of crappy factory jobs. Everyone flipped out about that, and no one liked these foreigners who didn’t speak English or become “Americans.” Guess what? Those immigrants had kids, and those kids weren’t foreigners. They were Americans who spoke fluent English and listened to iPods nonstop.
I’m not weighing in on the best solution to the problem today. But I promise, even if all 20 million Hispanics aren’t “put on a bus,” this will still be America.
We like cramming people into very small boxes.
People like categories, stereotypes and generalizations. It helps us make sense of the world. We like to have the world fit into “black” and “white” boxes; “us” and “them;” “right” and “wrong;” “saved” and “damned.” We like these categories because it prevents us from having to think too much. And when you put people in those boxes, it’s really easy to assume what they are thinking. Jesse Jackson did a great job winning the argument by telling Dan Gilbert what Dan Gilbert thinks. It’d be pretty easy for me to do the same to you, or for you to do to me. You could say that I’m white, so I’m a racist. I’m a male, so I’m a misogynist. I’m a Christian, so I’m a homophobe. You see what I mean.
And until we stop telling people what they think, our hopes of being at peace with each other is pretty slim.
Okay, that’s my little take. I don’t want a post-racial society. I want a society that can have an intelligent conversation about how to solve real problems. What say you? Are we capable of creating a culture without race, or do we even want to?
If you haven’t done it already, be sure to check out last Saturday’s post to get some free goodies from me!