This isn’t going to be another ‘Remember MLK’ kind of post or riddled with inspirational quotes from a dead guy. As crass as it sounds, they’re not really helping, are they?
I think the main difference between racism of the 60’s and before is that it was right out there. BAM! “No Negroes”….”Whites Only”…you really couldn’t miss it (a burning cross on the lawn sent a pretty clear message of hate….horrible, but was effective in passing along its message). And I think in some parts of the South, you still can’t miss the mess. What’s funny is, I’m sure there are as many places in the ‘North’ where it’s just as rampant (but not nearly as obvious).
And no. It’s not ‘funny’ ha-ha…it’s ironic and sad, if you must know the truth.
Just today I posted on Facebook:
“i fear that we, as a society, may have painted ourselves in to a corner when it comes to any honest and open discussions about racism in America. The fact that this thought has crossed my mind on more than one occasion in my lifetime means that, clearly, Dr. King’s work is far from finished.”
What brought this one was wanting to post a status of how sick I was about the whole ‘hyphenated-American’ thing that’s been going on since well….the 70’s.
One of my friends from my college days at DePauw wasn’t going to just let me sit on that comment though (God love ya Gail!), she challenged me that we had come quite a ways since the 60’s. And we have. I think the biggest thing I struggle with is the myth of the ‘melting pot’ and the whole phenomenon of ‘hyphenated-Americans’ that began in the 70s when we made a shift from calling ourselves a melting pot to calling ourselves multi-cultural. I just think that somewhere along the way of trying so hard to preserve where we came from, we lost sight of where, as a culture, society and nation, we were going. I have family ties back to Ireland, Scotland, Italy, and the Cherokee nation…but I am not Euro-American…I’m not Cherokee-American…I’m an American citizen. I guarantee you if I go to any other country in the world, they don’t give a flip whats in front of the hyphen…just what’s after it.
But…THIS is the corner that I mean…the one we’ve painted ourselves in to.
There’s no easy way to talk about this without tearing through the scar tissue of wounds that have supposedly ‘healed’…and in the end, it’s not really about the hyphenated-Americans, is it?
It’s about us…a people…the human race…realizing that my brother or sister is not the person in my house…or street or city….but they are the person that needs my help…and they may be halfway across the world.
I don’t know. I don’t know the answer yet…Dr. King did, I think. And he got killed for it.
Gail comes back and mentions that more compassion and less judgement is a better solution (along with some other great points that you should actually just go to my FB Wall and read).
And I agree.
But I can’t get away from these damn hyphens. And here’s why.
As a white person…(sorry…as a person of very fair skin pigmentation), I am not expected to identify myself with a hyphen.
If my skin were darker I could go for latin-american…or african-american….if my eyes had different characteristics, I could go for any of the Asiatic tribes (chinese-american, japanese-american, korean-american)….but being from European ancestry (Irish/Italian on my Dad’s side, English/Welsh on my Mom’s side) I have to check the box that simply says ‘Caucasian.’
Dude…that’s jacked up.
Caucasian, if you’re wondering, doesn’t mean ‘white.’ Oh…that’s how we use it in every single check-box form there is, but it’s not what its origins are.
From Wikipedia (don’t get me started..with its peer-review system, it’s more accurate than you think…but that’s an article for another time):
The term Caucasian race (also Caucasoid, Europid, or Europoid) has been used to denote the general physical type of some or all of the indigenous populations of Europe, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, West Asia, Central Asia, and South Asia. Historically, the term has been used to describe the entire population of these regions, without regard necessarily to skin tone. In common use, specifically in American English, the term is sometimes restricted to Europeans and other lighter-skinned populations within these areas, and may be considered equivalent to the varying definitions of white people.
Yeah. OK…sure…seems benign enough. The issue is…if you keep reading the article on it (found here), you will see that it really is a horrible classification. No. I’m not caucasian, thank you very much….any more than you’re mongoloid or negroid…
I’m American. I’m a male of the species homo sapiens….oh…and I like long walks on a moonlit beach.
But I’m not caucasian…because I will not be part of a classification system that seeks to subjugate people based on where their ancestors came from. I doubt it’s too much of a coincidence that the term ‘aryan’ pops up in the discussions on Dr. Blumenbach’s work on racial classification.
I will be checking the ‘OTHER’ box from here on out.
Somewhere between continuing the conversation with friends on FB and coming back here, I lost the train of thought in my head.
Sorry about that…
but suffice to say, on this day of remembrance for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr….that I do NOT hope we reach the land he describes in his ‘I have a Dream’ speech…that is to say I hope we don’t STAY there…I hope we go BEYOND that…I don’t think it was ever meant to be a destination. It was a waypoint. It was a ‘hey…let’s get here, and I’ll show you the next stop on the map to self-actualization and the spiritualizing of the human soul’…I’m guessing of course..because he’s…well, dead. And he can’t tell us where he envisioned us going beyond that dream.
I’m not gonna lie, peeps….there’s some isht that’s been floating in my head for a while now that’s about to just come spewing out. I’ll try not to let TOO much of the really out there stuff hit this blog…that stuff’ll come later in the form of another stream of consciousness “book” (a la ‘The Rose’ that I wrote on the verge (or just shortly after) a breakdown of sorts)….
Damn. I really have no idea where to take this.
Seems like as good a place as any to let this train of thought coast for a while. I’m heading to bed. I’ll check my notes tonight while I’m dreaming and see where I wanted to take this thing.
Until then, strive to be greater than you think you can possibly be, because in someone’s mind, you’re already greater than even that.