This week’s Hump Day Hmm… is about race and the role it plays in our modern society.
Personally, I’ve lived, with the exception for the time that I was at college, in an almost all-white community. To us out here, one minority in the vicinity would be considered diversity. I remember back in 1998, I was having a discussion with a relative about diversity, and I made the remark “We’re getting more of them out by us now”. Without realizing it, I basically made it sound like I was regretting the fact that our corner of the world was becoming integrated. And I was rightly chastised for saying that.
Today, I don’t mind that the area becomes more integrated. Supposedly, we live in an area where the major city is a “minority-majority” city, with about 55% of people living there belonging to one minority group or another. It’s just a natural progression that, as they become more affluent, they would want to come out to my area for a number of reasons – a lower crime rate is one, but we also have slightly lower taxes out here. In fact, until the new store opened up, it wasn’t uncommon to have folks take the long drive out from the city to get to the Wal-Mart Supercenter located out in this area.
While I like to think that I’m not totally biased when it comes to race and ethnicity, I think there is a part of me that, because of where I was brought up, has some racist tendencies. It certainly shouldn’t be confused with someone who has no tolerance for other groups, or the Klan types who think that the only society that is right and proper is white society. What I experience are the little ticks that come from being insulated from other groups.
For example, while I was at the mall yesterday, I’d see groups of young black folks walking, and my natural tendency was to build in some distance between me and them. Naturally, they probably didn’t care if I was there or not, but I noticed them – they were keeping to themselves, yet I had some kind of instinctive reaction to put that distance in. I don’t know if that’s exactly racist or if it’s just a case of being aware of my surroundings and wanting to avoid making contact with people, but it’s an interesting reaction when you think about it in this manner.
On the other hand, I don’t think that there should be institutional thinking based on a person’s skin color or heritage. One story that was in the news last week was how the University of Wisconsin was going to change their admission guidelines. Everything sounded fine, including adding a provision about looking at a person’s socioeconomic background. Where the problem came in was the inclusion of a person’s “racial and ethnic heritage”. In other words, if you’re from a minority, you’re going to have a better chance of getting in than a potentially more-qualified person from the white community.
Personally, I think that is reverse discrimination. I think that programs such as affirmative action have led to many minorities thinking that they are entitled to almost anything even if they do not qualify for it. What the standard should be is equal access – if you’re in a competitive environment, like college admissions, or in the business world, it should be the qualifications you have which lead to you getting that position, not your race.
A great example of that, I think, is the internet. While there are definitely bloggers who are minorities who notice the “institutional” problems from people like marketers, it doesn’t matter to me what color a person is, provided they have good content. One thing that came to my mind when thinking about this idea is that a couple of my favorite blogs are from people with East Asian backgrounds. My favorite podcast is the mrbrown show, from Singapore where, from time to time, you will have some Cantonese spoken. I always enjoy listening to it because it’s fun and I get an insight into another culture far away from here. The other blog that I thought about was The Food Pornographer. TFP is an Aussie of Chinese descent, but I wouldn’t have ever known that if I hadn’t read the FAQ page, because I like reading her posts and always like looking at the food that’s available in her part of the world. That’s the kind of information that is interesting to learn, but it doesn’t change my opinion of them, if anything, it makes me respect them even more.
This is something that I think you’re going to see more of as the Arabic world starts to get involved in the internet, where great content will start to come out of different places and it will be the content of that person’s writing that comes to mind first, and not where they’re from. That is the great thing about the internet because here, there is no need to reveal your background, but for the most part you do because it is what you are, and there is no reason to hide it.
Are we a long way from solving the race problems in this country and in a lot of the world? Definitely, but hopefully the Internet is taking the role of the “great equalizer” for everyone – no matter your race, no matter your income – so hopefully we don’t have to have these discussions anymore and be a single nation of many faces.