It’s interesting, this thing called race. I mean, most times I don’t even think about it at all, unless either someone brings it up or something happens that reminds me. Some people honestly think it matters. I remember when Obama was elected president, and all the news folk said, “We’ve just elected our first black president, which means race is no longer an issue.” That, of course, shows the statement to be false. Just the fact that they felt they had to say the word “black,” as if it was unique, and special, it shows just how far we still haven’t come in the way of race relations.
I was born brown. It’s one of those incontrovertible facts that I can’t, nor would I want to, deny. I was at my daughter’s school being a parent-helper, walking the kids down the hallway, when one boy in the back asked, “How come you’re brown?” That’s kids for you, and I could understand the question too. In this area, not being white is definitely different, strange, unique, and even special, so when this kid got his first shot to question someone who wasn’t the same color as him, he took it. I told him, “It’s because my mommy was brown,” and he seemed satisfied. But that made me take a look at it. Why wasn’t this kid exposed to African-Americans, or any other race besides Caucasian, during his five years of life? And how long would it have taken him to get that exposure if he hadn’t come in contact with me on that day? It reminded me of how long it took me to be exposed to someone who wasn’t black, and it made me sad.
When I first started dating, my mother was shocked at my choice of dating partners. You see, it works both ways. Because I was dating white girls, suddenly the race card showed up front and center for her. My mother isn’t racist. However, she grew up with a certain understanding that when it came to relationships and significant others, like stayed with like. Now, of course, this idea of “like” is limited specifically to race, not to any other defining characteristic of a person. For my mother, it was as easy as black and white, clearly delineated, but to me, it was about all those other things I found appealing. For some reason, these characteristics were to be found for me in girls who happened to be white. I dated one girl who was of mixed race, and my mother was over the moon about her, because she looked “black.” I don’t blame her, either. I’m just different.
So, now I live in a small village in upstate New York with my wife, who happens to be white, and my children, who happen to be of mixed race. I moved here 11 years ago, and it was quite an adjustment, because when I arrived I automatically created a new racial structure here. Of course I didn’t even realize it at first, because, as I told you before, I hardly think about race, but that doesn’t change my color and make others as forgetful as I am. Luckily, the world isn’t quite as segregated as it used to be, and that includes this country too. Over my time living in this small village, I have seen it change even here. More black people have moved here, but it’s more than even that. It’s all about perspectives, and the best perspective is when we treat people like people, regardless of race, because race is just one small part of us. Let’s look at a person as a whole, and judge them accordingly. And don’t look at me like I just swore. You know as well as I do that we judge others. Let’s just judge based on important factors, not on race.
It’s interesting, this thing called race. We tiptoe around labels, and yet we all label. Does race matter? Yes. It’s obvious it still matters to too many people, when what should really matter are our core values.