We spend so much of our lives not concerned with race, but when something happens how come it’s the first thing we think about? A picture flashes up on the TV screen, and it’s a mug shot of a black man. He has two gold capped teeth and he grins broadly, seemingly proud of whatever crime they claim he’s committed, the words scrolling across the bottom of the screen. My first thought is that he’s been set up, but my good friend Phil says it’s obvious he’s guilty. The difference between me and Phil? He’s white.
My wife said something stark and real the other day when we were talking about people who play the race card, whose first excuse is always that people had bias against them because of the color of their skin. She said that she doesn’t consider race unless she’s in a place where she is one of the few white people in a sea of “others.” When she’s in the minority, she says, it becomes almost the default to consider race. And she wondered if maybe that’s why those people who play the race card as their calling card do it so quickly, because they’ve been forced into it by societal definitions.
And I see her point as clearly as I see my own face in the mirror. Just as I’ve been conditioned to recognize race faster than she is because I’ve always been in the minority, she’s been conditioned not to recognize race because she’s always been in the majority. But our world is changing. This nation is changing, and what constitutes minority just isn’t the same anymore. We commingle and reproduce, shifting the sands of a culture that was never really inclusive to begin with. So playing the race card just isn’t really that relevant anymore.
That’s not to say that race can’t still be an issue. There are still enough racists out and about, breeding their hate like pollution, but we ain’t pickin’ cotton no more. We ain’t standin’ idly by while others define us. But we also ain’t blamin’ others for what we do as individuals. History doesn’t define us. Antagonism doesn’t show us its mirror image. What we do we take responsibility for, but we won’t be caught dead taking slack for something we didn’t do, for something our ancestors did instead, and we won’t hold others responsible for what they didn’t do. While there may be the few out there still using that race card as an excuse, even they know how flimsy it is.
Because we ain’t pickin’ cotton no more.