Okay, this morning I’m going a bit radical. I was thinking this morning about the arguments often made for segregated schools. Most prominent among them was that integrating schools would lead to “miscegenation.” My Webster Dictionary tells me that the word means “mixture of races.” It strikes me as odd to have a separate word for children merely because their parents have a different skin color. We don’t have a separate word for different-colored apples (“miscepomation”?) or different colored dogs (“miscecanation”?). Why such a big deal with people?
I am not naïve about race discrimination. When I was a boy, I asked my father what he thought about me marrying an African-American woman. He thought about it a while and then said, “Your children would have problems.” That was a long time ago, but it’s likely still true to some extent. It is still a very difficult thing to be black in America, probably at all social and financial levels.
It’s just that, when you think about it, it is so stupid. White folks spend billions of dollars a year going to resorts and spas to darken their skin (okay, get a tan. Duh.). It’s a color, folks. It’s not even that. It’s a shade of a color. We all have little cells that produce color (they’re called melanocytes, which proves that I do serious research for these blogs). Some folks just have more of them than others. That’s it. Difference over. What do we do with our prejudice now? Chant “Nah nah nu nah nah! You have too many melanocytes!”?
Silly as that is, it doesn’t make racial prejudice go away, which means that the problem is not with being black but rather with being white. We are prejudiced (and I mean we; me too) because of the history we have been given. Our parents, our books, our social history, have all given us a somewhat subliminal message that we are given some kind of superior status because we are white. My parents actually lectured us kids against racial prejudice. But my teachers were white, my political leaders were white, my business leaders were white, and all of my friends and neighbors were white. All of that sent a quiet, wordless message: if you’re white, you’re right.
What that quiet wordless message did was to encourage the persistence, in one form or another, of the cancer that has existed in the American way of life since the writing of the Constitution. It has caused division, strife, injustice, and most of all it has caused us all to live with the lie that we are committed, as Americans, to the inalienable rights of all human beings. If there is one person in this country that suffers from bigotry, we all do. If one of us is not free, then none of us are.
We have, of course, made a fair amount of progress. Our schools are by and large integrated. Our financial world is more or less open to all races. Our housing is, to some extent, free of red-lining. But you need only ask any person of color whether her or his color affects her or his life, and you will be told that prejudice is still a huge problem in America.
So, how, if ever, will that problem be solved? By absorption. By “miscegenation.” By all of us sharing the same color. In other words, don’t expect much from your generation. Our hope lies in the fact that our children will marry without regard for color and will have children who will do the same, and, by and by, color will be a part of us all, and it will be a little odd to be white.
A long time ago, I took my six-year-old brother on a bus. He had never seen a person of color. An African-American man was sitting in front of us, and my brother said to me, “Look! A chocolate man!” I wonder if some day a similar young boy will say to his brother, “Look! A vanilla man!”