My parents raised me in a town where I was a minority. Roselle, NJ is 55% black, 22% Hispanic, and 17% white. This time in my life may have been brief, but it took place during my most critical years of development as a child. I think that this has provided my brother and I with an interesting perspective on race.
Growing up in the town I did, I never understood the concept of white guilt. Sure, we studied black history, the civil war, and all the messed up stuff European colonists did to the native Americans. I never thought that any of those things were okay, but I never thought I held any blame for them either. I never followed politics as a kid, so I never saw people that pandered to racial issues just to show everyone how non-racist they are. At least not until I moved to North Plainfield (43% Hispanic, 34% White, 18% black), where I met my first one.
One of the first few weeks I was in that new school, I had someone — a white girl — call me racist because I called someone “black”. It was the strangest thing. What do I call someone who’s black then? “African American” she said. “But he’s not African… he’s Dominican.” I replied, still confused. At that point, she just rolled her eyes and ignored me the rest of the semester. I was baffled. The kid I was talking to/about wasn’t offended that I called him black. Why did this girl care?
Now, I understand that this is very common among liberal white people. They go out of their way to have black friends and be accepting and tolerant, which strikes me as incredibly condescending. No one should ever need to be “tolerated” or “accepted” for just having a different background, religion, or sexual orientation. I’ve never met a black person that cared if I called them black. I’ve never been friends with a black person because I felt like I should “expand my horizons” or something. I’ve been friends with them because they were awesome people.
A few months ago, there was controversy over an advertisement (above) that Dove had printed in some beauty magazines. When I first saw the ad, I didn’t get what was so bad about it. Someone had to explain it to me. Apparently, the ad was offensive because They had a before and after theme that went left to right, as is normal in design for languages that read in that direction. Underneath the before and after picture, there are three women. A black woman, a Hispanic woman, and a white woman. There were people that were outraged because they thought Dove was trying to claim that their product will turn a black woman gradually into a white woman, and that this was an improvement.
To me, this is utterly absurd. All three of the women are very beautiful. In fact, I happen to think the black woman is the prettiest in the group. All three of them are wearing the same clean white towel. There is nothing separating these women from each other beyond their skin and hair color. All I could think of when I beheld this response from hundreds of people was “Doesn’t finding racism in this ad require you to look at it in a racist way?” It seems like anyone who would get offended by such a thing was looking a little too hard for it in the first place.
There were even some people saying that the black woman was fat, but I didn’t notice that either. I did notice the white woman had a fake-looking smile (a major turn-off for me) though.
Stereotypes vs. Racism
A belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
A simplified and standardized conception or image invested with special meaning and held in common by members of a group: The cowboy and Indian are American stereotypes.
There are many people that believe that using racial stereotypes is automatically racist, no matter what the stereotype itself means. Even saying something like “South American girls are the best dancers” would be construed by them as a racist comment. I don’t share this idea. I think that everyone needs to have a sense of humor about themselves. In a world where everyone takes everything personally and gets offended at the drop of a hat, we’ll never achieve peace or true equality.
I think that cultural differences are interesting and fun to explore. I don’t think that talking about differences has any correlation with believing anyone is better than anyone else. I think talking about why a man wears a turban or a woman wears a certain kind of make-up in another culture puts people at equal level. Communication is much better than being afraid of offending everyone. Learning and sharing is much better than building a wall around yourself by getting offended easily.
Many of the greatest entertainers to have ever lived have known that race and cultural differences are a gold mine for comedy and drama. Here is one of my favorite examples: Silver Streak. There is no condescension, no inhumanity, and no racism here. Only humor based on stereotypes.
I have never understood homophobia. Nearly every person I’ve ever met that happened to be gay has been nice to me. It seems to me that homosexuals have a much lower percentage of assholes than other demographics. They don’t have 4 un-supervised kids running around the restaurant you’re trying to eat at. They don’t judge me for any of my lifestyle choices. It just doesn’t make sense to me why they should be so harshly judged.
I’m not a fan of gay sex. It grosses me out. When I worked in the porn industry, I would sometimes draw the short straw and have to work on one of those sites and I would sometimes catch myself gagging at their content. That being said, I don’t judge them for liking that stuff. I’m sure there are things I like to do that they might think is gross, but they never make fun of me for it or try to get the government to ban whatever it is I’m doing. Why should I do that to them?
For some reason, many homophobics like to point to biblical quotes when they try to oppress gay people. One in particular:
However, there are also quotes which seem to support such behavior. My favorite is:
Then, beyond that, there are hundreds of biblical quotes that no one takes quite as seriously as the cherry-picked few they recite at hate rallies (i.e. right-wing conventions).
All of these factors convince me that anyone quoting biblical passages to speak out against homosexuals is not driven to this task by their faith, but by their bigotry. The bible quotes are merely something they sought out in an attempt to back up their hateful rhetoric. Once again, the Christian right is not exactly practicing what they preach.
Sodom is one of the most mentioned parts of the Bible when fundamentalists are speaking about homosexuality, yet Sodom was not destroyed merely because of a little butt-play. It practiced many other things that we as a nation are far more guilty of. I find this quote to be the most damning to Americans of any:
The Internet Age
I feel like the internet has given us — especially the kids growing up with it in their lives today — a much better perspective on race and nationality. Using online communities like message boards, online games, social networks, and comment streams, one can learn about other cultures fairly easily. The research is easily accessible. The people are usually accessible, if you only ask.
I’ve found that Reddit usually has a great community of people that love to answer questions, give advice, and laugh at themselves. As with anything on the internet, many people will laugh at your expense too, of course. Other places I’ve learned about other cultures include World of WarCraft, Final Fantasy XI, League of Legends, Magic: The Gathering, etc. Gaming internationally is an excellent way to find people you have lots of important things in common with — even if their skin is a different color, they have a funny accent, and live on the other side of the globe.
The more time a person spends with other people, the better socialized he becomes. He learns more and has a greater perspective. This is increased when speaking with people who travel or whom are from other places. In some cultures, when children are considered to be “of age” they are sent on a lone pilgrimage. This is to teach the young adult about the world beyond his or her own home. This is how people have known to grow for centuries.
I don’t think I’m an expert in racism, but I have noticed that I seem to have a perspective that many others don’t. I’m not sure if my way of looking at races and nationalities is perfect for everyone, but it makes sense to me. Stephen Colbert jokes around that he doesn’t see color in regards to race, but that is exactly how I look at it.
Someone’s skin color is the same to me as how they choose to do their hair or what clothing they wear. Yes, you can’t change your skin color quite as easily as changing your clothes, but they are all just skin-deep. In fact, clothing and hair will tell you much more about a person than their skin color ever will.
At the end of the day, there are billions of people in this world. Some of them are assholes. Some of them are awesome. Most of them are somewhere in between. That is the only barometer I really need to decide who I want to work with, be friends with, or date. The cultural and — minor — biological differences between us are really just seasoning and garnish.