Americans are so weird about race. We're afraid to mention it. We want to say it doesn't matter. We have "white guilt" and we forget that there are other races than just black and white.... race does matter but not in the ways we want to think it does. It matters in the wonderful scope of human cultures and foods and stories we can enjoy and explore. It matters in the sheer fun of foreignness. It matters in who, statistically, gets what diseases and to my cocky littlest kid who thinks its funny that he doesn't sunburn as easily as his white-boy older brothers. It does not matter in who makes a good president, employee, neighbor or friend. I just fail to see how our country misses that memo.
Most people responded that they were "heartsick" or otherwise saddened by the post. (To clarify, she posted this to show the state race relations among those who are young enough to know better, rather than having been indoctrinated into the racism of the past. She was not endorsing the racism, rather she was pointing out that it still exists.)
And the more I got to thinking about her post, the more I want to say: "of course racism still exists!"
Racism in America is no longer cool.
That's a good thing.
But because racism has gone so rapidly from being a social norm to a social stigma, we've not had a chance as a culture to process out our real thoughts. We've had institutions, people, society and such all jumping at the chance to re-educate our racist selves, whether or not we actually are racists, without regard to the fact that real racists won't respond to this sort of re-education. In short, we've not eradicated racism so much as driven it underground.
And so it is no longer kosher to notice race.
And so it is no longer kosher to say "how cool! You're different!"
And so it is no longer kosher to ask "what is it like to be you?"
And it is no longer kosher to wonder "what is out there that is new, exciting, foreign to my worldview?"
Its probably no longer kosher to say "kosher" because it might be offensive to Jews. Or liberals. Or the politically correct thought police.
Because we've come to express equality as sameness.
And it becomes scary to wonder about difference.
And because we've made race a no-man's land...
and so thoughts are thought in isolation.
And there is no safe place to ask innocent questions, make mistakes, step unknowingly on toes, and learn something in the process.
And every Tom, Dick, and Harry, and Jane, is subjected to anti-racism training whether they want to grow in this area or not, that feels like an accusation, that requires an investment of time resources that may seem unavailable, that is forced on them from the outside and that, therefore, like it or not, breeds resentment which in turn breeds racism.
I am thankful that I have a couple of Asian friends who allowed me to safely ask my impertinent questions when we adopted a Korean child. I know friends who have children of African descent who are thankful for friends who have offered them similar safe havens for questions about culture, language, life, and yes hair (or in the case of my Asian kid, ears... oh, nevermind). They don't assume I'm some sort of ignorant racist, they assume I'm a white person with white person hair (and ears), who had never eaten kimchi, never tied a hanbok, and never been asked in my own country whether or not I spoke English.
I'm thankful for the chance to be that safe friend when people ask me stupid, seemingly racist, innocent questions about my Korean child who does happen to be good at math, and martial arts, and is admittedly on the short side, hates his hanbok like most Korean boys... but doesn't like kimchi and doesn't speak Korean and his English is just fine thanks.
Sometimes we have to air our ignorance to grow. That's called humility. And sometimes we have to put up wiht others' ignorance and assume the best, that's called relationship.
And the reason the anonymity of the internet causes real racism to bubble up is that so few people have had the chance for humility and relationship where they can process out their thoughts in a healthy way.
I'm not sure how to cure the problem, except that the society learn to extend to one another a "freedom to fail." I guess its a start. I guess.