Or why you should teach your children not to believe in ‘races’.
[Authors Note: Besides blogging I have the infamous Day Job. I work at a manufacturing plant. My job is the Yard Truck Driver, in short, I move Semi-trailers in and out of docks and assist the truck drivers who come to our plant for pick ups and deliveries.]
I have a rule at my job. When you come into my yard you leave behind what you think you are. You leave behind your gender, your ethnicity, your political views, your religious beliefs and your race. Every truck driver that comes into my yard is classified as a Driver. I have done this at my job for the 11 years I have been there.
I would like to tell you that I do this for a higher moral purpose. That I am devoid of jaded opinions. That unlike the other 7 billion people on this planet, I alone, have the moral high ground cornered.
I don’t. Not even close. Yet I do know that in order for my yard to function, I have to minimize any conflicts that may arise. So ever driver that comes into my yard is just that, a driver. I’ve had to let that be known on more than one occasion. Neutrality is the key to keeping my yard running smoothly.
I would like to think I carry this attitude off work. I try, but I fall victim to my own prejudices now and again. That isn’t totally a flaw in my character, but a flaw in my humanity. Let me give you an example.
For a while there has been a cute meme circulating on Facebook. It shows a black toddler in middle-eastern dress, putting her hand on a white toddler in european dress, cheek. The meme extolled the virtues of children. Children who do not look at each other as being of races, that race is a concept beyond their ken. It’s a flipping cute meme! You’re going to have a hard time not liking the meme and most people absolutely accept it as truth.
But it’s not the exact truth. The truth is that these kids are two toddlers and recognize that fact. Kids, especially very little ones, look at each other as kindred spirits in a world full of giants. If someone were to put a toy between these two, all hell would break out in less than 30 seconds. Simply because they are kids, nothing to do with pigment.
Even as children grow up they keep this ‘kids against the adults’ mentality. Of course there will be a point when children notice differences in others and will form their own opinions. Obviously how they are raised, how their parents, grandparents, and every other elder in their life feel about other people, who are different, in one way or another, has an important impact.
Back to the meme. No, kids are not born racist. Yet they are born to discriminate. And believe me, there is a huge difference there. People discriminate all the time as adults. It doesn’t mean you are a racist.
You have friends? most likely a majority of your friends have common interests with you. You probably don’t agree with your friends views 100%, but you do agree on a good chunk of it. It may be you two have a history dating back to grade school, or you met in the military and clicked. You have commonalities that bonded you together at one time and have kept you together. They are your friend and others are not because you discriminate against the others. Not in a bad way, you choose to be with those that are like you. This is a very human quality, and not on its own, a bad one.
“The last race died out 40,000 years ago.”
My eldest daughter asked me an interesting question one day. How many races are there? I told her one. She gave me a serious wtf look and I had to give a quick explanation.
One Race, the Human Race. Specifically Homo Sapiens. The other race died out about 40,000 years ago. The Neanderthals.
Of course she asked about people who looked different from her and I. If you haven’t been asked this question yet by your child, it will come. Mine was in her late teens when this topic came up for some reason. Yet scoff all you want about there only being one race, take a moment to consider the alternative. Just how many are there?
Okay, So we have Asian, Black, White, I guess Brown, but what is brown? Hispanic? That’s not really a race. Hispanic is a broad term for people whose ancestors were once under the control of Spain. Yet Filipinos were also under spanish control at one time and we consider them Asian. Geography, go figure. Indians, is that a Brown race? So does that mean that people who live in Nepal and those from Karachi Pakistan are the same? Why are they Brown and people from Africa, and their descendants, are called Black? And, for the love God! What about indigenous people’s? Inuits and Aborigines? All they One race or Two?
Gets pretty maddening doesn’t it? Humans are a spectrum of diverse colors and physical characteristics. Yet we are still, all of us, human. That much we have in common. Our diversity has kept our species on this planet for the last 150,000 years. Unlike the other race, the Neanderthals, we made it.
Back to the prism of my yard. There has been many days over the years I have watched truck drivers struggle to put their empty trailer in our drop lot. They will be cranking their wheel, jacking their trailer in the oddest of positions so they can put their trailer next to one that looks just like theirs. It’s not just a driver trying to put his trailer next to another trailer from his company, but types of trailers next to the same type. All the while there will be plenty of empty space for the driver to drop and go. Yet people discriminate, they find commonalities and have a desire to conform. They put those trailers next to each other because it just, well … it looks right.
The elephant in the room on races is that people, to this day, consider it a big deal. People will hate, cheat, deride those whom they feel are different from themselves. Races may not exist as we’ve been taught, yet racism is real. It exists.
So in my yard, I have banished it. I judge people on their ability to do their job, whether they are nice or an asshole. Little things like the color of their skin do not factor into my opinions. I don’t have time for that. Neither do they.
As for my children, I have always taught them that there is only one race. That humanity is diverse, and that is a good thing. That 7 billion humans are individuals, sometimes conformity gets the better of them, but they are still individuals. That looking at the differences between people and judging them for those differences is like looking through a prism. Your view will be distorted.
Yet, if you hold that same prism away from you and let the sunlight shine through it, you will be rewarded with a rainbow of colors. Amazing isn’t it? That one prism can hold so many different colors.