It Would Take a Million People…

wp-image-1823851216

Statue of Liberty (Liberty Enlightening the World). / Photo by Wikipedia Commons.

By Js Kendrick.

 

Sometimes the news can be disconcerting for children. I usually have the news on my T.V. for background noise. Something in the morning to catch up on the day’s events at a glance, or late at night to keep me company while I write. On occasion, funny stories about pets, or local events, catch my children’s eye. They will point to the T.V. and tell me to look! or to rewind it back to see the story again. My children rarely pay attention to the news, and often ask if they can change the channel.

The news has been a bit serious lately in The United States of America. One story that came to the national spotlight was the story of Charlottesville, Virginia. A tragic story that opened up old wounds many of us had hoped had healed, yet found out painfully, they haven’t yet.

In the aftermath of that tragedy, many took to peaceful protest, some did not. It was the not that caught my youngest children’s attention. A group of protesters pulled down a statue in Durham, North Carolina. I was asked the simple question “why?” by my son, who is 6 years old.

Try having a go at explaining a Civil War, Slavery, and the Civil Rights Movement to a 6-year-old. If you read my last post, I had a helluva a time just explaining the eclipse. This was far more complicated and full of pitfalls. I am doing my best to raise my children to think of Humanity as One Race, which we truly are. That the minor differences in our species are just like frosting on a cake. Lick the icing, and we are still all cake inside. So after a quick explanation, I punted the question down the road.

I think I made a mistake on that.

I had no intention to write on this subject. Everyone else was, the news was full of stories on the subject of race relations, civil war monuments, etc.  My blogging was intended for fun family stories, little anecdotes to let you know that, yeah, everyone screws up as a parent, especially me, and together we can laugh at it. It wasn’t intended for discussing hot topics of the current news cycle, nor political / social controversies. Others could do that far better than me. So I didn’t write about it after my talk with my youngest children.

But you know? Life throws you a curve ball once in a while. Enter the Unwitting Racist.

It was at work, talking to a driver, that I started to form an opinion on a subject I originally wished to ignore.

We were commiserating on the conditions of our respective semi trucks, both in need of repair. Then he told me that his companies mechanic…well lets just say he repaired the drivers truck not using proper methods. Jury-rigged is the polite and proper term, an old nautical term actually. Yet he didn’t use that term. He used a term I had not heard in years. A term loaded with racist overtones. I think my expression lead to his backpedaling.

After explaining to me that he has two granddaughters who are ‘half-black’ and that to use that word to describe something or an object, as he used it, was fine. He went on to say he would never use it toward a person. I believed he was sincere on that point. Yet I let him know I disagreed with the use of the word.

We talked some more, falling off the subject that caused the tension and onto drivers in general. He talked about encountering drivers from our area in distance locations. That happens in trucking, it’s a little reminder how small the world really is. Yet the person in his chance encounter was a hispanic woman that he first met in a local store. She had her kids with her. They were very well-behaved he said, unlike other hispanic children that are usually wild in stores…because, well “You know what I’m talking about right?” was the quote. I let him know, with a raised eyebrow, that my kids are not hispanic and act up in the store too. Our conversation ended.

Although I thought about it that night, I didn’t want to blog about it. Figured, like me, he was up there in years. My generation, the Baby Boomers, have many carry over attitudes and phrases we inherited from our parents and grandparents. We were children during the Civil Rights movement. We witnessed it first hand. We had to adjust our opinions that were taught to us. The next generations will, thankfully, drop these leftovers into the trash as time marches on. No need to blog about that.

Then I was at school yesterday, eating lunch with my daughter Alexis, something both me and my wife do during the school year. At the table was a little girl, bright, funny, very polite, said something that put it all together for me. Here she was, but 9 years of age, a nexter generation talking to a group of nexters generation. The discussion was about family sizes, then she blurts out:

“She has a large family, because she Mexican, and Mexicans have a lot of children”.

I couldn’t help myself, and let out a chuckle. I told her that large families aren’t the result of ethnicity. There are lots of reasons people have large families. Although she nodded understanding my point, and since I wasn’t speaking in a admonishing way, she had no idea what she had just said. Not one bit. She had no clue she had just made a generalization about a group, some of her friends, those same friends sitting next to her. Who nodded in agreement with her observation about mexican families.

I was compelled to blog.

Right now, everyone in the United States has concerns about Neo-Nazi’s, the KKK, the Alt-Right and a slew of other groups that despise others for the silliest of reasons. Simply because they look different from the person they see in the mirror every day. We fret, we argue, we jump up and down over every little thing concerning race. We tear down statues we deem offensive. Because many of us believe is would be for the best to remove these reminders of a painful time in our country’s past. Objects that they see as glorify that time in our history. Others worry about history being forgotten. I personally believe that both points are valid.

Yet we ignore the elephant in the room.

Racism is rarely blatant. And if it is, we shoot it down (verbally) pretty quick. Those racists groups who marched in Charlottesville were a bunch of nutcases. Sorry folks, but those people were carrying Tiki Torches, and wanted to be taken seriously. No one took them seriously at first. Yet it ended tragically. And it proves that it only takes one nutcase to turn the world on end. We do need to take it seriously.

But they are obvious. We can spot them a mile away. They refuse to be polite to anyone who differs from them, from what they deem as ‘normal’ or ‘correct’ in their warped view of the world.

Yet they are not the problem. The problem is the unwitting racist. Those, like that semi truck driver, who believed nothing he said was incorrect. That it was okay to use a term that is morally repugnant to everyone else. Or the little nexter girl who makes a generalization on ethnic groups without even having a clue she did so.

This is the racism we need to worry about most. Not those groups who protested the removal of a statue. These modern-day jokers are looking for attention any way they can get it. People who think wearing white sheets and giving themselves names like ‘Grand Wizard’ make them cool. They are the symptom to the disease.

We like to think of ourselves as more evolved socially than our ancestors. To a degree we are. Yet not as far as we think. You’ve been on social media right? Seen some of those comments from opposing views? I’ve been waiting for Facebook to add a pointing finger emoji with the word ‘Witch!’ on it. I think it would get a lot of use.

People don’t go around being racist. Most people, even myself, don’t think they are racist. Nor do they think they harbor any thoughts or beliefs that are racist. We don’t actually, yet then again we do. It’s the little things, those minor points that we take for granted that are the most damaging. They add up and find their way into our culture, our schools, our work, and yes, even our homes. That need for generalization, for conformity, the need to assume because Johnny behaves this way. All Johnny’s must behave the same way.

We do this not just with race, but with shape, with dress, with speech, with gender, with sexuality, and even political views. Our need, as humans, to categorize everything into neat little packages and say ‘Well this is how it is’, has done more damage to societies than any political figure could ever do.

 

It would take a million people…

 

After explaining, badly, why people tore down the statue of the Confederate Solider in Durham North Carolina. My son looked at me, then glanced at the T.V.

“I hope they don’t tear down the Statue of Liberty, I like the Statue of Liberty, she’s beautiful” He said. I smiled at his concern.

“I don’t think anyone is going to tear the Statue of Liberty down Nick.” I said to him, still smiling. I liked the fact he was worried about a symbol of American Unity. That no matter where you came from, we are One people. The great melting pot.

“Yeah, that would take about a million people I think.” He said to me. “Maybe more, maybe everyone in the whole country!” He said.

 

I lost my smile at that point.

 

Advertisements

Through the Prism of my Yard.

Or why you should teach your children not to believe in ‘races’.

20170801_214038

Photos by KidZond

[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.