Libertytown, New Market and Mt. Airy aren’t exactly racially diverse communities. In 2012, my high school’s student body was 85% white1 – and most Linganore students would’ve guessed the percentage was actually higher. Therefore, kids of any other race were often called “the Asian kid” or “the black kid” and everyone would know exactly who that was. The best part was that nobody cared. The names weren’t derogatory; they were simply a product of an overwhelmingly-white population. Heck, many minorities embraced the nicknames and made jokes about their own ethnicity. There was some name-calling, and I’m certainly not approving of that, but terms like “the Indian kid” were accepted and used all of the time without thought.
All of a sudden, I get to college and mentioning someone’s race at all is racist. I don’t like that.
In a world of relentless attempts to become “politically correct” (or to use a term I hate, “colorblind”) we seem to have forgotten what race is. Race is a community. It’s a sense of belonging. It’s a group to which you belong to by default, one of the few things you are born with that you cannot change. Like gender, age, and name, it can be used as a neutral identifier without any connotation. Unfortunately, all identifiers can be abused. Derogatory comments used to intentionally hurt someone are racist. Denying someone of a position because of his family’s country of origin is racist (so is giving someone a position because of his race – think affirmative action).
Mentioning someone’s race is not racist. In fact, many people are extremely proud of their race, and rightfully so. It’s an amazing feeling to be identified with a group of people you love and respect. Our attempts to erase color in our world have resulted in terms like “African American” for everyone with black skin. Since when have all blacks been from Africa? Or American? If we’re still walking around calling people “white” instead of “Caucasian”, why do we insist on avoiding “black”?
It would be great if we all stopped caring about race; there’d be a lot less abuse, neglect and war. But it’s never going to go away, so we need to stop pretending that it will. Race is a wonderful thing: it’s pride, identity, culture and a useful identifier when you go to school in a cornfield.
1 Statistics found at http://apps.fcps.org/sp.cfm?i=63
Photo credit goes to breakbunch.com. I don’t even know if the photo proves or disproves my point, I just think it’s hilarious.