Saturday, December 16, 2006

Racism is Wiggity-wack, yo.

I was on the bus a few months back talking to some young, upwordly mobile gentleman, and the subject of racism in Eastern Europe came up. He said something to the effect of "it's weird that that goes on there, since we don't really have racism here." And this when there was a young black girl standing right next to us. The fact that he didn't think there was racism in America (or at least San Francisco) goes to show the problems with race we have in this country. SF is the most liberalist, pat-yourself-on-the-back-for-your-tolerance-enest city in the US. Most of the poor people in the city are either black or hispanic, and they all live in areas separated from the wealthier friscans. The areas they live in are known as the sketchy neighborhoods (mission, tenderloin, western addition, bayview/hunter's point), and white people only go there when they feel like being edgy or a little naughy. In fact, the guy on the bus later said that he didn't go to the mission because it was too edgy.

I'm not going to go off on a self-hating rant on white liberals. I certainly don't prefer the more conservative take on race issues, which is basically "let's build a wall to keep the messicans out, and why can't the blacks all just get jobs/ Gee, wouldn't it be great if it were the 1950s again and non-whites knew their place?" However, i think the whole colorblind/post racism perspective that we sometimes congragulate ourselves with having is utter bullshit. There are still tons of racial issues in the US, and all the good intentions in the world won't make that go away. Hurricane Katrina was a perfect example of the problems of race in the US, and how closely tied they are to class. Yahoo News' calling blacks looters and whites "foragers" illustrates the unspoken assumptions and prejudices so many Americans have, namely that most blacks are criminals, and certainly aren't "like us".

The other thing America does that doesn't serve us well is shut down most discussions on race. We sing the song of multiculturalism, and you aren't given much room to voice any concerns or issues in an honest, open way. People can't say "whoa, my neighborhood has gone from being predominately white to predominately asian/hispanic/indian/whatever in the past ten years, and it makes me feel kind of uncomfortable and weird". If you say that, you get labled a racist, so instead you either pretend that it's the best thing ever that you can't relate to you new neighbors, or you end up feeling like your racism is justified.

And here is a fact for all of you non-white folks out there - even though they don't say so in public, most whites are secretely a little racist, and they talk shit when they are amongst their own. It comes out more in less direct criticisms about how the increased asian populations are ruining grading curves, or how the increased hispanic population is causing gang problems, or how the influx of african-american culture in the media is rotting the morals of our children. I can't help but feel like if there could be a more open and honest forum for people to voice their concerns and prejudices, we'd be able to deal with them better as a society. As it stands now, we tend to bury things and let them fester.

For my part, i just try and acknowledge when i'm being bigoted or prejudice or a dickhead, figure out where it's coming from, and try and find a way to deal with it, at least in my head. The truth of the matter is that all cultures adn races have their aspects that suck, and all have their aspects that are good. "tolerance" also has taken on a new meaning for me in recent years. I used to think of being tolerant as being accepting and embracing. Now i think of it as admitting that i'm not into certain beliefs, but acknowledging their right to exist. Agreeing to disagree, as it were.

And some of my best friends are black/jewish/hispanic.


No comments:

Blog Archive