“history is the autobiography of a madman” –alexander herzen
Throughout my life I’ve been obsessed with stories. Stories from last week, stories from my childhood, and stories of things that happened 2000 years ago, all equally fascinating. Humans are fascinating creatures in amazing, horrific, confounding, and hilarious ways. So here’s some thoughts and musings about these animals that I’d thought you’d enjoy.
My tenure as a high school teacher in a diverse Baltimore County school was short, bitter sweet, and I’m very sure I learned more things than I taught. As my students and I formed more of a rapport I began to see more and more of them eat their lunch in my classroom during their lunch period and my free period. Sometimes they talked to each other, sometimes I’d join. The following discussion I heard about race and how the new generation feels about it. Here’s more or less how it went.
There were 4 students. 2 white girls, 1 black girl and 1 black boy… or so I thought. The students started to talk about the “real” race of each of the students, more of a matter-of-fact way then anything meant to be derogatory. One of the white girls was declared to “really” be black because of the mall she shopped at, the friends she had, the way she talked. She laughed and protested at first but in the end agreed. When she conceded her “blackness” she retorted to the black girl about how she was actually “white.” Her reasons were that most of her friends were white, she “acts white,” uses proper grammar, and is in gifted and talented (GT) classes. She again, laughed at first and denied it but the 3rd girl agreed and eventually the black girl was on bored with her “whiteness.” This amused the black boy and then the girls all glared at him and asked him what he was looking at the girls all said it was so obvious how “white” he was (for the aforementioned reasons) and this time there was no protest. He readily admitted that he was white and went further to say that he didn’t like black people…all this while his skin pigment was fairly dark.
At this point I had given up on whatever lesson I was working on and fully engrossed in their conversation. I asked them if they were alright and they knew what races they actually were. They laughed and they said that the actual color of one’s skin has little meaning in their world. Race is “really” determined by a verity of social factors: How one talks, decisions one make, the type of classes one have, how one dresses and the company they keep.
This was amazing to me. At first I thought what an odd but enlightened generation we have growing up with their new thoughts on race… Then I realized that racism was still the same beast but in a different form. If you look at the specifics of what they were saying the races weren’t equal black was still very much seen as worse than white.
The white girl who was deemed “black” was because of her negative characteristics she had. She came from a poor neighborhood, he clothes were visibly worn, she was in the low “standard” level classes, and had many black friends.
The black girl who was deemed “white” was done so for the opposite reasons and positive characteristics. She appeared more affluent, had nice clothes, spoke well, was in GT and Honor classes, and had many white friends.
The sad thing is racism hasn’t gone away with these kids, it’s only changed. Black is still seen as “bad,” the black boy told me many times he’s ashamed to be black because of the way he saw black people act in his school and in society. He went on to say he refuses to hang out with many of them because he sees them all as a “lower” and “trashy” people. He felt he would have a better time hanging out with white people and making white friends. Keep in mind these are 14 year old kids, this is the new generation. This is the new face of racism. It’s interesting in one light because one can shed their race for one they choose (to a certain extent) but overall bad because there is it is not furthering equality. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks…