So Close, So Far: Racism & the Non-Conversation

“All of the young and affluent, from New England, from the West Coast, from Delaware — with degrees in social justice and peace politics — unable to have a conversation with the very demographic they spent hours defending in sociological capstone papers for well intentioned professors.”

Laura Marie Marciano

April 22, 2014 | The Future | Print #3

THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN FULL IN OUR 3RD PRINT ISSUE, THE FUTURE. TO PURCHASE A COPY, CLICK HERE.

We still don’t know how to talk about race. None of us.  My parents still don’t want me dating someone who is non-white, because they say it’s “too hard.” Their definition of “non-white” changes day by day; sometimes it includes Jewish people, sometimes it doesn’t. For years people in the US didn’t include Italians in their definition of white. No one talks about it. I am angry at my parents; I am angry at my boyfriend; I am angry at my hipster neighbors, at the locals, at our failed education system, at our scarred US history. I want the world to resemble the life of ancient sailors that my father used to describe to me, people of all ethnic, racial and economic backgrounds working together to keep large merchant ships afloat in dangerous waters. Why can’t we just get on a boat and make it work? If we could just get on a boat we could all party together? Isn’t it odd that even in the Game of Thrones it is the merchants whom represent the little diversity on the show that does exist?

There are countless images of racial and ethnic injustice etched in my mind over the years– the reality that replaces the cultural mirage of unity my father once painted for me. Two years ago I was babysitting in an affluent building in Brooklyn. Each Wednesday the kids and the nannies would get together and have a dinner party. This particular party was near the holidays. I sat with a room full of mostly Christians, a couple of Jews, and one young black girl. We were watching a Christmas claymation from years ago. All of the characters were as white as the snow, jolly, singing. The kids were getting into it, perhaps unaware of the racial and religious divides. I kept looking at the African American girl—wondering what the hell she might be thinking—if she noticed that none of the characters looked like her—if she cared. I thought about it for days. I remember teaching in Chicago, the Mexican American students in the school coloring their pictures with blond hair and peach skin. I’d say “why don’t you give the girl dark hair and skin like yours?” “That’s not pretty” they’d frown.

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