I had a discussion about a week or so ago at Cracker Barrel with some folks who came to eat who are from New Orleans. Our conversation rambled over several different topics, but we eventually settled on the topic of race. That phase of the conversation lasted about 15 minutes, and touched on the racial elements of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, on racial progress in America, and what we saw as the future.
The man of a married couple stated at the beginning of the conversation that he believed racism is on the way out in America, and that the distinguishing lines in the America of the future will be social class and not race. Yet over the course of his talking, he constantly referred to blacks and Hispanics as “them,” as in
“They, like it or not, were the ones doing most of the looting post-Katrina in New Orleans.”
And he finished his contribution by saying, “Well, we’ll see now that they’re in positions of prominence, with a black man as President and a Latina in the Supreme Court. Now they can’t use excuses anymore.”
My thoughts. Constantly using the term “them” and “they” over the course of trying to make the argument that racism is dying is kind of like a person claiming to transition to vegetarianism while eating a medium-rare steak. The supposed goal doesn’t fit the present reality. And second, how’s this for a suggestion.
Since white men have gotten a shot at the presidency forty-three times before a black man finally attained it, how about we judge “them” after the forty-third black president. And since there were 110 judges before Sotomayor, with 108 of them being white men, how about we wait until, oh, about 50 Hispanic judges before we judge “them.” Come to think of it, unless we’re claiming to desire an end to racism while maintaining stereotypes, how about we refuse to judge “them” as exemplars of “their” entire race and judge “them” by the content of their character. Then maybe racism will fade, as “us” and “them” will be absorbed into a larger “us” that includes us all.
How’s that for a suggestion?