It's not that I am obsessed with "race"..
It's that everyone is.
Feel free to hear what I'm about to say and think
to yourself that I've plagiarized your life.
How many times have you seen an Asian or an Asian-American
and thought to yourself,
"Man, they all look alike."
As a child, did you pass an Asian on the street and feel the need to strike a karate pose and
yell gibberish you thought sounded a lot like an Asian language?
Does this mean children
are racist? Yes. Children are racist because we are all racist. Every single one of us. The Caucasians, African-Americans,
Asian-Americans, Native-Americans, Latin-Americans.
Notice the order I listed those in. Isn't that the order they tend to appear? Why is that? Our
society is racist by nature; this is one of those times when most of my intellectual acquaintances would reply, "Well, human
nature is actually just human habit." So be it. Our society has a horrible habit...and I must point out something that not
many people take the time to think about:
The clearest and most inbiased, vulnerable picture
of our society is seen in our children. (And yes, I'm saying this generally, because I don't have any children. I'm a kid
myself!) Children are unscathed by this thing called "politeness." Most children don't analyze their actions or the consequences
arising from them as much as most adults at least try to. We see the direct result of our culture, our ideals, and our philosophy
in the words, moves, and habits of the children.
When a child runs down the street and spots
an Asian man approaching, there is no malice in his heart that drives him to act in a racist manner. It is simply the design
of his environment...the information and stereotypes instilled in him by his surroundings, his parents, the media, and his
own imagination. He doesn't know that this Asian man he is karate-chopping at has had this same treatment time and time again,
and that he is rolling his eyes internally and wanting to collar the kid in a dark alley somewhere.
People in our society act out a certain script. It is the same script each time, with slight improvisation due to setting
or character. The Asian man can have on a coat and tie and be carrying a briefcase, but the child is still pretty sure he's
got on a black-belt underneath it all. It prompts the adult with a desire to scream out, "Look, kid. If you're going to diss
me at least get some new material!"
But there is no victim in this piece, nor villian. We
don't have any idea who is fulfilling which role, only that it is happening. The child is the victim of society, and so is
the man. Both are following stereotypes that do not benefit anyone. See...it doesn't matter which role we are playing. It
doesn't matter what we are as people. The main goal is to see the world through the eyes of all people.
It's not enough to recognize that diversity exists. Doing that is only what creates the cliches in the first place. You must
take a look at major influences when it comes to groups of people. In law firms, accounting firms, fortune500 companies...you
take a look at the lack of diversity and you are astounded. Or maybe you aren't, because you've heard this "diversity bitching"
before. You have to wonder, though, how these intelligent, successful people cannot incorporate a sense of equality into their
But once again, there is no bad guy..there is no victim. There is just a problem.
There have been several extensive studies done on the reaction of normal, good-hearted people and what it takes to bring out
their true racist nature. Four actors: A white male, a white female, a black male, and a black female, all went through "scripted"
experiments in the following situations: a car dealership, a rental house, and various other locations tapes by hidden cameras.
The results were cliche, only as expected by any person running such a test. The white male was given the best deal...the
black woman the worst. And this car dealer was the type of man who would do it unknowingly, yes? He would go home to his wife
and several weeks later when his high school son asked him for a quote for the school paper about racism, he would say "Racism...yuck.
That's unintelligent. Those men who wear the sheets and burn the crosses, they are racist!" This is the same man who gave
the white woman a higher price on a car than the white man...and the black woman a higher price than the white woman. He made
their dollar worth less. This same man says he embraces diversity.
It has been said that diversity
is a "fragile consensus acheived through struggle." It frightens me to know that there are doctors who would deny a patient
proper treatment because of their race. It also frightens me to know of the subtleties...the doctors who would gladly give
them the same treatment, but for a larger price.
The fact that this problem has no villians
and victims makes it even harder to approach.
For instance, get on the Metro in a major city
such as Washington D.C. Head Northwest, and you'll arrive in a stunning, clean-cut series of neighborhoods with luxury cars
in the driveways. This is where the judges, lawyers, and politicians live. Although the majority of Washington D.C. is African-American,
almost 99% of the people in this part of "town" are white.
Head the other way on the Metro
and you will find several abandoned houses, broken windows, junker cars...no gardens...overgrown lawns...and several people
of African-American influence.
But let's head back north to the "white neighborhood." Let's go door to door and ask the residents
why they chose the very house they live in over any other house. They will give you a myriad of reasons...but often times
the one on the very tip of their tongue is the one they wont say. They chose this house because its in this neighborhood,
and they chose this neighborhood because it was with "their people." More and more subtleties to fear.
It's one thing to stand up and speak out about racism, but its really not enough to just care. You must look out for others.
You have to react and do something about it even when the face isn't yours.
Even as we stop
and consider these things, we shall continue to repeat these patterns unwittingly. I won't ask you to admit to it, but like
I said, I think what I'm saying can apply to every single one of us, nomatter how diverse in thought we think we are.
Picture yourself walking in the dark...in an unfamilliar city. You have wandered into an unfamilliar neighborhood where you
parked your car in the daylight..but now you can't remember which block you parked on. You're becoming a little frantic, and
suddenly you hear footsteps behind you. You sneak a glance behind you...and because of the darkness the single characteristic
of the person behind you that you can gather is that they are male...oh yes, and black.
react...you put a tiny bit of speed into your step. You glance around to see if there are other people within viewing distance.
You clutch your belongings a little closer. When you finally get inside your car, you feel a recollection, and suddenly feel
ashamed..because you aren't a racist. You are aware of these things..you are no bigot. Now that you are in your comfort zone,
you can justify your actions with any sort of excuse.. "It was a dark alley." "My cousin got mugged here last summer." "On
the news they said a guy was gutted here on this very street." But it wont be the first time this young black man has had
to deal with this. Others have seen him and done the same. Only a glance, and you have suddenly made so many decisions. You
have decided who is good and who is bad...who is above and who is below. Who is the victim and who is the villian. I am no
different. We are all in this same bubble.
We must raise the bar...we must do more. Why, you
ask, am I obsessed with race?
Because we all are.
"I'm a liberal. I believe in civil rights.
I marched in the 50's. But why isn't it all over by now? I'm sick and tired of it all. Why can't we just get it right? I don't
want to hear this complaining anymore!"
Are we sick of these problems because they are not
our own? "Didn't we take care of this?!" "People can sue if they want. WHy does this have to be a major government issue?"
"There are no more signs on the street and buses and drinking fountains." "Isn't this enough?"
It never ends. Our children's children will deal with it. Why?
Diversity is like
democracy. It's all about the process, not the outcome. We can't wait for it to be done and perfected, but that isn't the
point. The goal is the process...the progress.
We must never be satisfied with any accomplishment.
We have done some things, so now we must raise the bar. How often do you hear a wealthy CEO walk into a meeting and proclaim,
"We have enough profits. Let's just stop now." ? When we make more, we want more.
When a politician wants to appear diverse, he will go to a Chinese New Year celebration and eat an eggroll in front of a camera.
To him, he is celebrating diversity. He is tasting the culture. To me, he is making an ass of himself.
Here's a random fact for you, in closing..
Detroit public schools are more segregated now than they were 30 years ago.
So does law encourage change or does change encourage law?
We'll leave it at that. Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.