Monday, January 5, 2009

What an Ignorant White Woman Knows About Racism

“Do we have to go all Black now that he was elected? It seems like there are so many commercials with Blacks now on TV.” My sister was shocked when my mom said this to her. I was shocked when my sister told me about it.

I always knew my father was racist. We had plenty of arguments over his comments about “those Jews” or “niggers”. He was like Archie Bunker – a working class, second generation immigrant. But was kindly Edith a racist too, underneath her sweetness?

It does seem like more Black colored faces are on camera now than before Obama, not just in commercials but also as pundits. But the idea that he will paint the White House black, this animosity towards him because his skin is darker than Mom’s, that is an insidious poison.

During the election I had one heated discussion with Mom about Obama. She said she just couldn’t vote for him, although she’s always been a staunch Democrat. She wouldn’t say in words that it was because he is Black. I even pointed out that Obama is half White & half Black – just like her great granddaughter, Breanna. But I obviously didn’t convince her.

My mom grew up in a time when it was illegal for Black and White people to marry in several states. The only overt racism I saw growing up in our lily White Wisconsin and Minnesota society was when my beloved Grandma offered us “nigger toes” to eat. Now we call them “Brazil nuts.” I never had a friend or even acquaintance who wasn’t White until I went to college. Since then I've mostly lived in a mostly White circle. I don't feel like its out of choice, just circumstance. I seldom think of Latinas and Blacks, Asians and Ntive Americans I've known personally in racial terms. It's only around strangers of different skin color that I notice that first.

My daughter says it’s just Mom’s generation, that racism is less within the younger generation. Maybe the blending of skin colors and cultures, like in Hawaii, will become the norm. Maybe we can really fulfill Martin Luther King’s dream in the coming generations.

--By Terra Rafael

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