The complexities of race are something that I personally understand and feel I have a unique perspective on. I am biracial (half German and half African-American), whom is often perceived as either Hispanic or Middle Eastern. As a result of this combination, I have been subjected to ignorance, bigotry, and downright hatred by those whom often purport “conservative” values. Being perceived this way has forced me to see race from a multitude of perspectives and at times to even battle my own seemingly societally conditioned inclination towards racism. Even those of us whom claim to be liberals, can be guilty of racism. The difference is, most conservatives are unapologetic about their negative feelings towards race, and liberals strive to be better than that. And then of course there are those of us whom don’t have a racist thought, ever. But they are rare.
President Obama is biracial. He is neither black nor white, yet Americans and most of the World refer to him as a Black man. The same occurs when referring to Derek Jeter or Halle Berry or Alicia Keyes. However, the same is not said necessarily about Mariah Carey, Kris Humphries, Wentworth Miller or even myself. Being called Black when one is 1/2 black and 1/2 white is not an insult, unless if you were to possibly ask the Caucasian parent of these people. Why do Americans insist on denying an entire side of our President’s race? I think the difference is apparent. The reason people often call President Obama a black man is because he is perceived by most people as such. The reason people don’t necessarily call Mariah Carey, Kris Humphries, Wentworth Miller, myself, and many others, “black” is because we are often perceived as either White or Hispanic or Middle Eastern or Indian or any number of races. So you see, it’s all about how one is perceived in how one is labeled in America. The fact is that I am just as much black as President Obama and he is just as much white as I am but our experiences in this world are undoubtedly different. Unfortunately, “white” is seen as good and “black” is seen as bad by many Americans (of all races). Perhaps it’s a remnant of the “one-drop” rule used by Southerners during slavery (and thereafter) to dictate that anyone with the smallest amount of “black blood” was indeed classified as Black as if the “pure white blood” were tainted.
Of course, today, race is not typically as loud and out front as it was in the 50’s and 60’s in America (depending upon where you live). Generally, racism is more hidden, sinister, and quiet today. It is often in ways that cannot be seen like when not being hired for a job, when there are no racial minorities in a commercial real estate business, when you’re looked at suspiciously because of what race you’re perceived to be, or being followed around at Saks Fifth Avenue while browsing for a new suit and then spending thousands more than you anticipated just to say “fuck you” to the clerk whom ironically works on commission.
I understand the bottle of worms I am opening by speaking about this so openly. However, that is what this issue of Moot is about. This is our Race issue. I tried to get writers and laypersons of all races to write for this issue and to represent various perspectives on race but very few were willing to do so. Not everyone is as open to discussing race as I am and I think therein lies the issue.
The only way our shameful past with race can ever improve, is to have open, honest, sometimes painful and embarrassing discussions about race. We will never move forward to true egalitarianism among the races if the topic remains taboo.
I hope you will learn something about race and perhaps about yourself as you read through this issue of Moot and take it to heart. So that the next time you run into racism, you can stand up to it, no matter how small of an infraction it may seem because when you allow racism in any capacity to go unchallenged, you’re saying it’s OK.