Expectations from our fellow race members
My wife says I talk too much about race and she thinks I make people uncomfortable. In my defense, I think I’d find ways to make people uncomfortable even if I wasn’t talking about race.
I guess that’s not much of a defense.
I don’t see it that way, though. For example, I explore racism but it doesn’t really captivate my mind as much as race does. Because at the heart of it, I believe race has become the signifier for a cluster of cultural idiosyncrasies rooted in ethnic differences. So, really, I am fascinated by cultures and not just race.
Maybe my lack of interest in racism as a thought subject is a result of my privilege. I was very privileged enough to be born very handsome. Racism doesn’t apply to me the same way. I’m obviously joking. I am privilege because I live in California and I’m part of what I think is a very welcoming community.
But how can you not talk about race in these exciting times we are going through? The more we talk about it, the more we can spread understanding. The more we share all our stories, the more we can understand our own shortcomings, blind spots, and prejudices.
I know I have made mistakes and I have heard from other concerned citizens who have kindly and sometimes unkindly pointed out that I’m wrong. But it’s all the same. Of course, I’m going to be wrong sometimes. What’s the point of education but to learn the things we don’t know?
I learned about one of my own blind spots recently when I excitedly click on a piece of news about the woman who refused to wear a mask on a Southwest flight. After repeatedly being asked to put the mask on, she decided it was a mature response to throw an uppercut punch at the flight attendant resulting in the flight attending getting a nice scar on her cheek and losing two teeth.
The blind spot wasn’t that people are always rational beings. The blind spot was that I was expecting that woman to be white because that’s why we are being fed by the news cycles, ‘crazed white Republicans are refusing to wear masks.’
To my dismay, the woman was Hispanic. Or at least, she had a Hispanic name and I couldn’t confirm from my google searches whether she was or not. So I assumed she was.
I can’t explain the sense of shame I felt that she was. Somehow I have come to believe that I am a self-knighted brand ambassador for the entire Hispanic community and I also have a similar expectation for all Hispanics.
But isn’t that an unrealistic expectation?
I think it is. One that is the result of racial prejudice and knowing that the way that woman behaved will be blamed on the color of her skin and the sounds of her last names and not on the fact that she has issues that don’t care about her race.
That’s when I first thought: “we have to overcome racism, so we can finally discriminate against truly horrible human beings.”
There are a lot of ramifications to this type of thinking. The kind that expects all race members to be representatives for the entire race and the negation of each individual’s humanity and morality.
It is similar to the expectation of punishment of, and retribution from, white people for the destruction their ancestry caused.
How can someone be responsible for something that happened centuries before their birth? They can’t. It’s lunacy.
But that’s the game we play at times.
I don’t believe people should apologize for what their ancestors did, in the same way, I shouldn’t apologize for that woman’s deadly boxing skills.
Call it self-interest but I don’t want to play that game. Most Latinos wouldn’t want to play this game either.
Most of us have Spaniard ancestors who kidnapped our other ancestors in West Africa and then moved on to South America to pillage the villages of some of our other ancestors. What a terrible game for us, isn’t it?
Who do we apologize to? Which crime do we apologize for?
Should I apologize for Christopher Columbus, too? Is that fair?
How was I supposed to know that his escapades would be the beginning of some of the most horrendous crimes against humanity? I don’t even think he knew. After all, there is a saying in Spanish, “don’t die like Columbus.”
When he died he didn’t even know he made it to a new continent. After six trips, he still thought he found a faster route to the Indies. It wasn’t until the cartographer Amerigo Vespucci realized Columbus had found a continent new to Europeans. Somebody decided to start referring to the ‘New World’ as America.
Should I apologize for the people King Ferdinand gave Columbus? He probably didn’t even know those people were going to make it.
The king probably thought all those criminals we now call conquistadores were going to fall from the edge of a very flat earth. In his mind, he thought he saw something the king of Italy and king of Portugal didn’t see. An opportunity to reduce his jails population.
Columbus in his naïveté or vision thought there was a faster way to get to the West Indies. So he went to the king of Italy and said, “I think there’s a faster way to get to the West Indies because the earth is not flat.”
When the king of Italy said no, Columbus went to the king of Portugal and said, “ I think there is a faster way to get to the West Indies because earth is not flat.”
When the king of Portugal said no, he went to the King of Spain and said “I think there is a faster way to get to the West Indies because earth is not flat.”
And the king of Spain said “here are these three shitty ships and let me give you a fleet of men, too. Here are all these criminals overflowing our jails. Of course, the earth is round. There is no way this could end up horribly.” Winky wink.
But I digress.
I guess that what I’m trying to say through this long aimless and erratic historical rant is that I can’t apologize for Columbus or the Spaniards in my lineage. In the same way, I can’t apologize for that woman in the Southwest flight and her killer Hispanic right arm.
But I shouldn’t have to.
Society should allow me the benefit to stand on my own two feet and be judged on the merits of my actions and not on the merit of the actions of my ancestors or those of my fellow race members.