A good friend asked me about something that she had struggled with lately. She wasn’t quite sure how to approach the subject and was at a loss for words. It was socially awkward and something older generations, including my own, seem to struggle with. I really couldn’t give her an answer right away, but since that day I have given her question a lot of thought, and decided to write about it.
She asked me if I ever felt compelled to introduce a person of color to another person in my friend circle if they were also a person of color, just because they are both people of color.
I haven’t ever felt the need to do this, but I can understand why this might make sense. Especially if you are coming from a place where the melting pot is generally vanilla, so to speak.
First and foremost, I think the only reason to introduce anyone to anyone is an effort to blend your friend circles. I am a huge proponent of that. I like mixing up my friend groups and am always pleasantly surprised at the great friendships that get formed from this process. It also broadens my own friend circles.
Perhaps rewiring the way we see people that are different from us is a great place to start.
Whenever I have described someone that I’m talking about, so the person I’m talking to knows who I’m talking about, I don’t usually use race, ethnicity or religious affiliation in my description.
“You remember him? He’s the guy that rode his skateboard to work everyday.”
I wouldn’t say that he’s the “white guy” that rode his skateboard to work everyday, probably because this might be an assumed characteristic because I’m white too, or perhaps I’m talking to someone that’s white. I dunno. If the guy was white, I just wouldn’t use that to describe him, even if I was describing him to a person of color.
I read an interesting article that is about this same subject on a website entitled The Race Card Project. It gives a scenario that is exactly what I am trying to process here.
“While you’re on your way, can you drop this folder off to Sherri?”
“Who’s Sherri? I don’t think I know her.”
“You know, Sherri. She used to work in Customer Service, but now she’s in Proofing.”
“Still doesn’t ring a bell.”
“Her cube is right next to Dan’s.”
*Shakes head, frowning in confusion*
“You know, we had a birthday party for her last week.”
“I was on vacation last week.”
*Leans over to 1 nanometer from co-worker’s ear, whispers in the lowest voice they can manage, eyes rotating all around to make sure no one can possibly hear*: “She’s black.”
I was excited to scroll down the page of this article and read the comments. I highly suggest you do the same because they were eye opening and a relief to read. Click the link above entitled The Race Card Project and it will take you right there.
I think there is such a thing as being overly politically correct to the point of making everyone uncomfortable. It creates an unnecessary stigma for folks that want to explore the subject of race, or find out what is correct, or acceptable, in terms of learning more about each other as people, in general. Just because you want to talk about racial differences, it does not make you a racist.
When did being politically correct start to mean being silent?
I am hearing impaired. That’s the politically, socially correct and acceptable way to describe my handicap, and it’s not even PC to use the word handicap anymore.
I was born partially deaf, so what I do not hear, I had never heard until I got hearing aids. I’ll have you know that I do not feel handicapped. In fact, I think the hearing population is handicapped because they are bombarded with the worst pollution I have ever experienced in my life. I have no idea how any of you get anything done during the day. And how do you sleep at night? It’s just beyond me! The world is a noisy and brassy place and I prefer my world to yours any day. My hearing impairment is as much a part of who I am, as is the color of my skin.
But would anyone ever think to describe me as “the deaf girl”?
As you can see, I feel strongly about what makes me different from you. I am sure this is also a common perception when it involves anything that might make you different from the next person. In our own way, we are each unique and complex individuals. None of us want to believe that our entire existence can be summed up simply by describing us with the color of our skin, and yet, it is the most common of all descriptors.
I’d like to think most of our species might be more inclined to describe me as “the really tall girl” or the one with the sunny disposition. No one ever seems to have a problem pointing out the physical attributes of a person. Fat, skinny, buck teeth, big eyes, really long hair, blonde, red head, etc. Those seem to be the norm. As is the color of our skin.
I have been told that because I’m white that I don’t get to talk about race, or how someone is described. In fact, some folks don’t think white people get to talk about race at all. Perhaps it’s the history of the USA and slavery that sets teeth on edge. Perhaps it’s a sense of entitlement. But I am here to encourage everyone to start talking about it because the color of our skin is not a secret at all. It simply is what it is. Unless we start talking, there will never be enough education and without knowledge, ignorance will continue to plague all of us.
This will be a subject I explore and continue to process in my own mind for a long, long time. I had never given this much thought before, but as time goes by and we all learn a new way to think about each other, I hope that one word can be used to describe everyone eventually.
We all want the same things in life. We want security, love and most of all, we want to be accepted and respected for who we are. I think I’m going to close this post with that thought.
The Race Card Project has another article that I found powerfully true. It simply states “I only need one word. Human.”
I encourage each of my readers today to visit The Race Card Project and make your own Race Card. Just click this link here: Make Your Own Race Card. You might be surprised by the areas of your own mind and heart that finally open with understanding.
“About The Race Card Project, by Michele Norris
The Race Card Project encourages people to condense their observations and experiences about race into one sentence with just Six Words. Since it began in 2010, the Project has received tens of thousands of Six Word stories from all over the world. The Race Card Project has earned a deep well of trust on a thorny topic as evidenced by the candor and depth of the submissions. The Six Word essays featured on the website, theracecardproject.com, provide a window into America’s private conversations about race and cultural identity. As such, the website has been used by schools, businesses, churches and even the military to foster a dialogue about race. The Six Word stories are also featured regularly in reports by Michele Norris on NPR’s Morning Edition.
The Race Card Project team is consistently amazed by the candor and emotional depth of the submissions collected via the award winning website, www.theracecardproject.com.
For More Information Contact:
Melissa Bear, (443) 465-6705 firstname.lastname@example.org“