Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Concessions Await

I wrote a post recently about race. In the post I made the statement that I believe race is a concept and not a reality. The post was dated February 2 if you would like to go back and review its content, and the logic under which I constructed the argument to support my beliefs.

I have been thinking about the post and realized that I did not make it clear that I believe culture is a very real entity. In my thinking these two words carry far different meanings.

One reader, LC Scotty commented on the post, “Ultimately, we are all human, we all come from some spot in West Africa where Homo Sapiens first arose. Our ancestors, scattered to the four corners of the Earth have been alternately changing as individual groups in response to evolutionary pressure and then co-mingling to redistribute all the goodies.”

I don’t pretend to be a scientist or expert on human evolution and offer no conclusions about where the first people originated, but I agree in earnest with the premise of his statement. The idea that we are all of one race, the human race, is what motivates me to tell you the world would be a kinder, and as my friend and reader Robert Shapiro would say, a ‘more benevolent” place if we understood skin color is only a concept.

This can become confusing due to the use of the word race rather than ‘skin color’. I tend to identify the common use of the word ‘race’ with skin color. Some of you may not.

However, culture is to me as real as anything can be. Ninety percent of my posts are essentially about culture. I can watch a German folk dance. I can listen to a Native Indian song. I can taste Italian food. Culture is real. My post seemed to confuse some readers as they appeared to believe I was saying all people on earth are a homogeneous blend and there is no speck of difference between us.

So today, I endeavor to make myself more clear. Watching the Winter Olympics I saw a German snowboarder compete in the half pipe. He had black skin. The commentators told the story of his birth in a tropical island nation and his subsequent adoption by a German couple. This young man grew up in the German culture learning to ‘snowboard’ a sport he was unlikely to master in a tropical island nation. Does this mean the German culture is his culture? Of course it does.

Can we inject people with other color skin into a completely different culture where their skin color is a minority and see them thrive and prosper? If you think not, I would advise you to become more aware of the people around you each day.

I do not have to look very far into the past to find the best and most significant wording to support my case. Those words belonged to Martin Luther King as he spoke in Washington DC on August 28, 1963:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hand with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.”

I told you recently about a track meet that I competed in last Saturday. I run for the Houston Elite Track Club. It is a multi skin color club of teammates. I was sitting in the stands with some team member families Saturday. A couple of the kids, about 5 years old, playing in the bleachers asked their parents in they could go to the concession stand. Receiving an affirmative response I watched as a small black hand slipped into a small white hand and they descended the bleacher steps en route to a common destination.

This wasn’t Alabama, it was Texas. It has been 43 years since Dr. King’s words. But I remembered his words at that moment. If Dr. King were sitting beside me he may well have joined me as small tears formed at the corners of my eyes. I wiped them quickly; after all I am a strong male track athlete. Then a fresh set followed those that had been wiped away and I was busted.

This may seem a touch maudlin on my part. I know that the scene I described happens every single day across the US. But, this is really my point. We have come so far. Perhaps its only a day or a week away that we can finally quit discussing race. And Jesse Jackson and his mercenary ilk can slink into the background and simply disappear.

Yes, culture is real. But skin color my friends is a only a concept that we invented to separate us.

This has many ramifications for all our skin colors. It means that we need to embrace our sameness and reject our differences. It means it is time to stop talking about our respective skin colors as if their differences could define us. Celebrate our cultures, yet understand we can move in and out of culture with ease. We can be born on a tropical island and learn to snowboard in Germany.

It all seems simple enough to me.

"We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline."
Martin Luther King - 1963


Reach said...

you did more with this post, than I imagine you intended.

On a day, that this nation celebrates love and relationship, you visited love of our fellow man.


Seven said...

I can always count on some valuable perception from you! Thanks for taking the time to read.

Reach said...

as you are aware, I am new to this adventure of blogging. I have recently learned some small linking tricks. As I value your writtings, I would like to add a link to your site, on my site. Would this meet with your agreement? If not, I would completely understand and remain a frequent reader.


Seven said...

Absolutely. I would be flattered.
I read your blog regularly and will add yours to mine.

Jenn said...

Once again, well done.

This is so important to me - for teaching my daughter. I'm actually going to print the two posts, if that's alright...I'll put them aside til she's older.

I want so badly for her to know, without a doubt - or even a thought, that different isn't bad. It's just different.

My mom managed to pass that on to me and my sibs...and her mother (my grandmother) actually used the word 'pic-a-ninny' in conversations. (I'm not sure of the spelling...or even the meaning except that it was not positive.)

So I know it can be done.

(Maybe you could do a light and fluffy post so I wouldn't be so inclined to drone on and on....)

Seven said...

You have flatterd me into a state of melancholy. Hug her for me; then please hug yourself, for me.

Seven said...

As a follow up to my lat comment; I guess I meant that I am very flatterd you would want your daughter to read the post at some point. That is truly flattering, but I pray for her that she will read it as an historical oddity and that it will be old advice long known to the world she inherits. That's all I meant by the 'melancholy' stuff.

Anne said...

This was a very nice post. Maybe very nice doesnt cover it...

Im very glad I happened to stumble across you. :)

Seven said...

Hi Anne,
Glad you did too and I hope you will come back.

Grant said...

Great post. Although I still think Asian women (especially my dentist) are hot, regardless of culture (my dentist is a native English speaker - sounds kind of mid-Western). :p

Seven said...

Agreed. I think it is more to do with attitude than anything. Sweet smiles and attitudes on the asian girls.

LC Scotty said...

And nice poopers. Don't forget the nice poopers.

Sandra said...

Remember that old Natalie Wood movie, where nobody knew she was half black until people would see her black mother? And then she'd be treated differently? I can't remember what it was called but it illustrated just how sad and addicted to labeling and dividing ourselves into groups our society can be. I think you make an excellent point.

Seven said...

Well from your pic it is obvous you are white and pretty, so you must be smart and have significant advantages over other people, like being a cheerleader and everythng in your life has been handed to you on a silver platter and you have no worries. And probably you are rich, especially if you have a white husband.
Is that what you mean??

a fish on a bycicle said...

Strange isn't it, I live in country that has been conquered by just about all of it's neighbours at some point in history. We are the culmination of the intermingling of genes that met on a far from friendly basis in the first instance. And the Celts, Picts, Danes, Francs and all of the others were on the whole physically distinguishable from each other, in terms of stature, skin tone, hair and eye colour...now those combinations are all 'acceptable' variations of what we and others would call typically British.

So culture, absolutely, with the mitigating factor of time - how long does it take for different to become not too 'different' to be considered 'part of'.

Seven said...

For sure just as skin color can intermingle and consolidate, I think culture can do the same. For example a man in London exchanges thoughts with a man in Texas USA. Sometimes we think the same, you and I. But I've not one clue about field hockey!
That may take the time you speak of before Texans are playing field hockey.

LC Scotty said...

It's funny you mention that movie theme, Sandra. One of my all time favorites that deals with the "Oh, you're one of those, are you?" idea is Pleasantville. My favorite scene was in the courtroom, which looked like it was simply a slightly different camera angle of the same courtroom used in To Kill a Mockingbird.