Alana and Logan had today off for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I didn't have it off, because the holiday is not statutory. Most Americans don't have it off, either; as is the case in Canada, several holidays are "optional" for businesses (read: businesses don't want anyone taking a day off if they could get away with it).
I don't know how many Americans outside of the media reflected on racial relations in the U.S. on this day. Probably very few. I did reflect on American race relations (but, hey, I'm not an American).
Racism here in the Deep South is more prominent than in Canada. That's not to say that Canada is some racial utopia where everyone just gets along. No, not at all. Canada has its share of racists. Most racism in Canada involves specific nationalities rather than race per se. When I worked on the assembly line at GM in Oshawa I heard a fair bit of racist comments, particularly aimed at East Indians and Pakistanis. While working at Kodak I remember one day when a couple of people were talking about how the crime in Toronto was largely the fault of Jamaicans (in spite of the fact that most Canadian criminals are white). The most spectacularly absurd piece of racism I ever saw took place in a parking lot in a mall in Toronto's west end. A black woman, who had parked illegally, cursed a young black security guard who forced her to move her vehicle. The woman, with a strong Caribbean accent, called the young man a "f---ing African!" The young man couldn't help laughing at her...
That having been said, I've noticed more racist comments in my three years working in Louisiana than I had in my whole life up until that point (quite a feat given my comment about the GM assembly line). Most of it is small, passing stuff, but some of it is serious. Whether it's deeply racist jokes, or a whispered comment in Arkansas last month where the speaker felt it necessary to point out they lived in the white section of town. The most baffling (at least to me) was an overheard comment at the shock (shock!) of a car dealership sending out a black salesman to talk to a white male customer.
While watching the Saints game on Saturday, Logan asked why so many people were wearing Drew Brees jerseys instead of Reggie Bush jerseys. I remembered a lot of Bush jerseys in New Orleans last month. Looking up at the screen I saw that everyone in the shot wearing Brees jerseys were white. Now, that may be a coincidence. I do remember that most of the Bush jerseys were worn by blacks. I couldn't help but think that this was race related, though. Since the Saints started playing well I'd heard a lot of comments along the line of, "Drew Brees is a great quarterback. And *whisper*, he's white." Honest, I've heard this line, or something similar, several times. Not only are the fans happy to have a winning team, white fans are ecstatic that they have a white player to cheer on. I didn't explain this to Logan (who is too young to see racism, thankfully).
I don't want to suggest that racism is a feature strictly of white society. It's not. Alana told me stories of what she heard at work, where actual black people work. The difference is that black racism tends to be reactive while white racism seems to be proactive, or culturally ingrained.
It's not all bad news on the racial tolerance front, though. Perhaps surprisingly, the person I get along best with at work is very conservative and very religious. While I don't always agree with him, his opinion is well thought out and I always come away rethinking my own opinion. It's that kind of discussion that's missing in modern media. Anyway, one day we had an amazing discussion on race. While most of the openly racist people at work are self-admitted Christians (they usually say things like, "I consider myself a good Christian, but..." This person is very much a Christian, but he lives his belief. It turns out he's very much against racism. He told a story about growing up in a ubiquitously racist area of the country and yet developing a deep hatred of racism.
Racism is still very much a problem in the U.S. For the most part it has been driven underground. In public the races intermingle and talk amongst each other in a cordial, even friendly manner. It's when you are accepted into that special "club" that the racist comments come out strong. It's a learned thing, too, because kids aren't naturally racist. Kids of all races play together outside together without thinking about it. The "thinking" only shows up later. There are some encouraging signs that the youth of today are less likely to think that way. I hope so, because the United States has a long, long way to go before it achieves anything close to racial harmony.
4 Good Years
1 year ago