I was going to title this post “Everybody is a Racist”, but while I do believe that to be true, what I am looking for is personal honesty. Can we really comment on the world if we are not honest with ourselves? I shall try to take up the cup of honesty and drink its bitter contents.
Long ago, I went to a little elementary school with a lot of little white people, like me. We had fun being kids. I liked school. I like to learn. It was a good fit. Then, I outgrew that school and went to one of a middle age. There were white kids (who hadn’t left for private schools aka “white flight”), Hispanic kids, black kids, and some Asian kids. A jumbled mix of the colors of America. It was new and shocking. Maybe more so that kids were two feet taller than their race. But I noticed something. I took Honors classes which were considered the upper academic courses. And in those Honors classes were all the white kids from my elementary school and from other elementary schools. Almost exclusively. And in the regular classes, as they were so elegantly titled, resided the minority students. At this time, I am eleven years old. Eleven year olds don’t generally access a lot of statistical data or meaningful social commentary in regards to race. I did not. So, using simple, basic logic I came to the conclusion that white people were simply smarter than minorities with few exceptions. This conclusion was not drawn from having any relatives who were in the KKK or the Nazi party. It was a simple idea drawn from observations. There was no malicious intent, no waving of fists, screaming, or spittle flying from an angry mouth. It was conceived in the same vein as I have never seen a newborn walk and therefore they can’t walk. But it stuck in there, deep in the folds of my mind. What the child experiences is difficult to fully root out in adulthood.
Now, as a grown man, I know my childhood racial assessment to be false. (Sadly, I feel that there are many who do not, of all races.) I have had many classes in high school and college with students and teachers of varying races and abilities. I am now a teacher myself and see I see that to correlate intellect, school performance, and race is troubling at best and laughable at worst. Parents are one of the most predominant factors in school success, regardless of race. And intellect? There are brilliant homeless people and not so swift professionals, regardless of race. The real question with a kid is do they see a way. Do they say a way to push beyond their circumstances? Do they see a way to rise up to their circumstances? I am a teacher from a family of doctors, lawyers, a rocket scientist and a host of measured geniuses. So, I’m not sure what that makes me from a world perspective. Race is something so very easy to get hung up on. You can play the “they, they, they” game or be “color blind” (which Stephen Colbert so exquisitely pointed out the ridiculousness of). Both are silly pursuits. We are different. Good. I would get really friggin annoyed if everybody was like me. Am I still a racist? I work hard, and old habits die hard. But to be fair, I often think I am smarter than everyone, regardless of race. Let us thank God for that.