I’ve been thinking a lot about race lately. Well, not lately, ever since New Orleans and even more so since that trial I sat on. I carry that guilt still.
The other night Chris and I were making our way to Tess’ Lark Tavern for dinner. In front of us were a black man and a white man. The black man was saying that he did not support interracial couples. He said that two people of different races could never truely know each other, because their life experience is so different.He said they could never truely love eachother, because controversy and racism would get in the way. Chris and I looked at eachother, smirking and shaking our heads. When we sat down for dinner, I asked her what she thought of the man’s arguement, which sparked a long conversation about race and culture. (Yes, this is the sort of thing we talk about at dinner.)
Later, as I sat at the CDGLCC listening to Broadcast Live and the amazing Pamela Means (both overtly political musicians), I was thinking about how interwoven hatred, fear and prejudice are. These are not problems that can be eradicated by simply acknowledging them or giving them names; instead (I concluded) every form of violence, every form of disenfranchisement, every form of heirarchy needs to be eradicated. If there is one, there is all. There is a modern version of apartheid that is happening in this country. It is palpable, it is frightening and it is growing. What am I referring to? The marginalization of minorities, the ever disintegrating middle class (The rich getting richer and the middle class sliding into poverty) and the connection between minority polulations and poverty. New Orleans is a perfect example of this.
Last spring I volunteered St Bernard’s Paris, N.O. for a week. It was such a visceral experience, so earth-shattering, so mind-blowing that to this day when I am asked about it, I stutter and stumble and find it hard to find words. No combination or phrases, words or sentences can even begin to describe what it was like down there. I know there are a lot of factors at work here, but anyone with a brain should be able to recognize the classism and racism that played out in the Emergency Management before and during the storm and around the debate over rebuilding. If you need some references Try this, this and this. It was a third world country right here in the US. I have never seen catastrophy on that level (and let me remind you that my experience in EMS has introduced me to catastrophy before this). The government is asking “Why rebuild the ghetto? That’s the part that flooded.Why give the black and poor a chance to move back into the city, when Mother Nature has done a beautiful job of cleaning it up? Problem solved.”
I am going back soon, which I think has been propelling some of my thoughts lately, but on top of that a lot of my classes and work are on this topic as well.
My reading list?
The Tempest -Shakespeare
Robinson Crusoe- Defoe
Shakespeare, Race and Colonialism- Loomba
The Color Purple- Walker
You get the idea.
Every one of us participates in racism and classism every single day. I find it difficult to get people to acknowledge that. It is alive and well at the College of Saint Rose as well. What sort of example do we give the “minority” students here, when the entire service staff (i.e. Dining, Facilities and Maintenance) are almost exclusively black or hispanic? Where is the faculty? I can only think of three! I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with service jobs, as I have held many in my life, I only wonder if there could be more concentration (consideration) of balancing out the very visible divide between “the academy” and “the staff.”
I am not implying that I have a solution. I am just at the beginning of trying to understand the relationships between race, class, culture and politics. I only hope to assert that, just because no one is talking about it, does not mean it isn’t there.