Are We Overly Focused on Race?

My little challenger.

I have an interesting problem as pointed out by my daughter. Because I care so much about the issue of multiculturalism and getting us beyond the silly concept of “race,” which I think is a made up “reality” we all have bought into, I write this blog and often many essays and pieces on the subject. And in an effort to make sure my kids don’t slip into the same trapped way of thinking, I try to have conversations with them around teaching moments when various things happen that allow us to talk about these issues.

Well, here’s what my 11 year old daughter said about that.

“You’re too focused on race and ethnicity.”

Isn’t that something? I have spent practically my whole life trying to make a difference in the area of bringing ethnic groups together and opening up minds of all people, challenging people, Black, White and otherwise, to get beyond the notion of race and accept people for who they are. It has been in a way, somewhat of a mission for me. To make a difference.

And yet to my daughter, who is growing up in a world and an area, where “racial” issues are far less obvious, thanks in part to the work done by the MLK’s and others, who have indeed focused on matters of “race” and culture, to think about it too much, is to make an issue out of nothing.

Which got me to thinking. Is it possible to fix bigotry and bias, without staying vigilant about those very things? Can we just stop talking about “race” and therefore it goes away? is it possible that some of the ethnic and racial issues we see, just figments of our imagination because we are making it real? Certainly that’s what many on the Right think.

After thinking it through, my answers are: No, we cannot fix bigotry without addressing it, because I do think for some, they are indeed unaware of their biases, and that is true for minorities as much as the majority; No, “race” will not go away because we stay silent about it. It is a concept  too deep in our make-up for that to happen; And yes, it is definitely possible, and even likely, that some of the matters of bias we perceive or just that, our perceptions and not reality. But that does not mean it is not real at other times. It is true, we need to be careful in trying to distinguish reality from perception. But we also need to be unafraid to work to correct that which needs fixing.

I am both glad and somewhat disturbed that my daughter thinks these issues are not issues. On the good side it means that the work and the decisions her mother and I have made to make sure her world is naturally multicultural have paid off. She sees a world of Mixed people, many cultures working and playing together, and a lack of general ethnic tension. But on the other hand, she also is a bit naive about matters of “race” and “racism.” She may be caught off guard big time at some point soon.

But in the end, the goal of my efforts are to get us to a place where more and more, her sentiment is the norm, and more importantly, not just a sentiment, but a very real truth. Indeed the goal is that I and others will not have to write about or work on behalf of a truly multicultural and Mixed society where “race” is not worthy of discussion.  Because the day it is real is the day I will gladly stop working to make it real, and I can retire from this effort. Until then, I will stay on it.

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2 thoughts on “Are We Overly Focused on Race?

  1. frankie says:

    A very good article. Why don’t people comment on what you write? Debate about it? Your daughter did not think ‘these issues were not issues’, she thought you were too focused about it. She may be right. Relax a bit and tell us of positive examples. Also I’d like to hear about the Asian ethnic groups. Are they mixing?

    • Earnest Harris says:

      Hi Frankie. Thanks. In answer to your question, not sure why they don’t comment here and sometimes prefer to email me instead. But whatever way or reason, I am just glad to give people something to think about.

      On my daughter, actually she does think these are non-issues. She simply has not personally experienced anything yet to make her think they are issues. We have, as I said, done a good job I suppose of what we have surrounded her with. Interestingly, I do think this is one of those positive examples you wanted. The fact that in her world, at least here in L.A., she is so surrounded by multiculturalism that she does not have any issues. As I wrote, that was the goal, so that is indeed positive.

      On the Asian population, I can only speak on what I see, and generally, it is a generational thing. Young Asians, who were born here, do indeed seem to be mixing a lot, more Asian-White than anything else, but Asians born elsewhere, immigrants to this country, and older, definitely less so. But I think that is more cultural than anything else.

      Overall, as I said, things are so much better than it used to be. And in some parts of America, generally the coasts, mixing is almost the norm, and that is a very positive thing. Meaning people are freer to choose to date and marry whomever they want. We’re not all the way there yet, but progress indeed.

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