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“One Improved Unit” is an original column appearing sporadically at Everything-Voluntary.com, by the founder and editor Skyler J. Collins. Archived columns can be found here. OIU-only RSS feed available here.
Race has not only been a topic of discussion around the nation lately; it has also been a topic of discussion within my home. My children have become acutely aware of race and where they fall on the spectrum of “color.” Technically, they are half Caucasian and half Hispanic of Mexican descent, but visually, they are whiter than I. The only clue of their Hispanicness is their dark brown eyes and fluent Spanish. Seeing and hearing them speak fluent English, one would not guess that their mother is Mexican. In any event, race and racism have been topics in my house. My children are trying to make sense of these things. My fear, however, is that they may be getting at least two messages that I wish they rather not get. Those are that whites are racists, and that blacks are violent.
Whites are Racist
I’ve watched a lot of Comedy Central’s Key & Peele lately, and my son’s caught a few skits with me here and there. One thing that I’ve noticed is that white people are almost always portrayed as racist. That’s part of the humor, watching one or the other black guy navigate among racism. On second thought, portraying one race as always having some negative characteristic is itself a form of racism. That’s right, when popular news and media consistently portray whites as racists and blacks as victims of racism – which has been the case as long as I can remember – what’s a growing white person supposed to believe about what their skin color represents? This has been a growing fear of mine, that as my children grow up identifying as white, the world will also tell them that being white is being racist. I don’t like being told again and again that because I’m white, there’s an expectation that I’m racist, nor do I want my children to experience that. Key & Peele has become distasteful to me after I made this realization. It’s unfortunate because I think it’s a really funny show; a show racist against whites, but otherwise a really funny show.
Blacks are Violent
Along with our discussion about race and racism, the “n-word” has come up. My children, particularly my son, has heard it from Youtube videos, spoken by what sound to me like black teenagers. I grew up hearing it in movies on race (Glory, for example) and in the rap music that I enjoyed as a teenager. I’m not interested in shaming my children over the words they use, but with this particular word, I’ve done my best explaining to him that if he said it to a black person, that black person would find it extremely racist and likely want to hurt him. This was the exact message that I was told growing up, that if you used the n-word toward black people, they would probably kick your ass. But what is the implicit message here that I received and have now passed on to my children? That blacks have no self-control and will resort to violence when offended by a word. What a racist idea! That people of a given race have no self-control and will resort to violence over name-calling. How will I approach this in the future? I don’t know right now, but I think I’ll be more careful about it than I have been.
Both of the messages as explained above have been constantly hurled at me throughout my life, and now the lives of my children. The former, it seems, is meant to induce what is popularly called “white guilt.” I dislike with a passion such collectivist notions that a person’s skin color means they should feel guilt toward the actions done by others of that same skin color. What a racist and destructive idea that is! Likewise the idea that a person’s skin color means they have no self-control toward name-calling. I’m at a loss at how to move forward in the prevention of my children from adopting these racist notions. If you have any ideas, I’m all ears.
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