by Kate Hallet
So growing up I have several memories of the idea of race. I mean, they say that we begin to develop our ideas on race as an infant and I have a very vivid memory generally so I think I am a pretty good person to write about this topic, especially since I think my views are very liberal considering my upbringing and just generally I am very liberal when it comes to this issue.
First off, I grew up in a very small mostly Czech (as in the former Czechoslovakia) town in Minnesota. Minnesota being in the North, the mentality is a bit different but it's a very White state to begin with. My town is very very White. Growing up a lot of my best friends were not White but these were the only types of minorities we had in my town. I had a best friend who was Korean American but his parent's are White and a friend who's Colombian but her parent's too are White. So in my town the only reason that you were often not White was because you were adopted or you were a migrant worker (as in a Mexican working for one of the factories nearby). Now, at one point, we had a Black family living right next door to us but my memory of them is very fuzzy, I don't remember if they were mixed, but part of me remembers the Mom being White and the Dad was Black and they had six kids too, but again, fuzzy memory and by the time I entered School they didn't live there anymore; I could call my sister or brother for more information but it's not so necessary I think because this goes to prove my whole point. There was literally no one of color where we lived. At that time this place was approximate 2,000 people. My hometown is about 45 minutes drive to Minneapolis/St. Paul.
I grew up in a Catholic household, the largest Catholic church being on the adjacent block to our house, but we were not strict about Catholicism by any means. My Mother only went to church on holidays (and even that was rare) and my Dad went every Saturday to a church that was a 20 minute drive away from our house because they had the shortest sermon and a bar across the street that had good pool tables, or maybe it was darts. We never said grace at dinner and I still don't remember the prayer. I did go to catechism classes, was baptized twice (once at birth and once in first grade), had my communion, and my confirmation. My Mother was a Democrat and worked in a factory. I spent most of my life with my Father being very present in my life, he was home most of my younger years and raised me, he's illiterate, obsessed with the news, movies, and bowling. I grew up eating mostly Czech food at home and used to sit with the old neighbor ladies and listened to them gossip in Czech about the others in our town. Growing up, I was an observer, I listened and watched everything going on around me, soaking it in, and then I would stay awake at night decompressing it all.
I watched a lot of tv and films growing up, like a lot of them, like a lot a lot, and still do. Nevertheless, a lot of what I learned about Black people or any other group of people, initially I learned about it from tv or film. I watched the Cosby Show, In Living Color, A Different World, Martin, Living Single, Family Matters, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, the LL Cool J show (can't remember the name, Hangin out with Mr. Cooper, and more. I don't recall reading any books with Black characters but I read a lot; I wish I read as much now. I was a voracious reader as a child/teenager/and young adult.
My parents were definitely racist but not like KKK type racist. My Dad often used the term, "niggerbox" when referring to a boombox/radio (but only a certain type of them). My Mom would call Brazil nuts, "niggertoes" but she would tell me not to call them that. I don't recall them ever using the term, 'nigger' ever though.
My first time being friends with a Black person was in middle School when I used to visit my cousins who lived in the city. They had a few Black neighbors where they lived or maybe two, not a few, lol. Man, I had such a crush on that boy. We all did. He was smart and handsome. In middle School we also had a mixed kid for like half a year, I remember him so well. His Mom was a single Mom and he name was JR. He was a grade below me but he was the same age as me. I think I maybe spoke to him once but of course, we all had a crush on him because he was different than any of the other boys. This was around the time that the movies Sunset Park, Above the Rim, Friday, and Bad Boys came out. I was a basketballer too, so I could relate.
Growing up, I realized very early on that I didn't think the same as everyone else but I didn't realize how different politically I was compared to where I lived, I am not sure how I was so blind to that until college but my part of Minnesota is very Republican, although my Mother and most of my Aunts and Uncles are Democrats so maybe I just didn't see it. And I was prejudiced at that age too. I thought of myself as superior to them because I saw a lot of them as country hicks or white trash. Therefore I am not better than a racist. Nevertheless, I did realize that I was different and though differently. But I still don't understand why I am the way that I am.
Once I got to college my whole world changed, however, almost everyone on my floor was White (and I was on a coed floor) my School was not. We had a large minority population and a massive population of international students (one that I became very involved in quickly). My freshmen year I became a student government senator and eventually the cultural diversity chair. My first friend at college was a Malaysian Chinese guy who we became incredibly close almost immediately even though we had a significant language barrier. I dated men from all over the globe and my friends were from everywhere and all walks of life. That became my normal. Anything since then has been odd to me and I feel like the older I get and further from Minnesota I get I get more and more segregated and that scares me and makes me sad.
I've dated White guys, Black guys, African guys, Japanese guys, Asian guys, Arab guys, and I'll say this. Guys are guys. Plain and simple. Do I have a preference? Yes, but my preference is not based on color of skin. I've spent most of my life not seeing in colors and recently, color has been thrust and forced upon me. Living in Brooklyn has made this happen (not even Nigeria!!!). More on this later though, not this essay.
I've brought home Black and Asian guys home to my parents. Yes, I prepped them in advance but my Mother never gave me a talk on how they may not get me or their family might not accept me. We never did that. My Dad doesn't really care any which way. If I'm happy, he's happy. I don't really think he sees in color. His life philosophy is very different than others. Maybe that's where I get it from but I don't think so.
I took many racial issues courses and courses related to such discussions and was cultural diversity chair for one year at my university and one year representing my School on the state's board of trustees. I am well schooled in racial issues, the topic, the definitions, the ideas, and more. Plus, I do find it interesting but the first time someone told me that there was such a thing as different 'human' races didn't happen until I was almost 28 years old, and was uttered from the mouth of a good, well educated, friend who's in the medical field and understands DNA and genetics. I was shocked and appalled. I couldn't believe it. I was like wtf??? For real? How could you think there's any race other than the human one? There's one. That's all. But after that I realized she wasn't alone in this way of thinking and I feel like this way of thinking is more and more prevalent. It's totally absurd. Please see the definitions I got below by googling it.
This comes from thefreedictionary.com. So there is no biological difference amongst the human race. We are one human race. There is not a Black race, a White race, etc... We are one. Why must we continue to shut one another out? Why do we differentiate amongst ourselves? Why??? I just don't get it.
And if this is technically a thing, because there really is no such thing, it's a made up thing, since slavery and since WWII, but genetically speaking, there's no difference amongst us. We literally are the same. So if this is the case, why must I choose a race when I fill out a form in this country (USA)? Why?
Do you feel there's really such a thing as different races? Why or why not? Do you think that the powers that be know that by creating racism diversion it will continue to suppress the masses and they will continue life in their own status quo? I'd love to hear others comments.
Good night and Peace and love for all of you!