it’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. an advocate for tolerance and equality.. a truly great historical figure in standing up for humanity. I have always held a deep and resounding respect for his impact on society in America and the voice he gave to black Americans everywhere that still echoes today.. the voice that now represents equality for all races. I love his ideals and his oft-quoted line, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
well, MLK… I have a dream too. I daily realize that, despite everyone’s best wishes and delusions, racism is not dead in our world. it is alive and well. and though white people have always been viewed as the big bad perpetrators.. it comes from all sides. I am not excusing my race, because our actions throughout history have been atrocious.. and many attitudes against white people stem from actions long sustained throughout history. but I frequently feel discriminated against.. by those who are not of my race (or, in another can of worms, who are not of my gender).. when I have not been the one to commit a wrong against an individual or an overall race.
I work with a very diverse population of students, which brings a lot of exposure to different challenges and beliefs and points of view. I also have a diverse group of friends that come from different places and ideas. and I follow many people of various backgrounds on Twitter. my timeline is always full of the strangest mixture of comments and pictures and articles. but the most interesting and sad comments to me are the blanket statements and judgments and stereotypes and categorizations and especially the elitist attitudes based on race, religion, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, and social status.
this has always been my soapbox issue — my biggest pet peeve. passing judgment on another person just because they fit into a certain “category” in our minds is absolutely ridiculous.. but it is, admittedly, human nature. basic psychology: our brains process information in the form of snap judgment in order to allow us to function efficiently. yet I still hate it. obviously everyone does it to an extent.. it’s nearly inevitable. but blatant prejudice against a certain group of people for no legitimate reason is unacceptable to me.
why do we have to talk about someone as “the black dude,” or “the poly girl,” or “the Mexican,” or “the gay guy,” or… you knew it was coming… “the white girl?” in most cases, what does that have to do with anything? does that characteristic honestly affect the story that you’re telling or the comment that you’re making? it really can’t just be “the guy,” or “the girl?” or.. if you’re gonna get really crazy.. his/her name?
it doesn’t take long reading my blog to realize that I’m engaged to someone of a different race and culture and ethnic background. he is brown and I am white.. and you can imagine the emphasis that basic difference between us places on race in our relationship. within his culture there is a word to describe my race: palangi. it is not necessarily an offensive word.. it just means a white person. but when anyone in his life talks to him about me, without fail, I am “the palangi.” I’ll always be his “palangi fiancee” or his “palangi wife.” I can’t just be his wife.. they usually don’t even know or call me by my name. my race will forever be my identifier.
now please don’t think I am writing this to bash any one particular culture or to point fingers… I completely love my fiancee and his family and his culture. I am merely using it as an example of a little thing that can have an impact on how how someone feels. and to go a step further, I have even been dumped for being white in a past relationship. it’s not awesome to be dumped by the person you care about for something you can do absolutely nothing about. regardless of the way I feel on the inside, the closest I can ever come to a different skin color is looking like a Cheeto with a Snooki spray tan. and recent events in my life in the past few months have stirred up pain from that past event (in my dating life, not with Snooki) which have hit pretty close to home.
the bottom line is… we are humans. we are brothers and sisters because we’re all members of the human race.
when did it become more important to match skin tones and cultural traditions than it did to love and accept people?
why do we find it necessary to perpetuate attitudes and judgments that injure those around us and blind us to the point of possibly preventing some of the greatest friends/relationships we could have in our lives?
I ask these questions to myself as well, because I am by no means perfect. I am guilty too. but if I reflect, personally, my diverse group of friends has been a huge blessing to me, and so educational. stepping outside my bubble to look through different windows and realize that other thought patterns, other ways of life, and other approaches to dealing with people can be just as good, or better, than my own, has shaped me as a person.
also, I know I have a good life. I haven’t lived in extreme struggle or hunger or terror, but I come from my own set of challenges that maybe another person wouldn’t be aware of. I am still a human being too. being white doesn’t make me bad or inherently spoiled or unable to understand someone. I have a long way to go and much to learn, but I’m determined not to do it with biased blinders on.
I have a dream, too, Mr. King, that someday people of other races and cultures will judge ME not by the color of my skin, but by the content of my character.. as I try to do the same for those I encounter.
and may that dream of yours continue to be carried forward until it finally becomes a reality, because.. essentially, the point of this post is..