I am a white woman. Very white. I grew up mostly in the suburbs of middle class America, mostly on the east coast, and had mostly white friends. My parents taught me to be aware of judging others, they taught me not to hate. For that I am grateful. I would never presume to tell anyone I am completely without racial and socio-economic prejudices because I believe it is truly the extraordinary human being who does not have some prejudices no matter how small.
Now I am a white woman still in the suburbs...and I have children of color. I am trying my best to raise them around people of color and it isn't always easy. I believe racism is nurtured not nature. I hope that by exposing my children to people of different beliefs and cultures somehow when they experience "different" they will embrace it and not run scared.
This morning I saw Joe Biden, a senator from Delaware apologize to Barak Obama for comments he made about Barak Obama being the first man of color in the presidential run to be good looking, clean, and articulate.
I know this comment. I know it because my daughters sometimes hear comments like this. They are compliments, but they are steeped in racial prejudice and ignorance. Obviously Barak Obama is not the first African American politician who is or was extremely articulate. Regardless of what your opinions are about people like Jesse Jackson and Carol Mosely Brown, I don't know how you could argue that they aren't or weren't charismatic and articulate.
My daughter sometimes hear from educators that she is "so smart". (Which of course she is.) Then she might hear a small off handed comment about Chinese adoption and that's the way to go if a parent is interested in a smart child. It makes my stomach flip every time.
When we watched the Indianapolis Colts win the AFC Championship almost two weeks ago we watched the coach Tony Dungy field numerous questions and comments about he and Lovey Smith would be the first two African American coaches for face off during a Super Bowl. I was appalled. Both men had just successfully taken their teams to the Super Bowl and all the media could capture was that they were both black.
As I watched the Joe Biden story this morning I decided he would not be getting my vote. I know his comment was probably not spoken in malicious intent. But he showed me he is lazy in his chosen word. He is not in tune with with non-white America.
I don't like to think of myself as the type of parent that is overly sensitive about each and every comment I hear from well intentioned but perhaps not well educated people on the topic of my children. And yet, in some sense maybe it is good not to let every phrase or question slide by while defending the masses justifying with well intentioned ignorance.