Everyone’s a little bit racist
This past weekend I took a little trip to Coconut Grove to see a friend visiting from out of town. It was here I had a rather enlightening self-discovering moment. We went out on the town to get a few drinks and catch up. After being approached by a rather persuasive Austrian and after the bar tender alerted us to the fact that we were being anti -social, we embarked upon a journey of what I have termed “awkward bar conversation” with three gentleman. While my poor friend was being fawned over by a now very inebriated Austrian, I began an in depth conversation about racial tension in South Florida.
Perhaps it is due to my extreme whiteness, but I am utterly fascinated by issues of race in the US. I have recently become especially spellbound by what I like to call interior racism. This is when people of a particular race discriminate against others of the same background. One Black person telling another he is white washed. Another Latina telling another she doesn’t dance like a true Latina. Or that he or she should speak a certain way. Brian, one of our newfound friends is of Cuban origin. Two white parents adopted him and due to this fact he says he speaks no Spanish and claims he will never visit Cuba.
I could not believe this. What I would give to have such a culturally rich background. The food, the people, to have a native tongue different from English! I could not hide my disdain that he did not so much as speak Spanish. I tried to recover, but he interrupted to assuage my guilt by telling me he received this reaction frequently. When ordering in restaurants he has constantly had to stop waiters when they address him in Spanish. Each time he claimed, the waiter would be filled with disgust telling him he should speak the language of his ancestors. I had to also ask him why he would not want to see where he was from. Why wouldn’t he want to speak the language of his culture? But apart from his darker skin tone why would his culture be anything other than that of the couple that raised him? That became his family? And furthermore who am I to determine that any person should be any particular way? I am somewhat Scottish and a little bit Canadian. Should I dine only on Haggis? Or wear only a kilt? Should I say aboot instead of about? I do enjoy “O Canada”, but it’s not the only song I sing!
We all have stereotypes we impose upon different cultures and races other than our own, but I am interested to learn that similar and more potent stereotypes exist within the same cultures and races. Although I would love it if race weren’t an issue, I wonder if that will ever be the case. There will always be a black mother devastated when her son brings home a white fiancé and unfortunately a father that will not be able to hide his discomfort wtih a daughter’s black boyfriend. I will never be able to dance and I will blame this on my whiteness. Similarly there will always be the groups of Cubans that will shame the Cuban American that doesn’t make an effort to identify with a culture he feels should only be the past. I feel that interior racism is just as prevalent as exterior racism, if not more so. I guess the puppets from Avenue Q are correct everyone is a little bit racist and I think on some level this will most certainly be the case for a long long while.