There’s an issue I’ve been meaning to address for a while, but haven’t had the time to sit down and think of a way to say it without creating intense backlash. Don’t get me wrong, I love pushing buttons and I think anytime you publicly air your opinions, criticism is inevitable, but this topic is particularly sensitive.
A few weeks ago, a student in one of my 200-person lectures admitted that his mother doesn’t allow him to date white girls. This statement shocked me because you would think that someone who has been a victim of discrimination would understand how terrible and wrong it is. And last year, after Obama had won reelection, one of my roommates posted a status saying “BLACK POWER!” If I had told an auditorium full of 200 students that my parents forbid me from dating a black boy, I would probably get jumped. And if Romney had won the presidential election and I posted a status that said “WHITE POWER!” I most definitely would have been headlining on CNN. It would be naive to think differently.
With the “knockout game” surfacing, and Oprah’s claim that Americans’ criticisms of Obama are racially based, I feel there’s no better time for me to address this issue. I wrote a post a while ago addressing the racial problems in the Trayvon Martin case, but want to take my evaluation a step further because I’m realizing there isn’t just a battle between skin colors.
I know a guy who looks for every opportunity to tell people he’s Italian. Not just Italian, northern Italian, because southern Italians aren’t “true” Italians. We are the only country in the world where our citizens identify their nationality as one of a country they weren’t actually born in. If you were born in America, you are an American. Just like if you were born in Italy, you’d be an Italian. Duh.
My great grandfather’s last name was Lombardi. When doing research on the origins of the last name, I found that it comes from a region in northern Italy, called Lombardy. This region was actually established by a German tribe known as the “Lombards,” but people living there today don’t consider themselves German, because they were born in Italy. Turns out some “true” Italians are actually German, and many others are Greek. My great grandmother was born in Sicily. Northerners ignorantly claim southerners aren’t true Italians because Sicily was once ruled by Carthage, which means many Sicilians come from African decent. The most ironic part of all of this is that when my grandfather (German/Irish) married my grandmother, many of his family members didn’t approve because she was Italian. Had they known she had some “German blood” it probably would have eliminated much of the feuding.
I’m not discouraging anyone from embracing their heritage because it unifies people, but on the same note, divides them. Sometimes, the forming of associations can cause outsiders to generalize (aka stereotype) members of groups. Generalizations are wrong more often than not. Not a single group has survived history without being discriminated against. This nonsense has literally been going on for centuries. Black, white, brown, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Italian, African, Irish, Hispanic– no one has been left unscathed.
We tend to forget that like the color of your hair and eyes, the color of your skin is merely genetics and has no bearing on the type of person you are. And where you were born is mere location. It may influence how you live your life, but doesn’t determine your personality and aspirations. Judging people by their character, instead of their appearance and ethnic background, is such a simple concept that could have prevented a lot of conflict in this world. In the midst of all the chaos and hate going on around us, it wouldn’t hurt to think that maybe all we are is human.
I think it’s easier for us to understand people when we assume members of a group are all the same, especially when they’re different than us. But be mindful of the fact that you know of me (and others) what I choose to share with you. You will never truly know a person through assumptions. And it isn’t fair to paint anyone with the same brush- But if you must, at least wash it off first, because no one likes a dirty paintbrush.