Little pink houses part three...

Well its been a couple of weeks now since the new folks moved in next door and life is beginning to settle down. Its comforting, in a way, to have the noises of a family and children next door, the music of life's routines.

I'm relearning some of life's lessons along the way as well.

I think that sometimes when we, as white people in this country, interact at close quarters with people of different races we feel there is some "special' way we must act. The casualness and comfort that marks the way we deal with others like us disappears and is replaced by an internal editor who watches over our speech, our actions, our emotions, and makes us more cautious then we need to be, more unlike ourselves.

I remember a scene from the old Archie Bunker television show where Lionel Jefferson, an African American, is with Mike, Archie's son in law, and they're playing one of those table games where you have to tell the truth. Lionel draws a card and tells Mike he wishes he wouldn't always talk to him about "black issues". When Mike challenges him about this and asks him what he'd rather talk about, Lionel responds, "How about the weather, you know black people have weather too..." And therein lies the point.

Among the worst things that have happened in this country is that people like the character Mike in that long ago TV show have grown up and taken control of the way we speak and interact with each other. The effect has been not to increase dialogue and friendship but rather to create barriers out of words and the constant potential for offense that actually drives people apart. People of different races have stopped learning how to speak with each other because the negotiations for what it acceptable language are ongoing and the cost of a mistake is high. Being politically correct has taken the natural interactions between us and turned them into potential flashpots.

Yes its wrong to be derogatory and mean but we've become so sensitive that we've retreated into silence rather than risk even the remotest possibility of harm. The result has been that we're stilted and careful when we interact with others and the normal bonds that would help us grow together are replaced by increasingly longer periods of social negotiation before we can grow comfortable with each other and become simply neighbors and friends.

The answer, I think, is just to be yourself. Don't be a bigot but don't also presume that you have to be the same. After all you're not identical to people of your own race so why should you expect to be the same as anyone else? Two people comfortable in their own skin will be able to bridge the gaps between them in a way almost all of the artificial "diversity" programs will never accomplish. Talk about the weather, sports, cars, or nothing at all and tell that silly editor in your head, that product of the Mike's weird utopian vision, to take a hike. After all black people have weather too and when they live next door its the same as yours.

No comments: