20 December 2012

Post-Racial Children

Race is a major issue in the US, as it is in many places across the globe. We've just gone through an election cycle that was filled with racial undertones. Social conservatives here are apoplectic about the growing demographic shift away from WASPs to folks of many creeds and hues. My children have been exposed to hateful racial epithets both in my presence and away from me.

Still, with all this, it was interesting to see how my kids have a different view of "black" and "white" people. Being of mixed race and rather young themselves, they struggle with the concepts of caucasian vs asian vs black vs all the other colors of the rainbow. Last night was a great example.

Last night we watched Psy perform the famous Gangnam Style song taped from November's American Music Awards show. My daughters were excited to show me some "famous white man" who was in the performance.

Before the performance a gentlemen (sorry, I'm horrible with celebrity names because I basically don't give a damn about celebrities) was introducing Psy. He was African American and dressed in black attire. Leia said something like, "He's the black man. That's not the white man. That man is the black man. Wait for the white man to show up."

I respond, "OK. You're right. That's a black man. I'll wait."

When the song starts Leia chimes in again, "He's Psy. That's not the white man. That's Psy. Wait and the white man will come out."

So I dutifully wait. Meanwhile my wife is laughing at the exchange and explains to me that MC Hammer performs alongside Psy on stage. Sure enough, here comes MC Hammer to dance alongside Psy.

Leia jumps up and down all excited. "See! I told you! There's the white man dancing, too."

Now, for those of you familiar with MC Hammer you'll know that he, too, is African American. In fact, MC Hammer is noticeably darker than Psy or anyone else immediately apparent on stage at that time. MC Hammer is, however, dressed in a starched white suit with his famous baggy trousers. Leia seemed oblivious to the fact that the "white man" and the "black man" both are called "black" men in our culture. Instead, it was the color of the suit that signified the "white man".

I gave it a chuckle, happy that racism has not yet intruded its ugliness upon her life.

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