Monday, January 14, 2008

Beyond race and gender~

I'm colorblind, racially speaking.

A black man told me this.

Back in the day when my ex gambled, and my youngest was not yet two, I delivered The Boston Globe before I went to school. Why I was scrambling to compensate for money he threw to the dogs-- literally-- is a story for another time.

During this exhausting, but strangely empowering year, I met men and women, each with their own story. Victims of corporate downsizing, victims of divorce, victims of gambling husbands, we were all victims of something.

We talked and joked, squeezing past each other on the crowded loading dock and jammed parking lot during the pre-dawn half hour it took to load up our cars and check the manifest for changes.

After a year, when I was able to quit and survive economically, Al gave me a goodbye hug. His comment, not the exact words but the gist, sticks with me today. He thanked me for being a friend, said my smile made a difference in his life, and that I acted like he wasn't black, only it came out nicer than I've paraphrased.

I remember blinking at him until his skin color came into focus-- a nice shade of brown-- coffee, one cream. I guess I'd just been looking into his heart via his eyes and bypassed his skin, his gender even.

He was a person, a friend. No more, no less. But that's a lot.

I don't remember what I replied, but nearly two decades later I still wonder: how did I act toward him that was different from how others acted?

Now we have a black man and a white woman running for president of a country that espouses racial and gender equality. Demands equality. Legislates it.

Both Hillary and Barack use race and gender to divide. They make it a big deal, pulling it front and center, sticking it in our faces. It is to their advantage to do so politically, I suppose. All's fair in love and war, and a political race is a battlefield. But such warfare serves no purpose beyond their own. It hurts the country they claim they want to improve.

Give us the facts, your plans, even your hearts, but cut the childish bickering over who called who a what!

We see your race, your gender. Those who care about such things need no reminder. Those of us who don't, say, "Get on with the show. Let us look into your eyes and see what really matters."

Take the high road, the road less traveled. It leads somewhere better.
Sex and race, because they are easy and visible differences, have been the primary ways of organizing human beings into superior and inferior groups . . ..~Gloria Steinem


Carter said...

You mean you want them to talk about what they might actually do if
elected? How naive! Is she pretty? Does he have a nice face? Would I like to sit and
have a beer with either of them? Are they really folks just like me?

That's what counts. Not whether they have a clue about economics--McCain just
announced that he doesn't, but why should we care about a little thing like that? Not
whether they had ever heard of Iraq when Bush said we really needed to attack the
place, or whether they think maybe we should stop getting our soldiers killed in a
futile effort to export what they call democracy to hordes of people who absolutely
do not want anything like it. Or whether they think we should immediately fire
every Arab-speaking gay man in the State Department. Or just how they might pay
off the biggest national debt in the history of the world. Or why corporate CEOs
should make a billion a year while some poor slob who lost his job when it was
outsourced to India is flipping burgers somewhere, if he can get a job at all. Or why
it is that illegal immigrants who came to the US for jobs should get punished, but the
people who employ them should go scot free. Or what they might do about the fact
that the library in Bridgewater can't stay open more than a few hours a week, and
most of the librarians had to be fired.

Nah. The thing that really counts is whether they have hearts of gold. Can't you tell
that just by looking?

Wanda said...

What a wonderful post and story, Ruth.
It reminds me of years ago, when we had a black girl babysitter. Someone ask my 4 year son if she was black, his response was "No, she's Gloria."
Oh that all of us could be so colorblind.
Thanks for a wonderful way to start my day.

Pauline said...

I like your closing paragraph. If only the candidates read your blog!

sc morgan said...

I enjoyed your post, Ruth (and the added rant from Carter). I see that the election is "upon you." May you be blessed by a TV outage somewhere nearby, OR, if you love the whole messy, grand circus the way I do, write on! I will be reading all your commentary.

Ruth D~ said...

Carter~ You really need to take up blogging. Until you do, you can be a guest blogger here anytime.

Wanda~ One of my kids made a comment like that a long time ago. The world through kids eyes is a lot different.

Pauline~ Thanks Pauline. They wouldn't waste their time here. I'm only one small vote with one small voice. :>)

Sarah~ I don't love it at all. The whole "messy, grand circus" alternately infuriates me and depresses me. Mostly infuriates! You'll find more of my feelings here than politics, I'm afraid. But there's plenty out there online if you need a real American politics fix.

Rick Bylina said...

I guess they can both plan an appearance on that make-over program, but I'd still like to see concrete plans on what they'd do. I'm so undecided this year, I might end up voting for the NJ pig farmer.

FĂ©nix (Bostonscapes DP) said...

Thanks for the nice words you left on my blog, Ruth. I just read your last post and I liked it a lot. I also enjoyed Carter's comment (you are right, he should take up blogging).

Cheers! :)

Ross said...

Hi Ruth: Another excellent post. Carter, a great follow-on. Last Autumn I followed a General Election campaign in Bermuda (from the safety of the UK) and was reminded how racial politics comes so easily to those who are "Proud to be ..." Cuiously, perhaps, the "white" commentators wished that Bermuda's "black" Premier could be more like Barack Obama. Notably, when Senator Obama did so well in (was it?) Iowa, Bermuda's newly re-elected "black" Premier sent him a letter on Government of Bermuda paper congratulating him. Here's a story: Back in (was it?) 1992 when Bill Clinton was running against George Bush for President, Bermuda's then-Premier, a "white" according to the people in charge now ... though he was actually "black" ... publically announced that Bermuda was backing Bush. Of course, Bill Clinton won, and not long after the Clinton Administration took office, it pulled the considerable and economically important (for Bermuda) US armed forces bases out of Bermuda, which had not been expected. It's very nearly funny! The Clinton Administration also dawdled over the clean-up of the highly polluted land and sea that the US bases in Bermuda had used. Everything from Agent Orange to asbestos to heavy oils to toxins yet to be named. Crystal caverns full of the stuff. You'd have expected the second George Bush to have rewarded Bermuda for its support of his Daddy back in '92, to send in a team to scrub the place clean (last cost estimate near $70 million). No. It is not the policy of the United States military to clean up after itself. Take note, world! In the end, proud politicians rule the world. Proud to be me. Me. Me. Where is a Mahatma Gandhi when we all could use one? Or a feeble boy-king? Someone sans pride. I have rambled on, Ruth. Typing keeps my fingers from icing up! Best ... ROSS

Lisa said...

What a beautiful post, Ruth. I hope the candidates do show us what really matters to them. I'm tired of these stupid games they're playing. I wish Kucinich was more popular, because so far he's the only one I like.

Barbara said...

Unfortunately the politician who sticks to the high road never seems to win the race. The country clamors for dissension in the same way it salivates over bad news. I wonder why that is?

Dawn said...

I have to add that the media drives this discussion of race and gender. I'm admittedly naive, but I really think the three candidates on TV last night would just as soon discuss issues as gender or race. I thought that was reinforced with the way they attempted to change the subject and move past the media's questions that were race and gender based. It is time for our media to grow up, but they haven't figured that out yet.


Belladonna said...

My favorite story/lesson about differences is the one about Star Bellied Sneeches from Dr. Seuss. I used to read it outloud to my Sociology class when we got to the unit on stratification.

Josie said...

Wow, that's so true, isn't it? I have been trying to figure out what it is about both of them that disturbs me, and you have nailed it.

In the area where I work, I work with East Indians, Filipinos, Chinese, Japanese, Canadian Aboriginals, and I have to stop and think for a minute, because I forget they're a different race. It really shouldn't matter, should it?