Interracial Friendships: Living in a Colorblind Society in 2050
For the past few months I have taken to picking up one of Toronto's weekly newspapers, Eye Weekly on a regular basis. It's been around for awhile and recently they have hired a crop of excellent writers. One of the columnist, a young white woman, is especially talented and writes a column on her life in the city. She is the anti-Carrie Bradshaw: a mousy girl with seemingly little money or style whom apparently has done (and perhaps still doing) what she seems to believe what young white people "do": Lot's of drinking, drugs, promiscuous sex and having mild to severe depression.
I am fascinated by her writing but more interestingly, I am interested in her position. She writes about common happenstance's, like everyone goes through 'periods' of doing stupid stuff; that is a right of passage. But more importantly she positions her column and her interactions like they are somewhat normal - that everyone at one time or another, has experienced what she has.
Funny. If I did the shit that she did at her age, my black ass would be in jail. A few weeks ago I was at a hardcore punk show and was appalled at how these kids (whom I heard through an aquaintence all came from well-to-do families) were acting. Again I thought to myself "If I had acted that way when I was younger, my black ass would be in jail."
And to a point she is right - young people do go through this self-absored, wow-is-me phase. But because of her privilege of being a young white middle-class woman who will most likely somewhat grow out of her navel-gazing she will transform into what many feel will be a pillar of society. Her wanton days and experiences will be filled with nostalgia and her friends and her future, white-collar banker husband will laugh at the stories that she will tell over Mimosas on her covered patio overlooking their spacious, beautifully landscaped backyard in the suburbs.
Yes, I'm envious. Not especially because she has a column in a somewhat cool newspaper or that she has thousands of adoring fans (I'm guessing). It's that her experiences and views on life are perceived as interesting and normal, and that my experiences as a young woman were completely ignored by my peers...not out of spite or racism but because I simply didn't exist. My life was not relevant to the thousands of readers who want to live through the writer's experiences.
I have been struggling with my habit because after every issue I read I feel irritated at the young, white faces who have been given editorial positions at this paper. Many, (that I gather-somewhat stereotypically-from their pictures) are Hipsters, writing with irony and indifference to anything that they do not think is cool and important in their young lives. Because it is a major publication in the greater Toronto area, it makes me wonder if the publisher has conveniently forgotten that the population of the GTA is made up of about 50% visible minorities. I guess we don't read or care about entertainment. I guess we do not make enough money for them to care.
I have a co-worker whom while I believe she doesn't think she has a problem with race, has relayed some pretty disturbing stories to me about friends of hers who obviously do. When I remark on the ignorance of her friends, she quickly defends them, saying that "they didn't really mean it" or "they just don't know better."
My response is, "and what year is this? And we live in one of the most diverse cities in North America? And they are thirty-somethings? No excuse."
So when Newsweek's Ellis Cose wrote about the changing face of America ( he says that by 2050 whites will be a minority) but that people, such as the Italian and Jewish-American populations have assimilated into the white population. So even though there will be more brown and beige faces, predominant "Caucasian" culture might still dominate:
By the same token, there is not enough information to say how quickly other groups will go the route of the Italians and Jews and become more white than not. What is certain is that young people—whether choosing mates, categorizing people, or simply hanging out—are less likely than their elders to erect rigid racial walls. We also know that it's only a matter of time before DNA testing persuades many "whites" that they are much more mixed than they ever imagined.
I somewhat disagree with Cose's assertion that young people are interacting with people of color more than they did a couple of generations ago. Because of immigration and more opportunities to jobs and education, yes more young white people are interacting with people of color. But what are the basis of those relationships? I actually think, as I posted in a comment on Racialicious this afternoon, we are seeing a separation. I was just in Chicago over New Years and was surprised at how segregated it seemed, but on the other hand, so is Toronto.
As I mentioned above, what really galls me is not only my weekly newspaper, but other arts & culture publications that conveniently forget about the population in which they sell their publications. Don't get me wrong, niche publications geared towards specific communites are needed as they transmit important information that larger-scale publications will never publish, but what happens to those who don't fit into either? How does this help-or hinder an understanding of people, not strictly based on their color, but on their experiences of just living in modern-day society and enjoying modern-day social activities?
Also, Cose's article - which granted, was pretty short and succinct, didn't delve into the platonic relationship area. Yes, interracial relationships are up, but that does not mean that a harmonious union actually exists. People can love a person from another cultural background and still be prejudice or even racist. Trust me. I headed over to Femisting to see what they had to say, and in an earlier post, Ms. Cris says this:
There is a choice to take a risk and let someone in that we all make, regardless of race, with our best and closest friends. We make this choice once then we make it over and over after the initial moment, reviewing the wisdom of letting this person pass our door into our inner circle as the friendship develops and s/he either proves or doesn't prove worth the work of a lasting friendship. Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum speaks, in Can We Talk About Race?, about the choice she made, which she is almost certain saved the premature derailment of her decades long friendship with a white woman, to trust her friend to "get it" or at least desire to "get it" after she made a comment that offended Dr. Tatum. I personally am reminded of a moment early in our relationship--after we had built some intimacy and trust, but before these feelings had been truly tested between us--when I made the choice not to trust my BF to "get it."
I'll leave it here. What do you think? Do you think that because of the population change that people will truly be able to have platonic relationships with people outside of their cultural background, or will the cultural divides become wider?
Contributing Editor - Race, Ethnicity & Culture
Blog: Writing is Fighting: www.lainad.typepad.com