Jan 282003
Authors: Sarah Laribee

It’s strange being a white girl after celebrating the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend. I am deliciously refreshed, having spent my day off preparing for a rigorous day of teaching a novel by Toni Morrison. That and watching a few minutes of the ever-engrossing Fear Factor.

Being a white girl, especially in Fort Collins, I sometimes get the feeling that I am somehow cashing in on the plight of the African American on MLK day. I mean, to be honest, I didn’t even go to the parade. And as an educator, diversification and equality are frequently foremost in my mind as I am planning lessons, days that are specifically set aside for a particular intent to think about issues of race and equality often race by, unfortunately, without the really introspective look they deserve.

Because as the day zipped by, the fact that Martin Luther King, Jr. even existed only popped into my head as I was searching Google for (ironically) Toni Morrison information. That’s because Google designed a cool little graphic of black and white paper dolls dancing in front of the rainbow logo. Very diverse.

The fact is, that being white, I am at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to understanding race relations. Because I don’t really think of myself as “white,” actually. In reality I guess I think of everyone else as being “non-white.”

This is not intentional. It’s not like I am trying to notice someone who is of a different skin color. It just happens. And while I am not aware of the way my perception of the person may change, it is possible that it does.

I don’t have any black friends. If I did, perhaps I would be more aware of the race issue. But in Fort Collins, it is easy to live one’s whole life without being close to someone of another race. This is not because I necessarily live in a prejudicial paradigm, and this is not out of avoidance of people who are different. I simply (and unfortunately) do not come into contact with enough African Americans to develop any sort of friendship.

And the suggestion to “get some black friends” seems kind of ludicrous, since I wouldn’t want to be befriended just because someone doesn’t know enough Republicans. Good friendships are not built that way.

The A.P. Comp and Lit class I taught today was reading “Beloved,” Toni Morrison’s narrative of the life of a former slave woman trying to make it in Reconstruction-era Ohio. There was not an African American in the class. In reality the class was about as shockingly vanilla as one could get. We talked a little about the plot of the book, and a little about familial relationships. But when it came down to it, the heat of the discussion came down to race. White males conflicted because they were tired of “the race issue” being shoved down their throat. White females thinking that the book inexorably ties race and femininity together.

And shockingly, when it comes down to it, even though we know really nothing about the race issue, it is still able to get everyone hugely excited. Fairly agitated, actually. As long as we can live in a town where it’s possible to not have black friends-not because we don’t want them, but because the exposure is there, “the race issue” will always be somewhat irresolvable. Because, even now, there’s a shocking sterility to it.

And as a white girl coming off of MLK day, I realize we all have a lot to overcome.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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