fabu linked to an entry by hth_the_first about the idea of racial colo(u)rblindness. She speaks specifically about portrayals in film/TV, but it has wider implications.
I have to say that race relations, ethnicity and nationality are topics that I think of on a weekly, if not daily (or hourly!), basis.
As someone living as an ex-pat, I'm very aware at times of my nationality. Anyone seeing me on the street in Aberdeen would not pick me out as an American.
I simply don't do the things that are seen as stereotypically part and parcel of the 'American abroad'.
This illusion lasts until I open my mouth. I might be red headed, freckled, and paler than whipping cream, but I'll never master a Scottish, much less a Doric accent.*
But, the reason I fit in while silent? It's because of those physical characteristics that were passed down through my family.
While I was back in the US last time, I was struck by the sudden return of diversity of ethnicity. Living in Aberdeen is pretty mono-chromatic.
I performed a very unscientific, random survey of people walking along Union Street** while I waited for the bus
one morning. Because it was a long wait, I saw about 400 people go by. I noted the number that appeared to be of colour.*** That came to about 35. That's less than 10%.
So, as far as colour goes, I should feel like part of the majority. I really don't. I feel like an impostor.
The UK doesn't seem to have as much of a colour racism problem as a nationality racist problem. Whether it's the semi-good natured 'hatred' of the French or the critical problem with racism towards members of Islamic countries, it's more about where you're from
than what you look like
But, even though a good majority of the people in Aberdeen are white Scottish, we're all part of some minority or other.
For example, I'm part of a minority...Seventh-day Adventists. Yes, I'm a Protestant, but most Protestants look a bit askance at us. At best we're 'odd' at worst a 'cult'.****
There are ~300 Adventists in Scotland. We comprise 0.00006% of the population. (In the US, 0.003%.)
Does it hurt when someone asks if I'm a member of a cult? Yes. But, I can choose to just not mention it. To have no control over disclosure of the thing that makes you a minority and causes people treat you badly must be heavy to bear at times.
That's all fine and good to say, but what should we do about it? hth_the_first
mentions the idea of forgoing this blindness. Because it's so easy in today's world to say 'I won't see the differences, and I'll treat everyone the same'.
That's sheer laziness.
Think of the stereotypes that come to mind when you think of someone who is Christian or pagan or black or white or old or young.
For all of those, there will be many people who are 180o
opposite from them. Treating everyone exactly the same will offend more people than it will help. Courtesy should be universal, but its application will, and by nature, must variety in form from one individual to the next.
I know we don't have time to get to know the intricate workings of the minds of everyone we come into contact with*****, but it sure would be nice if we gave it a try.
I'm part of the colour majority, but that doesn't mean that I don't know how racism feels. That doesn't mean that I don't have physical scars from encounters that went badly when I was told that I needed act 'more white'.
I can't know what it's like to be something other than myself. But, I can try to understand. Intentions may boil down to nothing, but I would hope that my actions far out pace any intentions.
I don't know where I want to go with this yet, but I'm trying to learn to stop hitting the 'delete' button and actually post the things I think of.
And believe me, I wish I could. I have a few phrases down, but anyone concentrating closely on what I'm saying would burst that façade.
** Aberdeen's main street.
*** Remember how I said this was an unscientific, random survey?
**** I invite you to take a look at the definition of cult before lumping me into that label.
***** I'm not telling you that I'm some sort of on-pedestal example.