Sunday, January 18, 2015

Round Robin: Are we getting closer to racial equality?

If there was ever a topic I felt totally unqualified to answer, this would be it. But I agreed to write about whatever the group said. So here we go.

When I was a child, people of color (by which I mean Hispanic, African-American, Native American, Asian, basically anyone not Caucasian.) were only on television in bit parts, (think Al on “Happy Days”), or they were in a show about non-white people (“Sanford and Son”). If you saw an African-American in a commercial, that product was for African-Americans. If the advertisement was aimed at the American public at large, like Cheerios, the actors would be white.

Watching television this past month, I see a much more varied slice of humanity. The president of the US is African-American (and female!) on ”State of Affairs”; two popular shows on broadcast television (“Scandal” and “How to Get Away With Murder”) have African-American leads, and white significant others. My favorite canceled show of last season, "Selfie", was a retelling of Pygmalion - with a Korean-American as Higgins. And as far as the commercials go, the color barrier is long gone. I see African-Americans pitching everything from cholesterol-lowering drugs to banking services to milk. 

It may not seem like much, but the shift in casting shows that:
  • Hollywood doesn’t think it’s ridiculous to cast people of color in positions of authority. 
  • American business has realized that having non-white actors in their ads won’t alienate their audiences. 
That’s huge! It’s not peace, love and kumbayah, but it is money and power. And money and power are more effective.

That’s Hollywood, what about in the real world?

My little subdivision (120 houses total) has people of all races in it, and if there has been any protest, I haven’t heard it. I go to my local mall, and there are people of all colors (in fact, I sometimes feel a little outnumbered). And it’s just like every other mall: same bad pizza in the food court, same teenagers mooning over each other and wearing ridiculous clothing. My doctor is Vietnamese. I work with people of Vietnamese, Hispanic, African, Chinese, Cajun, and Croatian backgrounds – and I swear one of my biggest difficulties is getting input in atrocious handwriting.

And not to belabor the obvious, but the current President of the United States is definitely not white.

I’m not Pollyanna. I know that there are people (probably people I know) that harbor resentments, racist attitudes, stupid misconceptions, and the like. We do not live in a perfect world. But at the very least, being racist is no-longer socially acceptable. You’d get more positive feedback if you said you were in favor of corporal punishment. Improvement has been made.

Addressing the recent shootings:
  • It always takes conservative institutions the longest to adapt. Law enforcement is as conservative an institution as they come. That doesn’t excuse their actions, but it may help explain some attitudes. 
  • Dead teenagers is a horrible way to bring issues up, but they are being addressed. The outrage is loud, vocal, from all parts of the country and all levels of society. These shootings aren’t being swept under the rug, or shrugged off with “that’s just the way things are.” Attention is being paid, and changes are being made to keep these scenarios from happening again. 
  • The shooters are not going to be able to go back to their lives as if nothing happened. They will be tarred for the rest of their lives for these actions. 
Change is happening, and change is good.

You can see other takes on this topic at: 
Joan Johnson: onefishtaco
William Pora:
Leslie Farnsworth: 
James McPherson:

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