When filling out applications that query race I often gaze at the box marked “other” and daydream.
Its ambiguous nature and the freedom it represents are downright seductive.
Then I snap back to reality and remember this is America, a country so advanced it shipped someone to the moon, but so painfully primitive its obsession with racial labels forces us to brand ourselves like cattle for the most basic endeavors.
Why can’t we evolve to accepting each other’s racial and ethnic differences – treating them like a dessert that happens to sweeten an already scrumptious meal?
Like different shades to a beautiful sunset I envision race, never losing focus that what matters is actually the setting sun, whatever hue of orange and violet closes out the day.
Ironically, the Creator used variance to define a collective cosmos working in unison, while we in a Christian society have used our differences as a means to destroy our abode.
The greatest fall-out to all this has been on people of the African Diaspora, who face one common struggle against inequality, but divided along ethnic lines, unable to build a unified economic base under one collective.
I’ve seen surveys with boxes marked “African American,” “Afro-Cuban,” “Afro-Caribbean,” “Caribbean-American” and the list goes on.
I’m from the U.S. Virgin Islands, but my father is Trinidadian and mom is from Anguilla. I’ve yet to see a box marked St. Thomian-Trini-Anguillian. Too much space, I guess.
Here in South Florida, where a majority of people are of foreign descent, the process of labeling non-white groups is virtually impossible.
Several years ago I had the pleasure of interviewing Massachusetts College of Art and Design professor Noel Ignatiev about his controversial “Whiteness Studies” curriculum for a Newsweek feature I penned on white privilege.
The professor’s findings showed that since white basically meant right in America, newly arrived ethnic groups tried hard to disassociate themselves from blackness.
For these groups, many of whom can fall under the category of functionally white due to skin color, privilege can be granted, argues Ignatiev.
Ignatiev’s remedy to this problem is for the white race to be eliminated – well not in the literal sense – but the psychology of it.
In a perfect world like the one Ignatiev, I and other idealists dream of, social standing won’t be judged by skin color.
However, try preaching that to the cop who just killed Mike Brown. Until that colorless society is realized it only makes sense to eliminate the sub-categories dividing us and fall under a black collective – at least economically.
We can always debate about whose food – Jamaican, Trini or African-American is better – at the neighborhood cook-out.