What Do I Know?

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Is it possible for America to be post racial?

I don’t know – who am I to make that judgment? It would be disrespectful of me to even try. Technically, I have every right to express my opinion on the subject. However, I come from a place of such inexperience and naivety that any such expression would be uninformed, not to mention really hard to read without cringing. The internet doesn’t need another uninformed opinion. If you want someone to tell you about animation, or story structure, or if you want a scientific fun-fact, I’m your guy.

Some background information: I grew up in a liberal suburb where, if you picked three random people, they would probably all have different ethnic backgrounds. Not to mention, they would probably all have close friends who were of different backgrounds than their own. We were taught, in school and from our parents, that judging someone based on race, culture, or orientation is wrong. By fifth grade, most students knew about the holocaust, and about the civil rights movement. Did my town’s diversity and education system make me a more tolerant person? Probably. Did it give me enough life experience to give me a truly informed view on race? Almost definitely not. I object to the idea that wisdom can be developed through required reading. As a result of my community’s tolerant views, and perhaps my tendency to stay at home, alone all day, I have never really experienced racism, at least as other people describe it. On top of that, I’m incredibly young and sheltered, as are most of my friends. I am also wildly afraid of being perceived as stupid or ignorant. Still, I couldn’t just ignore the question. I did what any other kid with no life experience would do and asked my parents.

My parents told me that they had experienced anti-Semitism in their youth. I ham-handedly defined “post-racial” for a few family members. I asked whether or not they thought a post-racial future could be possible. Of the two answers I received, one was, “it would be nice, but I don’t think it could happen.” The other was “yeah, if everyone screws everyone.” I don’t really know what to do with that one.

Social media allows us to learn about our friends and relatives, much in the way that reading psychological journals lets us learn how people’s minds work. To specify: it allows for a stunted learning experience. I can read Touré and learn about his point of view, and even agree with him. However, my experience will be lacking, as I’ve never had a conversation with him. To take it further, I’ve never lived his life or experienced what he’s experienced, so there will always be an extent to which I won’t “get” what he has to say, even if I understand him logically. Through a twitter feed, I can read a person’s entire life story, 140 characters at a time. Does that mean I know them? I might know every fact about them, but I’m not sure that’s the same.  If I don’t interact with them, which is the case for almost 100 percent of those I see on social networks, then how can I even get close? If I’ve never shared an experience, and if I can’t empathize, then what right do I have to make comments on that person’s values and beliefs? And let me make it clear that I am not saying that online relationships are worth less than “IRL” ones. I’m just saying that viewing someone’s life from a distance yields less knowledge than interacting with them, be it online or in person. I liken this concept to a point raised by Nicholas Carr in Is Google Making Us Stupid. Carr states that, as opposed to browsing online, reading from printed pages is valuable, “not just for the knowledge we acquire from the author’s words but for the intellectual vibrations those words set off within our own minds.” However, I would say that sufficient “intellectual vibration” only comes with experience and interaction. Without these “vibrations,” I feel one can only give misinformation. Overall, misinformation can be dangerous, and I’d rather not add to the gigantic heap of it that’s already out there.

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4 comments

  1. Try and go to a restaurant West from here with an ethnic friend; I went to a dinner in PA where I watched a group of black kids not get served for more than 20 minutes. The three gentlemen eventually left and I felt sick eating there; I wasn’t sure if I wanted to tip, but I felt bad for the waitress because it most likely wasn’t her fault. For one thing though, I’m never eating there again.

  2. I agree with you about experience IRL vs. experience through networking, but at the same time I feel that an opinion can be constructive no matter how skewed it may be. The fact of the matter is that I’m also one of those people that was sheltered growing up but at the same time there were others in my town who made assumptions and criticisms. Stereotyping is something that happens everywhere, no matter how diverse or likeminded everyone seems to be. Even if someday we are beyond race there will be something else that people criticize and hold elitist values against. Enjoyed your post as always! Keep up the good work!

  3. I’m fascinated with your family members’ response about the possibility of a post-racial society if “everyone screwed everyone.” That can be taken so many ways. I suppose the most positive reading of that statement would be “the color of your skin doesn’t matter to me, I just want to make love to you.” But then again, there are people who base their sexual desires solely on the color of someone’s skin, such as “Yellow Fever,” or the sexual desire for women of Asian descent. In a way, this too is racist, because this type of desire is based solely on a person’s assumptions and perceptions of another race. For example, Asian women are stereotypically considered to be docile, obedient, exotic, and kinky in bed. Just look at these comments from online dating sites: http://creepywhiteguys.tumblr.com/ Of course, there are other examples of racism in sexual preferences also. This chart is extremely interesting in illustrating racial preferences of certain races on online dating site: http://qz.com/149342/the-uncomfortable-racial-preferences-revealed-by-online-dating/#/h/29911,2/

  4. Great post. I think your view on the positives of social media is great. I agree with your parents that it would be nice to move in to a post racial world but it is not likely to happen. Race is to big of a factor in everyones lives to just look pasted it.I also think it’s hard to form an opinion on a people social networks because a lot of people are not the same online and offline.

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