Every single time race is injected into a conversation, some moron…usually a middle-aged white man…shouts out “why does everything have to be about race?”
For example, last week the reggae band Soja won the Grammy for best reggae album and social media exploded because everyone in the band is white! a Jamaican woman on Twitter said “spice losing the Grammy to soja has proven that we Jamaicans & our entertainment sector has work to do…the Grammy’s, along with these cultural vultures, are way too presumptuous, our culture is being disrespected & blatantly robbed.”
A Jamaican man wrote: “A white American group #soja won a Grammy for best reggae album wtf Talk about culture appropriation”
We tried to talk about it on the show and discuss whether or not there was a legitimate point of view for people from a specific part of the world feeling as though their cultural contribution was being hijacked and it wasn’t long before the emails came rolling in with the same tired, lazy, ignorant trope: Why does everything have to be about race?
Our newest Supreme Court Justice is Ketanji Brown Jackson, a black woman, who was chosen after President Biden had already announced that he would appoint a black woman to the court, garnering cries near and far of “Why does everything have to be about race?”
The problem with questions, no matter how rhetorical they’re meant to be, is that there’s always an answer…and usually one that most people don’t want to hear, entertain, or understand.
To be candid, I hate that President Biden announced over a year ago that he would choose a black woman to be the next Supreme Court Justice because I, personally, find it demeaning to all people of color…not to mention all women. My experience is that truly great people want to earn their keep; they want to be chosen because they are the best at what they do, not because they do or don’t have a penis or a certain skin pigmentation.
That opinion, however, is different than demanding that things can’t or shouldn’t be about race. Do you know why everything has to be about race? Because everything is about race.
Let’s start with universal truth #1: If you walk around saying asinine things like “I don’t see race,” you are almost certainly a racist. The sentiment is supposed to be that you see everyone the same, but the problem is that everyone isn’t the same, and not acknowledging that marginalizes those you’re alleging to align yourself with. When you say that you don’t see color, you are saying that you don’t see my wife. She’s black…she knows it, I know it, and you know it…and with that comes a culture, an experience, and a perspective that adds so much to who we all are, if we allow it in.
You notice a woman who is blond versus a redhead versus a brunette; stop saying you don’t see color. You do, you should, and you should acknowledge and honor it.
As for the embarrassing question “why does everything have to be about race,” I appreciate all of you throwing me such a lazy softball to knock out of the park, knowing that too many of you are simply incapable of taking in the factual answer. There is a sociological theory that demands that the reason people in the majority and of privilege recoil when others ask questions, make demands, or simply make their voice be heard, is that they can’t stand the thought of losing their power. I don’t know if that’s true, but it sure seems to be, based on my observation.
Oh, and quick off-ramp; privilege; boy does that word send people over the edge. I’m not sure why it’s so hard to acknowledge and accept, but yes, there are those of us that have an advantage or the privilege of, having an easier time than others based solely on our appearance. That doesn’t mean we have an easy time, it means we don’t have it as hard as others, period. I worked my ass off for everything I have and I earned it. I grew up paycheck to paycheck with no college fund or inheritance waiting for me…and now I’m a one-percenter and I earned every bit of it…but my ability to acknowledge that I didn’t have to leap as many hurdles as a woman, or a black man, or a woman of color would have had to leap to accomplish what I have in no way demeans my accomplishments. It simply recognizes reality. The sky is blue, the Earth is round, and I have it easier every single day I am alive than my wife does. Do I have it easy? No…does or should she use that as some sort of crutch or excuse? Hell no…but it’s still reality. Own it. And maybe spend some time with people that look different than you and find out that most of them don’t want anything special other than not being stereotyped and treated differently. That’s it…maybe just treat them like, I don’t know, equals…because they are.
As to the answer to your question about why everything has to be about race…bear in mind that the same question is and has been asked endlessly for decades with the word “race,” replaced by “gender,” and/or “sexuality,” and you’ll right away get closer to the answer.
I love this country and I am proud of it from its’ inception; I am also a student of history who knows that many of our founders knew that they were creating a country that made no sense; this is why the phrase made its way into the Constitution: “in order to form a more perfect Union.” Many of the founders were already against slavery and still more didn’t understand or agree with women having no standing…yet in order to form a union of any kind, compromises and capitulations were made. So…why does everything have to be about race? Because we made it that way from the jump; we created the most amazing country on earth while also marginalizing women and people of color. And we didn’t even entertain the idea that gay people had standing, let alone anyone else in the LGBT community.
In 1787, we created a nation in which white men ruled the world. Women couldn’t vote, black people were still slaves, and somehow we signed a document that said “all men are created equal.”
133 years later, women were allowed to vote, although it was almost 200 years after our founding that they could truly function independently and not need “a man,” to get a credit card, have a bank account, or own a home. It was 180 years after the United States became a country that black people could vote…only four years before I was born a marriage that looks like mine; a white man and a black woman, or any combination thereof, was illegal. Gay people only began to grasp the legal right to be married less than 20 years ago!
So when you utter idiotic things like “why does everything have to be about…” take a beat to realize that the answer is simple. We made it about that. Whether it be color, gender, or sexuality, we, as a nation, as a majority desperately uncomfortable with losing our grip on power, made it about that. Imagine growing up and hearing the stories, not of your great great grandparents, but of your parents, not being allowed, not being welcomed…imagine living it for half of your life…and then you dare to tell them all to just “get over it,” that it’s in the past? How dare you?
Everything has to be about race, gender, sexuality, and god knows what else, because we have tried as hard as we could to marginalize everyone who has the audacity to be born looking and/or feeling a different way than the mainstream majority in this country from its inception. There is no shame in acknowledging that, in fact, there’s strength and honor. I never owned slaves and I don’t care if my ancestors did or didn’t but I am the first to recognize that the playing field remains uneven and I have the advantage when I walk into almost every room because of implicit biases that need to be unwound. Saying that in no way makes me or my accomplishments less than all that they are…it simply acknowledges that the sky is still blue, my wife is still black, and the world is still a very ugly shade of gray that needs a lot more color to make us all better.