Have you ever heard of the website Meetup.com? It’s basically just what the web address suggests. It’s a site where people schedule meet-ups based on common interests. There are all kinds of groups – fitness groups, book clubs, adventure clubs, young professionals, sci-fi groups. I have even seen one that was for people without kids. As you can see, a smattering of something for everyone. There’s just one thing…
A lot of the groups are defined by something more than just a common interest, but a common personal characteristic such as sexual orientation or skin color. Living in a city that is almost 50/50 black and white I see a lot of Meet-up Groups pop up that are for, well, basically black people only. Obviously they can’t specifically state that if you’re white you can’t join, but you can name your groups Ebony Ladies Reading, Mocha Sista Retreats, or Young Adults of Color. All real groups in my area.
I feel that I must now immediately make a disclaimer that states, I do not discriminate against any group of people. If I discriminate against a person, it’s based on that individual and I don’t care who they want in their bed, what color they are, what god they worship, or who they voted into presidency. Case in point, I have had gay friends since I was a babe (though admittedly not quite as aware way back when), am married to a black man, just made a friend who best describes her religious beliefs as Buddhist, and have a very good friend of nearly twenty years who could not be any further from me on the political spectrum. Now, I feel I can move on without receiving vibes of hate from anyone reading this.
There are times that this abundance of race-based groups is frustrating for me. I don’t begrudge them their right to want a common bond of race with a group of people. I just don’t get it. Do they really have that much more in common because they’re all a common race? And in those moments when I look up (and it happens fairly often) and somewhere in the back of my mind realize I’m the only person of my race in a gathering of people, should I then feel ostracized somehow? Like they all have a secret that I can’t be a part of strictly because I was born pearly white and they are other more similar, though still varying, complexions?
I had dinner with a girlfriend recently who is Ethiopian American and we discussed the issue of race. She shared with me that in Africa it’s still very common for women to use creams or chemicals to bleach or whiten their skin (a la Michael Jackson). Even in the States there is racism present within certain races – a mentality of the lighter the better. While in the white world, people are risking skin cancer daily trying to become darker.
And what I am forced to acknowledge is that most people do prefer their own race and it’s not because they’re racist or discriminatory. It’s because they’re human. Because in the United States of America we’re still living with a post-slavery mentality. Where certain races live in certain neighborhoods. A country where many churches could be defined as black or white. Where in the same breath the government is trying to tell us we’re all equal and pushing programs to try to erase the past. Make people forget. The Civil War ended almost 150 years ago. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr died almost 50 years ago. And the races and cultures in this country are not a melting pot – they’re more like a lunchable.
Some day I will probably have children. And I am praying, even before their conception, that the world they face will be in color. All colors. That they will see how beautifully the colors can be when they are blended in harmony. That they will treat every person with the respect they deserve as an individual and that the people they face will treat them with the same respect. That they will come into the world where rather than so strongly celebrating the traits that divide us, we might learn to celebrate the oneness of mankind.