Monday, January 19, 2009

Can't We All Just Not Care Anymore?

As I do on most Mondays, I drove the kids to school. It was closed for Martin Luther King Day. Yes, I should have realized this. While it's one of those marginal holidays, schools are big on celebrating this one. Even though they celebrate it for the wrong reasons.

The United States is about to inaugurate its first black president. He also happens to be half-Irish, but the black part is the big deal, simply because it's new. Record breakers are by definition newsworthy, so I get that. But I'm weary of it. I'm impatient for the next step. Which should be, as far as genetics go, a yawn.

The other day my son's classmate had to choose a teammate for a class project. He chose between two people. "I didn't pick her because she's Mexican," he said. As he grows, he will learn not to give voice to his thoughts. But unless we do something, his thoughts will still be there.

This all irks me. I'm tired of it being such a big deal. King's speech was nearly 45 years ago. When do we become colorblind?

Celebrating one group to make up for past transgressions does not necessarily lead to equality. Do it incorrectly, and it leads to jealousy, retaliation, and deluded entitlement. Schools and other entities celebrate 'Black History Month.' My son wants to know when 'White History Month' is. I want to know when we quit thinking in terms of race.

Years ago my cousin married a Puerto Rican Jew. She converted to Catholicism to be with him. At the wedding, there were a few tense moments. Being Jewish, the bride's side of the chapel was clueless on when to sit, kneel, stand, etc. My dad took full advantage of this by starting to kneel, then sitting, then standing. He had the entire left side of the church faked out, following him in a monkey-see, monkey-do sort of Catholic hyper-genuflecting. Both sides of the church were in hysterics. Except for the moms and the priest. They were required by law to show their disapproval.

Later on, during the reception, the bride's side of the family was having their picture taken. My dad started making fun of them. "Hey, look at all the Spics!" he laughed.

"Hey, look at all the Micks!" one of them called back. They laughed. We laughed. No Jets and Sharks that day. Just Micks and Spics. They started singing some songs in Spanish. My Nana burst into a heartfelt rendition of Danny Boy. We all had a drink and a very good time.

So we celebrate our differences. How we react to those differences is the key. When it comes down to it, I really don't care what color the president is. What's his economic plan? He could be purple with green stripes and curly antennae - just get me a job, please!

Let's toast the new president for what he symbolizes - a fresh start. Then let's get started. He's going to need all the help he can get, poor guy - his mother-in-law is moving in with him.

I, too, have a dream. I dream of a day when it doesn't matter what color or gender a president is, when a woman is paid the same as a man, when the word 'Muslim' does not automatically translate to 'terrorist,' when you can marry who you love and nobody fears you will infect their family with your 'differentness.' Yeah, I dream a lot.

We have a very long way to go.


insomniac said...

it's getting there, though, the governor of WV was just inaugurated for a second term. yesterday i learned (for the 1st time) he was the 1st catholic governor of the state (the catholicism thing was a big deal back in 1960, they thought it would keep JFK from winning the primary here, it didn't). so maybe in 50 years race won't be a big deal...

insomniac said...

oh, happy birthday!!!

Annie said...

Thanks, insom. I'm impatient, though. Ireland's on its second woman president already. (For the record, their economy is booming.)

Maybe we just need a big bad depression to scare the racism/sexism out of us. Not sure if it will work.

Carl said...

Hi Annie,

You are a wonderful writer. Your brother Tom is dating my sister and told me about your column so I checked out the site on Linda's new laptop. Nice to meet you. My wife's name is Annie as well. We recently moved from San Jose, CA. Miss the weather.

Regards from Wappingers Falls, NY

Annie said...

Hi, Carl. Glad you like my writing. Yeah, the weather out here is pretty terrific, especially around this time of year. Please tell Linda I said 'hi.'