I got my roll book ready, with the second class of the day marked by an elephant paper clip so I can readily find it. You can see this clip of which I speak in the picture below.
I have hedgehog magnets marking the most essential @computer tasks of the day.
I have my bento box lunch packed, and my gym bag as well.
My online class is ready (I hope and believe), I have a cool first-day writing activity for my face-to-face classes, and I finished all last week’s assignments over the weekend.
I am ready.
So, while I drink my tea, I’m going to write about race.
Now, the first thing we should remember about race is that it’s a myth. There is no biological basis for any system of dividing human beings up into races, whether you go with the “red and yellow, black and white” system or the geolinguistic divisions system, and all are fairly arbitrary.
We should also acknowledge that a lot of people are just tired of the whole subject and feel that we should have gotten over this by now. I think I’m one of those, actually. When #2 son was interviewed about his experiences as a schoolboy of mixed-race heritage, he rolled his eyes and said, “This is [name of our town].We’re not hicks!”
I’d really like to be able to say that the subject is obsolete.
But it came up a bit this week. First, I was writing an article about a very impressive organization in our state.I hadn’t heard of it before, even though it’s 116 years old. It was formed to support African-American medical professionals at a time when African-Americans were hard pressed to get medical care in our state. When segregation came in during the 20th century, African-Americans couldn’t get service in most hospitals here, and could only get treatment from African-American doctors and dentists. This group organized conferences for ongoing professional development and helped African-Americans financially so they could get through medical school.
This was kind of a big deal. It still is, actually. As the president of the organization said to me, “We’re trying to make inroads into equitable treatment.” African-Americans continue to have much worse health stats here than whites do.
The interesting thing is that none of the background information, nothing on the website, and none of the interviews mentioned this.
There was a lot of talk about financial need among medical students, and the word “minority” came up once. Apart from that, no one ever mentioned that the organization was for African American medical professionals.
Normally, the race of the people I’m writing about is irrelevant. It doesn’t even come up. In this particular case, it was important. And yet no one was prepared to tell me about it. This is because it is considered impolite to mention race.
In general, I agree. not only do I not care about people’s ethnicity, but it usually doesn’t matter at all. In this case, it mattered a lot. This organization, both historically and currently, is an organization dedicated to the civil rights of an oppressed group. Not mentioning that leaves out an important part of the story.
Then I visited the ladies’ Sunday School class. There was a question in the lesson asking, “Have you ever had a prejudice about a group of people and later changed your mind?” One of the group said, “Well, I grew up in [name of town]. I don’t need to say any more.” This town is famous for being almost entirely African-American, though the Sunday School lady herself is not, as far as I can tell.
I didn’t know exactly what she was talking about, but the others in the group did. “I’ve never been there,” I said, giving them the chance to explain. “Don’t go,” they said firmly.
And then I was doing my roll book last night and trying to guess the ethnic makeup of my classes.
I had what seemed to me to be a good reason for this. It is very hard for me to learn names and distinguish one student from another. If there is some ethnic diversity, I have a better chance. Age differences would also work, but I don’t usually get much of that in Freshman comp. My first semester I had a guy with a beard, and that helped. Strikingly different self-presentation is a plus, too. But those things can’t be determined from the grade book. So I was trying to get a sense of how much diversity I might have this term, based on names.
We used to do this in the hiring committees at the university — deciding to interview D’nisha Jackson rather than Emily Lockhart in hopes of turning in a good affirmative action report.
It’s time I gave that up. What’s the point? I’m better off hoping for beards and only one Goth girl.