(…is it because we continue to insist on making it matter?)

Our perspectives on issues of “race” or “color” are probably atypical from that of most Americans. The main reason for that being that we grew up in a foreign environment which had no particular biases about that, and considered the fact that if people came in a wide assortment of “colors”…it was irrelevant.

But what was relevant in that environment was behavior and class. And we have to admit here that any personal biases we have today concerning how we interact with people who are different from us…is still guided by those biases…rather than by any related to so-called color, because, from earliest childhood we were made to understand that lack of public decorum in the way we behaved or spoke was not only akin to a cardinal sin…it was a clear affront to our having any “class” as well. The decorum part was easy enough to understand, but “class” was a more elusive matter. The way we were given to understand it was that one either had “class” or one didn’t, and, having it had nothing to do with anyone’s socio/economic circumstances involved.

Our biases about behavior and class rather than about color (or ethnic identity for that matter), thus often made it difficult for us properly adapt to the way things were here when we later returned to America from that foreign environment. So our earliest encounter with race consciousness was when the ship we travelled on back then landed in Norfolk, Virginia.

Gazing down over the railing at the dockside, we were surprised to see that all the stevedores and dockworkers working on those docks there were…Black. Confused by this, we turned to our mother to ask…is this America? Are we really Americans? Puzzled by our questions, our mother reassured us by saying…certainly…why do you ask? Still uncertain we then asked her…are all people in America Black? If so, how can we be Americans? This caused some other passengers nearby to started chuckling at our childish confusion, while our mother had great difficulty trying to explain things for us.

Such was our first encounter with race consciousness here in America. Other incidents as we grew into adulthood also made it difficult to adapt to it because, each time, we unknowingly ignored or crossed unstated taboo lines of which we were neither aware of, nor particularly conscious of. Now, even after a further half a century of so-called progress it is still difficult for us to understand why anyone’s race or color should be of any relevance. Thus Dr. King’s dream speech in which he invoked the hope that…someday…the content of someone’s character would be the only matter of relevance…may apparently need another half century before it can become a reality.

Ironically, one of the major influences which perpetuates racial consciousness here in America is government itself because, on any of its application forms of one kind or another, there is always a box in which one’s racial or ethnic identity is to be stated. Our usual way of not obliging that demand, when faced with having to fill out one of those forms, has been to choose the box labeled – Other – and then insert the tag “human” in it instead…which may explain why so few of our past applications ever resulted in anything for us. And even non-government entities such as universities and schools, not to mention various business organizations, also all have the same box on their forms, requiring everyone to answer the same question about their racial composition. So why should that be a relevant item of data? What purpose does it serve? More importantly…whose interests is it serving to perpetuate such distinctions?

In our view so long as such multitudes of petty measures continue these will be a key factor perpetuating racial consciousness in this country, and thus never allow American society to completely cross that threshold where a person’s behavior and character rather than their race…will be of any consequence or relevance.

And if we ever hope to achieve the ideal of our national motto…E Pluribus Unum…(from many, one) we also have to stop referring to ourselves as belonging to different “communities”. In our view this is simply a form of reverse racism which further perpetuates the problem. The only “community” any of us should accept or acknowledge is the one we all call…America. If we continue instead to apply hyphenated labels to categorize ourselves, then we will soon no longer be able to call ourselves…Americans.