More thoughts on race

Earlier today I shared a pre-written post touching on issues of race. At about the same time as you were reading it, I was at a happy hour with a bunch of strangers, at which I found myself thinking about race in a more immediate setting.

I have much to elaborate on, though more in disjointed thoughts than anything cohesive. Bear with me, please.

1. In my mini book review, I neglected to mention in my complaint regarding a lack of response to the problems of each distinct approach to planning that of course the post-Southwest-rebuilding-disaster (there’s probably a better way to describe that, sorry) approach to planning specifically DID include a direct response to the lack of community input involved in SW. An important thing to mention, and I apologize for having left that out.

2. I’ve generally been hesitant to talk about race, especially in a public forum such as a blog. While I can only speak for myself, I think that it might be a fair generalization to say that many young, open-minded white people like myself worry that we’ll say “the wrong thing,” maybe then look racist, so we don’t say anything and by not talking, we don’t learn, and attitudes that we don’t mean to have get perpetuated.

That said, I would not BE racist than not LOOK racist. I’m trying to get more comfortable talking about issues of race, because let’s face it, sometimes it’s relevant. Other times, not so relevant. But if you NEVER talk about, maybe you subconsciously think it’s relevant where it isn’t, and not relevant where it is? So let me tell you about this happy hour I went to and my thoughts while I was there. (Not ALL my thoughts. Just the ones that relate to race.)

The happy hour was for mentors in the program through which I have the intern that I occasionally mention on twitter. So there were a bunch of people who work for the organization that runs the program, and then there were a bunch of mentors, some of whom might have come together from their offices and therefore known each other in advance, others who were on their own. I am terrible in that type of environment and early on fell into talking with two other women, both of whom work for the internship program.

At some point I looked around the room and noticed:

* I was talking to one white woman and one Asian woman (and I am white).

* There were no other people in the room who weren’t black.


1. Is it problematic* that I noticed the race of everyone in the room?

2. Is it problematic that the three non-black women ended up talking to each other?

3. Is it problematic that I thought it was problematic and therefore specifically made an effort to talk to other people?

What do you think?


*By “problematic” I think I might mean “racist.” Or at least something less insidious than racist but still representing a character flaw.


4 Comments on “More thoughts on race”

  1. Sunkist Miss says:

    My thoughts:
    1. No. Sure, in an ideal world no one would notice race. But in the real world people do. And not just white people. The question is what you do with that. Color-blind is not always beneficial. See, for example, the recent study that showed how teaching kids to be color-blind versus diversity education, didn’t mean racism didn’t exist, it meant the color-blind educated didn’t recognize it when they encountered it.
    2. Yes.
    3. No. Sure it might be nicer to look back and realize, hey I unconsciously talked to a diverse subset of the room. But that wasn’t the situation. Better to recognize and correct yourself. You might even end up re-educating yourself in the process, so that someday it comes more naturally.

    • rebkatz says:

      Re: 2, even though none of the three of us sought out the situation? (Obviously I’m not disagreeing with you, if I disagreed I wouldn’t have raised the question in the first place, but just trying to push further on the issue.)

      • Sunkist Miss says:

        Yes, even though none of you sought out the situation. I have no doubt that you all were well intentioned. Of course it would be more problematic if you had sought it out. That would be blatant. It would also be surprising.

        I think the actual situation is differently problematic. When you say you don’t want to be racist, that means that latent below-the surface subconscious racism is something you want to prevent as well. And that’s hard work and requires introspection. Society has taught us that people who look like us are “safer” and more comfortable, than “others”, particularly black others. And even if your social group hasn’t said that explicitly, and even if your conscious mind doesn’t buy into it, it’s out there. And it may play a role in how you three ended up seeking each other out. As you pointed out in your question, it wasn’t just you, but rather “the three non-black women ended up talking to each other” — the chances of that being just coincidence are very low.

  2. Ian Rothman says:

    Recommended reading: “Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity” by Beverly Daniel Tatum. A very good read.

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