THE UNUSUAL HAPPENED a few days back. I decided to attend a seminar and actually listen to someone else talk without interrupting.
The lecture was on the book â€œFreakonomics,” and if you did not attend, you missed out.
But the real reason I decided to write this piece is not because of the speaker, but because of an audience member.
While taking questions from the audience, a woman stood up and shocked the hell out of me.
She said she did not have a traditional sounding â€˜African-Americanâ€™ name, and asked if that might be the reason that she has not experienced much racism.
At first I just tossed the question aside in my mind, but as the days passed it became harder and harder to ignore.
Now if you have not read the book, it is basically about nothing; but it does have a section about the most white names and the most black names and such.
Interestingly enough, Scott was not the whitest name as many people have told me.
But that is not the issue â€” the issue here with all respect to the individual who asked the question that has plagued my mind for days now is this: are people dumb enough to think that racism truly still exists in the modern world?
With my initial in-head response of, â€œthe reason why is because you are probably a well-educated person and people like you regardless of your skin color,” I dive head first into this touchy top-secret topic.
Bear with me here, and let me explain my position.
If you look at the world around you and the nation that you live in, there are so many different types of people that inhabit our lands that a true form of racism is hard to come by.
As a general rule of thumb, because of the convergence of our cultures and our individual ways of life, we are all starting to shape into the same society and the walls that used to divide us are tumbling down.
I think it long overdue that all races stop looking at the past as a serious source of reference and start looking at the individual in front of you to make your decisions.
All of my friends think I am white, but what is white really?
My relatives were not even here for the start of this country â€” they were still in Italy â€” but I have been accused of being a racist because of my skin color.
After all, if you are white, chances are that you hate everyone else, right?
Wrong! And let me tell you why. I donâ€™t judge people by their skin color or what they have done in the past; I judge them by their social merit, education, and their ability to contribute to society in a rational way. And that is the key word here: rational.
Is it rational to hold on to things that happened long before you were born?
I donâ€™t think German people still talk about what a â€˜â€˜greatâ€™â€™ leader Hitler was, and you donâ€™t hear me talking about Mussolini either.
Really, itâ€™s just the past. Bad things have happened to every race at one point in time, but it is up to us as a nation and as a society to stop the cycle that still seems to exist in peopleâ€™s minds.
Simply put, unless someone says that they are racist, donâ€™t put that label on people.
While the people reading this have all had their own personal life experiences that have shaped them into the people that they are, is it still possible that the racist remarks and actions toward you are just in your head?
Could it be that because an individual is so hypersensitive that they just think everyone is against them?
Is it possible that a community of 20,000 people plus here on campus can actually be divided?
I donâ€™t think so.
I understand the reasoning behind this womanâ€™s thoughts, but if we are ever to come together as a society and prevail â€” giving all that apply an equal chance for success â€” we are going to have to let these notions go.
So instead of hating your neighbor because he is African-American, hate the individual who sells the drugs down the street, and come together with your neighbor to stop it.
Instead of complaining about the opportunities that no one will give you, educate yourself and make it happen.
Trust me, no one is going to give you a job because of your skin color in corporate America.
They will however, if you are qualified and have the ability to contribute to their success.
I know that events have happened even in this century that perhaps should change my mind, but I choose not to acknowledge them.
No one should.
I will not stop talking with my Muslim friends because there are people out there stupid enough to think that every Muslim is a terrorist, but I will knock out the individual that subscribes to that notion.
Just do me a favor: go out today, and meet someone new.
Talk with someone of a different race.
Have a cup of coffee with them.
Embrace people for who they are, not what they have been labeled in the past. In the words of someone we all know well, â€œCanâ€™t we all just get along?”