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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Shared Sorrow, Shared Joy QUESTION

A very good (white male) person I know wrote me this:
The civil rights struggle in United States. Equality of all race, gender, creed, and sexual orientation is a very good thing, and something we as Americans can have pride in as "we" march towards progress. However, personally, I feel like I'm not allowed to take ownership (perhaps a poor choice of words, I'm looking for something closing to 'being a party to') in the achievements of accomplishments of black leaders because of my own skin color. I want to celebrate and claim this men and women as a part of me, because while we may not share the same shade or skin, we share a common humanity. However I feel uncomfortable that it may not be welcomed by some, or I don't want to offend folks that feel that is an experience or achievements that are special to a certain segment of humanity.

And I wrote back quickly, somewhat in a hurry, before heading off to ANOTHER conference:

It immediately occurred to me that your question re: race could be an interesting conversation on the blog [isn't that typical of me?], not mentioning you by name. But, my short answer is, Life's unfair. You don't get to celebrate as much with the victories because you didn't get to share in the pain and the humiliation. That's not meant mean-spiritedly, I hope you recognize.

That may have been a bit glib. But I was recently reminded of this quote:
"Oh, it is sad, very sad, that once more, for the umpteenth time, the old truth is confirmed: 'What one Christian does is his own responsibility, what one Jew does is thrown back at all Jews.'" That was from Anne Frank's diary in the spring of 1944. I was reminded of that again when I read about the specific grief by many people in South Korea over the killings at Virginia Tech. Why was that? Certainly, if the killer had been white, would all white people cringe with embarrassment? I suspect not. So if this is true, the specific joys can be shared only so much.

And I'm not even going to get into the ongoing stuff that still go on, such as allegations about higher auto loan rates for blacks and Hispanics, even accounting for differences in income.

Incidentally, someone sent me this link explaining a "psychological disorder". Anyway, I don't know that I have a question per se, or even a coherent thought, but I am soliciting your comments anyway.

You might also comment on this: I've long been of two minds about hate crime legislation. On one hand, there are people who do target folks because of their race or religion, and sexual orientation. As Rep. John Conyers put it, "These crimes constitute an assault not only on the victim but against our communities."

On the other hand, I'm not insensitive to the notion that the law should be "blind to the personal traits of the victims", even if it hasn't always been so in the past, to the detriment of minorities.

Still, I'm leaning towards the former position because of a story I saw on ABC News regarding the growth of one particular hate group: the Ku Klux Klan. The Klan, which by most accounts, was fading in the 1990s, has had a resurgence by targeting Hispanics, seemingly assuming that their victims are all here illegally, which was 1) untrue and 2) irrelevant when it comes to assault. There was a story of an American teenager of Mexican descent beaten. So I'm hoping that hate crime legislation can be used especially against groups that practice such vulgarities.


1 comment:

sohini said...

Thank you for this thoughtful post. I don't have an answer because I've only been in this country for 17 years. You'd think that was long enough, but it isn't. The longer you stay here, the more complex and unresolvable the differences seem. Add to this the other wrinkle, that am neither black nor white.

Again, thank you.