By Troy Headrick
Race and racism are hot topics in America and likely elsewhere. Just yesterday, Derek Chauvin, the police officer who murdered George Floyd, was sentenced to a bit more than twenty-two years in prison. Not long ago, the nation memorialized the hundred-year anniversary of the Tulsa, Oklahoma, race massacre, one of the bloodiest mass killings in American history. These, along with other events, are causing lots of talk about racial matters among the citizenry of this country.
One of the most divisive current topics is something called “critical race theory.” Trumpists with offspring are in an uproar because they fear that this “theory” is being taught in their children’s schools. The way they discuss the matter demonstrates that they neither understand what CRT is, nor do they realize that it isn’t actually being taught, not as a class or subject. Critical race theory is actually nothing more than a way of thinking critically about “race” and the role it has played, in all aspects of life, throughout American history. It’s more about asking challenging questions than it is about indoctrination. If you tell me that you’re against doing critical thinking (about any subject), I’ll tell you that you’re making an argument in favor of ignorance and stupidity.
I’m married to a woman who has a much darker skin pigmentation than I have. This fact provides us with ample opportunities to have interesting and entertaining conversations about skin color. My wife, a woman who hails from northeast Africa, will often begin such conversations by pointing out that she is “black” and that I am “white.” When I hear such a claim, I remind her that, in fact, she is the color of caramel or coffee that has had milk poured into it. In describing myself, I always say that I am a little beige and that some parts are beiger than others. But I have been known to have pinkish blotches here and there, especially on my face, which makes me wonder if I’m more beige or more pink. I almost always conclude that I’m not actually a “white man”—just like my wife isn’t a “black woman.” I’m more of a pink man with lots of beige mixed in. Having said that, what am I to make of those very dark freckles I have on my arms and elsewhere?
By referring to people as black, brown, or white, we force them into categories that have no bearing on actual reality. In fact, there are almost no people in the world who are truly black, brown, or white. (Designating them as one of these three is a way of caricaturing them.) Most of us are on a continuum between extremes. And any single individual’s colorations can vary a lot depending on all sorts of things. In fact, there have been times in my life, mostly when I was younger and did manual labor jobs, when I was quite tanned, even somewhat “brownish.” Did that mean I became a different sort of person when I was in that state? Did I become a “person of color”? Should I have thought less of myself when I was darker? Should others have thought about me differently?
I hope you see how ludicrous all this is. We might as well start categorizing people by hair types. Let’s designate those with straight hair of higher rank than those with curly locks.
The fact that race plays such an important role in our lives says a lot of not-so-flattering things about too many of us (and it’s a good argument for the implementation of something akin to critical race theory but on a massive scale). Those who would argue that people with “white” skin are somehow divinely intended to be “in charge” are full of you know what. And those who think they can perpetually use skin color as a way of dividing us are going to be sorely disappointed going forward. I see a definite trend toward color blindness as we intermingle and intermarry. In the future, it’s almost certain that we’ll all be “people of color.”
Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.