Saturday, September 17, 2005

A Tale of Four Colors

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way . . ." not so advanced from Dickens' time, ours is a land of four colors - black and white, red and blue. Where you land on this twister board says a lot about how you see life in America today.

I remember the day I realized how privileged I was to be born white in America. After spending a year in Hawaii learning how little my whiteness meant, I returned to my parent's house. There was a wonderful woman who cleaned once a week, often bringing her children and then grandchildren with her. I remember always wanting to play with these other kids through the years, and how my grandmother and the cleaning woman never encouraged my ambitions. One day, after returning from college, I cried to this woman, because I could not afford mascara. She comforted me and reminded me that my daddy would give me anything I wanted. I don't know if it was at that moment, or days later it occurred to me she might not have enough money to spoil her children or pay her rent, but she had the goodness in her heart to comfort me in my hour of need.

Awhile back I posted that Bush doesn't hate black people, that he really just hates the poor. And for the most part, I still believe this to be true. But after spending a few days reading digby and Krugman, I realized I may just be suffering from the same kind of institutional racism as the majority of people my age. We know black people, we like those we know and therefore we don't think of ourselves as racist. Hurricane Katrina changed all that. We have all been confronted with the sad truth that had been in front of us for years. It is great to be white in America, but to be born black is an early death sentence and has been since day one.

In the early days of our nation, slaves were brought here to do the work no white man wanted to do in a free country. The Civil War was meant to end the suffering of black Americans, but it took another 100 years to free them from the laws that white men had enacted to keep them bound. The last forty years should have freed African-Americans to assimilate into the culture in which they were born, but what we have seen in the last two weeks should be enough to prove to anyone paying attention, there is a deep disparity between those who have and those who don't, and that difference delineates along racial lines more than anyone cares to talk about.

Before we engage in a New Deal effort to rebuild New Orleans or ask congress to investigate the travesty that was FEMAs response to the situation, we should as a nation look at how we can include a growing population of citizens in on the American Dream. It's time to add a little color to the red, white and blue.