Society take heed: Racism not a race issue, it’s a people issue

First, I was disheartened after reading a recentExpress-News story about a New Braunfels subdivision where a flier was posted at the neighborhood pool in what was purportedly an attempt to keep two young visitors out. The posting was deemed as racism aimed at the youngsters, who were visiting their grandmother for the summer, because of their mixed heritage (their father is African American).

According to the story by Roger Croteau, the flier contained an image of an afro-wearing black man and the words “Pool’s Closed”, when the pool was, in fact, still open. Others, according to a follow-up story by Croteau, insisted that the posting is based on a harmless Internet joke.

Hmmmm. I don’t get it, but I’m probably not supposed to. If it was meant as a racist gesture, I’m glad the grandmother and the children didn’t let that dissuade them. But I’m also saddened that, in 2008, I still too often read and hear about such incidents – some much more blatant and tragic.

I can’t help wondering; what if those had been my kids? How would I explain to them that some people will dislike them simply because of their skin tone?

I’d probably start with slavery and the history of racism in America, then explain that we, as a society, have been trying to persuade people who dislike others because of their race to reconsider their thinking for more than a century.

But, I suppose one needs permission to speak for society. So, I’m asking you, Society; aren’t we fed up with racism? Do we really want to cultivate another generation of citizens who are preoccupied with race?

Don’t we have enough reasons to hate each other: left vs. right; rich vs. poor; dog lovers vs. cat lovers? Can’t we scratch at least one thing off our list?

It’s high time we move beyond merely tolerating each other and get to know other people as, well, people. It may sound cliché, but we’d be much better off, Society, if we accept one another’s differences and embrace them.

I am the product of a desegregated school system but an environment of separation in my small Louisiana hometown. I don’t want my children and future grandchildren to be confronted with such issues when they grow up.

When we moved to San Antonio, my husband and I made a conscious choice to live in a diverse area, in part to show our children that the color of our skin doesn’t dictate that we live on a certain side of the tracks.

But we mostly want them to understand that people are people and that they can befriend anyone who shows himself to be friendly. And that we all deserve to be judged, as Martin Luther King Jr., said, based on the content of our character, not our complexion.

Which brings me to politics, sort of. The same day I read about that pool sign, I took particular interest in an editorial column that featured a photo of Barack Obama with his family.

Here’s Obama, the first person of African heritage with a strong shot at becoming president of the United States, but, unlike others in his position, he must deflect judgments – whether overt or clandestine – based on his ethnicity.

And what of his daughters? How does his candidacy affect them?

As a mom, my primary concern is my children. I imagine the same goes for Michelle Obama. I’m sure she’s put a lot of thought into protecting her girls from hateful words, images and threats targeting their father because of his race.

Wouldn’t it be great if that weren’t even a factor? That’s where you come in, Society. Racism is not just a Black issue; it’s a people issue. It will take all people working together to shut it down.

It may not happen in my lifetime, but for my children, I hope the future finds them in a diverse culture where people say, “Not only are you welcome to be my neighbor and swim in my pool, but come on in and be my friend.