One of my jobs, both as a teacher and a Girl Scout Leader, is to encourage and promote racial diversity. We have to try and plan our classrooms with as varied a racial mix as possible. Now, since my school is what qualifies in our smaller burg as "inner city", the main body of our school population is black. We have a fair number of Hispanics, too. Our Asian population is not as large as some of the other schools in our district, however. In the past, I've had students who were American Indians, of Arabic descent, and one year, I had both an Aleutian Islander (basically what we'd term an 'Eskimo') and a Japanese student who spoke no English at all.
It helps that we have a military installation here that brings in lots of other cultures. As far as black and white go, I don't really "get" all the hostility. I've grown up going to school in a racially mixed society, and I've had friends of all colors and creeds. I have never really felt like I lived in the stereotypical idea of what the South is to most people. I don't tend to think about a person's skin foremost when talking about them. It's never really mattered. At least, not to me.
Yes, I encounter racism, though. I do hear people saying hateful things to each other, so don't think that I'm trying to say it doesn't exsist. I know it does. I just would prefer a world where people are just plain people, and race wasn't a factor. I know it won't come about overnight. Hate is a learned behavior. If we teach love from a very early age, then that's what the kids remember.
As a white person, I am fairly sure that I will never fully understand. I'm sure that if I had lived under the specter of being a second-class citizen for so long, it would skew the way I view things. As I tried to explain to my Girl Scouts -- blacks aren't the only people who have experienced racism, they're just the ones who've managed to claw their way out from under it so well in "recent" memory. I told the girls that Jews have also been persecuted for centuries, and one girl actually told me that it wasn't the same because the Jews had never been enslaved. I asked her if she'd read the Bible lately -- that whole "let my people go"? What was that? And dying by the millions in death camps was so much better?
I've had kids tell me that black people can't be racist. I told them that anyone who takes hate to their breast and embraces it can be a racist. Anyone who would rather hate based on something so superficial as skin is a sad person indeed. If you never bother to get to know a person, who know what you could be missing out?
Looking at all the shining faces at school today made me think that I'm happy to have grown up with the opportunity to be exposed to different kinds of people. I'm sure that all-white communities in the wilds of, say -- Montana -- *think* they're progressive, but add a black family into the community and you start to hear rumblings of how the town's going to hell in a handbasket. I've known people who moved to Colorado specfically because it was a "mainly white" state. I just don't get that at all. The more you demonize something, the more power you give it over yourself! They see blacks as the enemy, and they treat them with disdain. Pretty soon, black people are on the defensive, rightly so, and suddenly it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Hate begets hate, and it only snowballs from there.
My school, being a "ghetto" school, was not expected to perform well on standardized tests. I'm proud to say that we not only did better than expected, but our "poor little inner-city kids" blew the test out of the water, making more than a 50% improvement in some categories. We have a dedicated administration, and a staff who truly cares about these kids, and skin color hasn't got a damn thing to do with it. So, to all of those who felt so bad for me because I'm southern and work in a "ghetto" school -- you can kiss my test-acing, inner city grits!