If there is one difference between the country I am from and the one I currently live in, it would have to be the way people feel about race.
In France, you will never hear someone use the word “race” to begin with, unless that person was openly racist. Because of our respective histories, French minorities identify with the culture of the home country they migrated from, while some American minorities are unable to trace their origins and are divided into much larger “buckets” with ethnicity as the main criteria, such as African-Americans.
Obviously, the old continent is racist in its own messed up way. For those who don’t follow international politics, France’s most white trash party just won the majority of seats at the European Parliament. Needless to say that racism is a universal plague, but racism in America is a different kind than the one – very direct and straight forward kind – I knew.
Although there never seems to be a good moment to talk about race in a social setting, it’s all over the American media. There is not a week that goes by without its racial scandal…just ask Justin Bieber! So how do Americans really handle racial issues daily? Well, despite what it looks like on TV and blogs, they kind of don’t.
I would say that the race conversation in America is defined and limited by a “false truth”: the less you talk about race, the more tolerant you are. For a lot of people, it’s much safer to say that they “don’t see color” than actually engage in productive discussions. As much as I wish that statement was true, numbers don’t lie; the wealth gap between Whites and minorities is getting wider as we speak.
Should “Where are you REALLY from?” be the first thing you ask to someone you just met, like it often happens in France? No, even if most Europeans mean it in the best way because they are used to interacting with people who embrace their family country’s culture. But should race be so tabou that you never dare to talk and ask about it? Not in my opinion. It’s all about picking the right questions…
I don’t think “color blindness” fights racism the right way, if at all. Preaching that color doesn’t matter is closing your eyes on reality. In my world, being indifferent to difference is not a quality, it’s a lack of curiosity. I think curiosity is a healthy thing, it takes you out of your comfort zone and invites you to discover the unknown. Lack of curiosity leads to ignorance, and we all know that ignorance is what feeds racism.
So let’s see colors! Not to discriminate, but to learn, understand, and celebrate.