“Race”

As a younger person, I often held racist perspectives. It wasn’t that I thought I was better than anyone else. On the contrary, I felt bad about myself and, as a human, had a low opinion of other humans. I once heard a peer say she was not racist because she hated everyone equally. I loved the poetry in such a claim and empathized with her perspective. I understand now that hating all humans is probably about as racist as one can be. You see, I did not dislike individuals as a result of their skin color or heritage; I hated people because we were selfish. We acted in selfish ways, with little regard for other races who lived on our planet.

I am now likely just as “racist” as I was before the brain tumor, not because I hate humans or any group of humans. I do not consider myself better than anyone. But that is because we are all great. I believe empathy is at least partially responsible for love. I try to love everyone I meet. This means attempting to empathize with them, attempting to see things from their perspectives and understand their motivations. As I find it more difficult to empathize with other races of animals, I tend to love other animals less than I love humans. This fact may seem ironic to those who place value in the meaning of a person’s name. With the name “Philip”, one might expect me to be a “lover of horses” (http://nameberry.com/babyname/Philip).

I can’t help but love humans as a race. I feel a connection that is bigger than any other force I’ve witnessed. We are more similar than different. And still, we divide ourselves over our differences. We apply labels to groups of people so that we can better define ourselves. We are “Republican”, “Christian”, and “Black” or “Democrat”, “Muslim”, and “White”. I’ve yet to meet a black black person. I’ve yet to meet a white white person. If we are trying to define ourselves by our skin tones, it might be more accurate to say “light brown” or “dark brown”. But these labels tear down the illusion that we are so very different.

These labels of “race” aren’t really even about skin tone. They only apply skin tone as an apparent attribute of what the labels imply – our ancestry. Although such labels divide us by our differences, they may be useful in identifying and describing individuals. So let’s do it better. I herby submit a new way of identifying one’s ancestry that names a continent of origin. Instead of saying a person is “Black” or “White”, we can say a person is of African descent (AFD) or European descent (EUD). In spite of the accuracy these labels offer, they still may be used to divide us.

Upon a recent visit with an older member of my family, the topic of “race” came up with no foreseen warning. She felt the need to tell me how our country is being destroyed by “Spanish” people. When I corrected her, explaining the term “Spanish” refers to people from Spain and offered the alternative term “Hispanic”, she suggested it was just a difference in pronunciation – “You say Hispanish. I say Spanish”. Her mispronunciation of the term “Hispanic” may seem comical, but it would seem to be symptomatic of her closed perspective of the world. She knew her way was right and morphed her understanding of my perspective so that it more closely matched hers. I share this experience here, not to make fun of or pass judgement on my relative, but to illustrate the mindset we are up against.

We are brothers and sisters and far less different than we like to believe. So how can we stop these new terms, AFD, ASD (Asian descent), AMD (American descent), and EUD, from being used to divide us? We need to stop being afraid of each other. My older relative’s perspective was not founded in hate. It was founded in fear. We need to stop identifying ourselves by our different “races”. Our heritages are far less important than our personal histories. As an EUD male who was raised in the United States, I likely have more in common with an AFD female who was raised in the United states than I would with an EUD male who was raised on another continent. Perhaps this is the future of bigotry. We will no longer divide ourselves by the color of our skin, but by where we were raised. This sounds a little trickier. But fear is a strong motivator. I’m sure we can manage if we put our minds to it.

Every moment is a chance to change. Every moment offers an infinite number of futures. So in what kind world do we want to live? We can choose from this moment on to be motivated by fear or by love.