Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Race in America

Is this as close as you come to
having different races at your table?
Did you know that there is as much genetic variance within a race than between races?  This is just one of many observations that Eula Biss makes in her book of essays "Notes from No Man's Land".  She documents her experiences and observations around race while moving to various regions around the country, including New York, New York, San Diego, California, Iowa City, Iowa, and finally Chicago, Illinois. She speaks about the fear that many of her own race, caucasian, project among others.  Much of that fear is generational and then greatly inflated by a few violent stories that get lots of media coverage and retold countless times.

In Minneapolis considerable fear has been generated about life on the Northside.  Much of this is associated with people of color.  I confess to becoming more fearful of the Northside once I was no longer working there on a daily basis.  Recently I've been volunteering some time over north and have once again developed a greater appreciation of this neighborhood and its people.  Working with Project Sweetie Pie and the "Bless A Child with a Coat" drive I've in turn been blessed to get to know a number of compassionate African American leaders.  Through volunteering my awareness of people of color is not limited to the stories of violence on the Northside, which though a very real concern, paints a distorted picture of this part of town and its residents.

To better understand those from other races there is nothing better than developing a genuine relationship/friendship with people who don't look like you. The physical differences in color, size, gender, etc. become inconsequential relative to the core nature of that individual being.  Traveling and staying with the local people, NOT secluded in a posh hotel with other foreigners is a great way to learn and appreciate other races and cultures.  For college students a school year abroad is a wonderful vehicle to experience other races and cultures.  Volunteering can also be a valuable means of fostering relationships, be it through tutoring and mentoring programs, or programs such as Peace Corps or AmericaCorps.

We become a better person, nation and world when we are able to better understand and appreciate the great strengths and diversity that constitute the whole human race. Ironically when we get to know those who appear to be much different from ourselves we discover just how much alike we are.

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