Tuesday, April 17, 2012

People of Color

Now this is interesting.  It's an article about how ABC's shows "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" have never featured people of color in lead roles.  In 23 seasons they've never featured a black person (or any person of color for that matter) looking for a mate.

When I was a little girl there were white people everywhere.  Even my fairy tale stories taught me that Snow White was beautiful because she was "the fairest of them all."  I didn't see blacks in movie, in magazines, or in the news unless they were the news.  I understood in very clear terms that white skin was prized above all else.

Obviously, we've moved past that.  Black people can be seen as regulars on TV shows, heck we even have a black President.  But even in 2012, it doesn't strike me as odd that ABC can't seem to find black leads.  Certainly many have applied. Is black skin not marketable enough?  Is our skin too ashy?  Are they afraid that they'd have to endorse interracial relationships or only select black contestants?

ABC is claiming innocence on this one.  Maybe they are innocent.  The race issue of today, the true race debate is not about people wearing white hoods or working hard to hold blacks back.  Today's race debate is about the subtle, deep-seeded psychological race-based bias that most of us have in spite of ourselves.

One of the biggest challenges about dealing with race today is that most people (with lots of help from Hollywood) have grown to equate anyone with racial bias as monstrous.  They're dirty.  They're haughty.  We'd never invite them into our homes.  Their racism is just one of a cesspool of filthy character traits they possess.  The average white person can't stop waving their hands in protests and vigorously shaking their heads long enough to just consider whether or not they too may have some latent issues with race.  The very idea, the mere proposition is enough to end even the longest standing relationships.

Nevertheless, there is a form of racism that almost always goes undetected.  It can't be marched against and it is incredibly difficult to quantify.

People who are kind, give to charity, feed the homeless, and keep clean houses may find a small level of discomfort when they see a tall thin black man walking through their neighborhood at night.  They brush the feeling away, but not before locking their doors.  This small act of bias, this singular solitary moment is a poison that informs our politics, our relationships, and how we choose contestants for popular shows.

Who cares if you're not quite comfortable around black people?  The black people. We care.


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