Thursday, April 16, 2009

The American Look

As most of you know, I'm not from the South. I'm from about as north as you can go without having to learn to drink Molsen. I didn't really experience any kind of racism until we moved to California, where I learned that my mom was extremely prejudiced. Over the years, I've known some people who lingered in the past when it comes to how they judge people, but I never let those people become an important part of my life.

For the most part, I don't see much racism here in Kentucky. There's still not a lot of love between the "black community" and the "white community", but I see hope for the future when I go to Junior Bear's school and see white and black kids laughing and talking together.

Anyhoo, today I got smacked in the face with racism. I was sitting in my doctor's waiting room, and was watching the news. They were talking about the recent rant that Jamie Foxx made about Miley Cyrus. After a while, the staff changed the channel to a talk show that featured Ben Affleck talking about his new movie.

The other patient waiting for her appointment, a woman about my age, remarked that she was glad to see a clean cut "American looking" guy like Affleck on the TV instead of more pictures and video of Jamie Foxx.

To say that I was shocked would be quite an understatement. I was so gobsmacked that I didn't respond. How could someone as young as she was, in this day, think like that? If she'd been an older lady I'd have chalked it up to habits learned a long time ago, but I never expected to hear something like that from someone my age.

An "American Look" that apparently excludes people who look like Jamie Foxx? If I'd had time and courage to argue with her, I'd have said that there is no "American Look". Instead, I sat and waited for my name to be called and got on with my day.

But it got me thinking.

Martin Luther King looked like an American. Bobby Jindal looks like an American. George Lopez looks like an American. Lucy Liu, David Patterson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and even Jamie Foxx look like an American.

We are all Americans, and we all make up this motley assortment of rugged individualists. We fight, squabble, shout, and hurt. We comfort, befriend, and make peace ever day. We come from all corners of the globe, and if you've been to Santa Monica or Times Square, you might believe that we draw from beyond the globe.

I am going to have to learn to watch for this attitude in my kids as I bring them up in Kentucky. My parents were prejudiced, and I sometimes have to monitor myself to keep from falling into that trap. I want my children to understand that different doesn't mean bad.

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