I got married the summer before my second year of graduate school. That same year my grandfather died.
We went by train to join the large family gathering in Central Texas for the funeral. We drove back with my father who offered to drop us off in Kansas before going home to Denver. Right after the funeral, we left the group to go back and stopped at a diner to eat knowing we had a long drive ahead of us. It was a diner with all White customers that kept looking our way.
As we were leaving, one of them looked at my wife, elbowed his buddy and I distinctly heard him say: “They got one.”
On the drive, I said very little about the incident but thought a lot about the scars of anger that had been reopened by that gesture and comment. I wanted to again cry out the deep and mixed feelings of being diminished and the need for an acceptance that could not be there.
That was one of many experiences that shaped my world view and the choices of academic areas that helped to explain the issues of race and civilizations. When the Critical Race Theory (CRT) developed over 40 years ago and something called “Stay Woke,” a Black expression, got politicized during the current conversations about systemic racism, it provided further evidence that the status quo will not give in to any effort to neutralize the value of color in human pigmentation as part of a drive toward more merit-based considerations.
Critical Race Theory “is a body of legal scholarship and an academic movement of civil-rights scholars and activists in the United States that seeks to critically examine U.S. law as it intersects with issues of race in the U.S...The basic tenets of CRT include that racism and disparate racial outcomes are the result of complex, changing and often subtle social and institutional dynamics rather than explicit and intentional prejudices on the part of individuals.”
In other words, Racism does not need to be intentional to be systemic. Also, the other term, Stay Woke popularized by the killing of George Floyd refers to being alert to “injustice, especially racism.” To be sure, the issue of race and racism will be with us regardless of who is in power, because, even in a democracy, the building of political and institutional structures will tend to favor those that do the building.
However, the genius of our Constitution is that it includes the Bill of Rights and other Amendments that guarantee protection of individuals and groups. In a larger sense, race as a color-based phenomenon is an implied value in building the structure of a civilization. That is because all civilizations are based on the notion of opposites.
The first concept that comes to the awareness of a newborn is the difference between light and darkness. From there we are taught to live between the opposite extremes of right and left, here and there, high and low, man and woman and a good and bad where White is good and its opposite Black is bad…
A radical unfairness in this regard is the plight of women as the opposite of men. Women of color carry the double burden of being opposite in color and sex.
This example of unfairness can be abolished in a reinterpretation by an opposite of what is there now. Those are the rules of the planet and the unfairness in racial differences is the challenge of our time.