Thursday, May 30, 2013

Beyond Eyerolls

Thanks to the listeners of NPR's Code Switch for sharing the fascinating questions they have been asked about race, some of which the program has posted in this slide show.

My initial reading of these questions confirmed my impression that a lot racism remains in U.S. society (and perhaps all societies). I think that is still true, but the comments various readers have posted after the original article suggests another, more constructive reading.

Many comments point out that the questions sometimes reflect curiosity as much as ignorance. So rather than an eye-roll or a face-palm, these readers suggest considering the possibility that these are awkward -- in most cases very awkward -- attempts at dialog. And that at least is a good thing.

I think this is similar to something I have posted with regard to the opportunity that is sometimes provided by music. A stupid question may be just the tip of a iceberg, the underwater portion of which might be real dialog.

June 3 update: A new article has me rethinking this charitable interpretation a little -- or least suggesting that ignorance is not always a good excuse. Writing for the San Francisco online magazine The Bold Italic, Chin Lu explains Why Yellow Fever is Different Than "Having A Type,"  providing some insight into the intertwining of racism and attraction.

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