Monday, December 17, 2007

The Color Line is a Rainbow

Are these faces of a future America?

When you imagine the color-line so eloquently described by W.E.B. Dubois as the problem of the last century, what does it look like to you? I imagine a line that is big, bright and red like blood representing all the blood that has been spilled due to fantasies of racial superiority/inferiority. Turns out the color line is more like a rainbow, at least as suggested by a recent multilingual poll of African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans that demonstrates whites don't have a "lock" on racial prejudice:

The nation's three largest minority groups — African Americans, Hispanics and Asians — view one another with deep suspicion, though there's evidence that the racial divide could be breached, a poll released Wednesday showed.

The poll of 1,105 African Americans, Hispanics and Asians found that all three groups held negative stereotypes of one another — though in some cases, a majority or nearly as many respondents rejected such beliefs.

In Oakland — where the three groups comprise nearly 75 percent of the city's population, according to the 2000 U.S. Census — academic and community leaders stress that negative stereotypes can be broken if people step out of their comfort zones and try to get along.

"If you want to generalize, it's easy to assume that the three groups have these deep suspicions about each other. And if that's the case, it's understandable. So much is done to separate the groups from each other culturally, socially and economically," said Peter Kim, the managing director of the East Bay Asian Youth Center in Oakland. Kim is Korean.

The poll found that 44 percent of Hispanics and 47 percent of Asians are "afraid of African Americans because they are responsible for most of the crime." (Read the whole article here)

You can also get a nice description of some of the key findings of the poll here.

In fairness, the results of the poll are mixed and if you read about them, you’ll see that there are
also some hopeful signs among the attitudes represented. Overall though, it seems that at the dawn of the 21
st century, hope and despair regarding America’s most vital and challenging are in a neck and neck race to claim the future of this country. Unity remains the only viable option if we want to avoid the inevitable consequences of the color line, yet ethnic groups seem to rebuild the walls of distrust as quickly as well-intentioned multiculturalists tear them down. That we live in a time of war, economic insecurity and the virtual breakdown of institutions we depend on for our well-being, from marriage to health care, only serves to encourage a retreat into the familiar comfort of racial alienation and competition. The American Baha’i community, of modest size and still in its spiritual infancy, offers credible evidence that the people of this nation, through the power of the love of God can transform the lethality of the color-line into a circle of unity that embraces all humanity. When our nation does this, it will be fit to provide leadership in the creation of a united, just and peaceful global society.

"Every edifice is made of many different stones, yet each depends on the other to such an extent that if one were displaced the whole building would suffer; if one is faulty the structure is imperfect. Bahá'u'lláh has drawn the circle of unity, He has made a design for the uniting of all the peoples, and for the gathering of them all under the shelter of the tent of universal unity. This is the work of the Divine Bounty, and we must all strive with heart and soul until we have the reality of unity in our midst, and as we work, so will strength be given unto us. Leave all thought of self, and strive only to be obedient and submissive to the Will of God. In this way only shall we become citizens of the Kingdom of God, and attain unto life everlasting."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 53)