None of my friends are racist. They all have an African-American friend, or like jazz, or voted for Obama, or are crazy about Beyonce. But when I told them that my then 16-year-old daughter´s boyfriend was black, they almost jumped out of their seat, they couldn´t help it. “Ufff, you need to take good care of her”, they said. Take care of what? I wondered. Make sure he doesn´t touch her, he doesn´t look at her, he doesn´t take her to his house. Make sure he doesn´t sleep with her. If the guy wasn´t black, I wouldn´t have to worry about it? Or maybe worry less?
My daughter´s boyfriend didn´t want to come to the house. In part because he was afraid I didn´t approve of it and would be rude to him. In part because we lived in a neighborhood where there were no African-Americans. In part because his family had instructed him never to ride his bike after six in the afternoon in a neighborhood other than his because he could get shot.
That is the reality we live in today in the United States. People feel they have the right to shoot at someone they suspect is dangerous, which in reality means, black or dark-skinned. And people who are black need to live in fear of being attacked, chased, insulted, even killed for no reason. And we think this is civilization, we live in the best country in the world.
My kids went to the public school in our neighborhood in Miami, where white, Latino and black kids got together. But beyond the school, there are invisible walls that almost nobody crosses. There are no laws today in the United States forbidding interracial marriage or prohibiting intimate relationships between people of different color, but there are huge prejudices that divide us. I don´t think any of my friends would have allowed their daughter to date a black kid. No way! But nobody is racist.
We deny our own prejudices, at least in public. As Latinos, we think we are not racist because in Latin America we are all the product of a mix of indigenous people, black and white. But of course, the whiter the skin tone, the higher the socioeconomic level. And in our countries, we don´t mix between people of different social background. The boundaries are well defined, rich with rich, poor with poor, and it´s for life. No social mobility either.
If we started by admitting our own prejudices, because we all have them, that could be the beginning of changing the way we relate to one another.
Would you be OK if your daughter/son dated a person of color? Share your thoughts here.