If I Could Change One Thing…
I hate the subject of race. It literally makes me tremble because I hate it so much. I understand the system is what we have, but I hate it. Why? I don’t like division, and I know it was simply created to divide us further.
As humans, we seem to be always looking for a way to prop ourselves up, separate from another group because it makes us “feel” better or more important. It helps us gloss over our own flaws and insecurities. We’ve been that way for a very long time. Blame is our game of choice, and we look for ways to, blatantly and subtly, separate ourselves from others. Some rationalize this as identity. Identity is important but not at the expense of community.
The other day, I had to fill out a document. When I came to the section asking about race, I refused to fill it out because I didn’t like the categories. It had Black or African-American, White, Hispanic, Asian and one other, which I don’t remember. I skipped it. When I gave it to the gentleman who was filing them, he skimmed it and noted my omission. He said, “Oh, you missed this section.”
I responded, “I didn’t miss it at all. It just didn’t apply to me.”
He looked at me quizzically. I explained myself. “The list of names in those boxes don’t really tell about me in a satisfactory way and so I choose not to use those.”
If you really want to know about my heritage, ask me. Yep, I’m from the Caribbean. My ancestors were taken there. But, to be fair, some of my ancestors were also natives there and then another group of my ancestors came there to be owners. My last name is of Irish lineage and less than four generations ago, some of my ancestors owned land in Jamaica, where a university now sits. If we want to be even more clear, some of my ancestors were brought from the west coast of Africa and mingled with natives, known as Maroons. I could go a lot deeper. If I went to Ancestry.com, I’m sure I’d find some surprises.
The point is that I’m complicated. And most of us are. There is nothing that makes one group “purer” than the next. So, why do we attempt to classify one over the other, when the truth is, at some point, we all cross? Whether it came about in a negative or positive way, why am I forced to claim one part of my history over the others? And why am I told I must claim a color when it was initially given to denote a negative idea?
I haven’t yet figured out all of the ramifications. I don’t know how this thought process will affect scholarships for my kids. I don’t know how it will affect conversations in the future. I don’t know how it will affect options and possibilities for me. I do know it’s not enough. I do know it’s unfair and I do know my thoughts will be unpopular even among those who “look like me.”
To be fair, any system would create some division simply because we’re human. We’re divided based on language. We’re divided based on the countries in which we were born. We’re divided by religion, culture, ideas, social class, economics…the list goes on.
We can flip the word division and call it systems or structure. But, the mental outgrowth will always cause some to use the division as privilege. I’m not sure what to do about that.
But, I can start by rejecting the labels which no longer agree with me.
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About The Author
My name is Robert Kennedy III. I’m a leadership and communication speaker, trainer and author. I recently released 7 Ways To Know You Were Meant To Lead on Amazon. Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebookor on my website, RobertKennedy3.com.