So, Jeb Bush — Jeb Open Mouth Remove All Doubt Bush — was running his mouth. First of all he says his son gets teased for his skin color (in Florida? Well, paint me purple and call me Edna, but are they living in another planet?) Then he said he explained to his son that our nation is not one of “perfect justice YET.”
Am I the only one who shuddered at that sentence? The pursuit of “perfect justice” be it racial, economic or whatever has filled millions of graves. Now, would Jeb Bush do that? I doubt it. Or at least I don’t think so. He’s a soft-Euro-socialist not a Stalinist (which means yeah, in certain circumstances the lesser of two evils) but the phrase is still worrying for a demonstration of brain-rot and how lazy thinking gets into people’s minds and ejects reason and sense, and can cause horrible evil.
I confess I never promised either of my sons perfect justice. And when people remarked on their “beautiful” olive skin, I said “thank you.” (Though honestly, how does one take credit for skin tone. “Yes, ma’am. My family worked on that tan for GENERATIONS.”)
I also confess not only don’t I understand American attitudes to race, I don’t “read” race the way Americans do. That is one thing in which I’m very foreign (or perhaps from another planet.)
Look, I’m not saying Portuguese aren’t racist, okay? Like most Europeans not only are they more openly racist (they make jokes all the time) but “race” often means nationality. My mom classified not just my kids as mixed race (arguably Dan almost for sure has Amerindian ancestry, though you can’t tell it by HIM as such) but also the children of my friend who married a Frenchman. Oh, and “mixed” is bad.
I’m saying that unless it comes up (such as in a joke) or it’s rather obvious (like the friend who married a man from Africa and half her family didn’t show up at the wedding) they don’t mention it. And various degrees of tan/African features mean nothing because… well… Portugal. (I once made a cover for a friend’s romance and she told me she couldn’t use it because people would think it was about POC. The girl she was talking about is a dead-ringer to my older son’s Godmother, and my 5th cousin or so, who never considered herself anything but Portuguese and white.)
Add to that that even in Portugal I felt like someone from outer space on that, as many other things. Unless you had an accent and had arrived from Africa last week you were just “a little dark” as far as I was concerned. Mostly because I can’t be bothered.
But people born and raised in America? Ah. That gets… fascinating. When what’s his face said we needed to talk about race my reaction was “talk about? Can we get them shut up about it ALREADY?
There is a delicate dance of race and racial stereotypes and implications in this country that I not only don’t get, but have no interest in learning. And there is — as admittedly elsewhere — considering “race” what is in fact “culture” like Hispanic or Arab, even if all of us fall under various tan-lines.
So… part of this goes back to that perfect justice thing.
I tend to forget race exists. And I certainly don’t look at strangers’ faces and analyze them for racial characteristics. I was mildly amused when older son was drawing me and drew me a shade darker and said “Wow, you look black.”
At which point I said “Oh, yeah when I was young and spent a month a year at the beach, and wore an affro” (Shut up, it was the seventies. Also, no, you’ll never get to see pictures. I think. I wore it tastefully pulled back with a thin blue ribbon, Roman style.) “people IN PORTUGAL referred to me as “the young lady of color” which in that time and place was the same as saying ‘that chick just arrived from Africa.'”
But it didn’t bug me one way or the other.
As for older son, well, he’s older son. We have had indications before that people read him as racially mixed with a good dose of Africa, particularly since the teacher known to mess with kids with that ancestry made his life miserable in first grade. But I mean… he’s a little darker than I and it’s a ruddy sort of dark, somewhere between Dan and I for tone. (Unlike younger son who gets darker every year and is Mediterranean looking.)
So, while we were looking for an apartment for him imagine my confusion at getting delicate probing as to my husband’s race, and also clear indications that people of various levels of tanitude, including the extreme, assumed Robert was one of them.
And this brings me back to that perfect justice thing, again. While looking at the cheapest and possibly nicest of all the apartments, it became clear to me I couldn’t let my son live there. You see, unlike a certain SF/F writer who thinks it’s open season on her, I didn’t think my son was going to get killed because at first glance he might be identified as mulatto (the fact he helped me fix a balcony and a fence doesn’t help this perception. I mean, in a day he looked like me after a month at the beach.)
I am, however, not a total moron.
Police in that area has been off the leash longer than the militarization of police. Arguably they are now MUCH better than they were in the seventies.
And the areas are sketchy and often on the verge of outright warfare. Which meant that putting my kid there, when he’s likely to come home at all hours, possibly wearing all black (scrubs) when he’s big and hulking and therefore looks like he’s menacing while standing still and smiling is NOT a good idea.
So, I told him we’d have to spring for the extra $300 to go to the next area up. (I noted, btw, that all the students in that complex were thin, blond people.)
Perfect justice? Oh, h*ll no.
However it is the neighborhood’s character, not its skin tone that lead the police to be trigger happy. That the character is covalent with the skin tone is what might cause my kid to be misjudged.
And the character is admittedly not the police’s fault, even if they do get a little trigger happy.
It is the fault of a culture that tells kids of a certain tan that they are “made fun of because of their skin tone” (do you remember being in school? You could get made fun of for standing still. My cousins managed to tease my best friend because her name was Isabel which rhymed with papel. So the taunt went something like “Isabel, she’s made of paper.” Yeah. Not much sense, but it hurt, anyway, because we were all kids.) It is the fault of a culture that tells kids we’ll work to get them “perfect justice.”
What is perfect justice, short of paradise? Who is like G-d, that he might stand above us and judge what justice is perfect for whom? Who even can judge races in this increasingly mixed land of ours?
I mean, my kid is technically Latin, as am I, and I was prepared to have people react to him as Latin. (He looks Cuban to me!) But people are reacting to him as mulatto, which he certainly isn’t and we never thought of.
How do you even judge racism in those circumstances? (And I’ll point out we experienced none, since most of the people assuming Robert was mulatto were black.) How do you JUDGE?
But when you look at every little kid who is darker than average and treat them differently, you’re going to create a completely messed up culture.
And weirdly the people like Robert’s first grade teacher who are outright racists and thing the worst thing possible is to be mixed race, and who try to put mixed race kids in remedial classes and convince their parents the kids are slow, are NOT the ones doing the worst harm.
No, those are people like Jeb Bush, who think that stopping kids teasing other kids is “perfect justice” because what the kids are teased about is skin tone. They are people who tell kids with a tan or African features or whatever that “the man is keeping you down.” They are the people who tell minority (ah, whatever) kids that they are being “microaggressed” because someone looked at them funny.
We all experience (trust me) frustration and failure in life. To give these kids the impression that not only is nothing their fault (and a lot of it won’t be. That happens to everyone too) but that they can’t do anything about it until someone delivers “perfect justice” and that the world has it in for them is a way to create a community of crazy, aggressive, dysfunctional people.
This is how we end up with a woman who attended NYU and whose parents networth is more than ours for three generations COMBINED thinking she’s a victim and everyone is out to get her.
No matter if they endure more of the teasing and glaring than others, telling these kids “yeah, some people are *ssholes, ignore them” is ultimately the best course (and the one we followed, except with that teacher, where we had to get the kid IQ tests in order to ignore her because the school was backing her.)
Because going after everyone who in their heart judges my kids as a stereotype and treats them differently wouldn’t create perfect justice. It would create… how do you say? Oh, yeah, mass graves.
My husband who presents as very white (good thing he didn’t grow up with us. His name is Daniel which also rhymes with papel, and I can see my cousins singing “Daniel, Daniel, white like paper.” :-P) also gets treated differently oftentimes because he’s short, or because he forgot to shave, or because he’s slightly overweight. Does that fall under perfect justice, too? Man, those mass graves are going to need bulldozers to fill them.
THERE IS NO PERFECT JUSTICE. Unless you clone humans to all look perfectly alike, we’re all going to judge each other on color, height, size, expressions, features, etc.
Provided we revise those opinions on an individual basis, it’s okay. It’s being human and coming from tribal social apes. Identifying “my band” was rather critical to our ancestors, after all. Other bands could eat you or worse.
Now, particularly in a multi-ethnic (not just multi-racial) nation like ours it’s important to consider “tribe” something different, like say “believes in the constitution.”
BUT people will still revert to default modes, because people are people. And you can’t cure people of being people and those who tried are known as… oh, yeah, “History’s greatest butchers.”
Perfect justice is an illusion. I’d love to pay $300 less per month, and admittedly, if my kid were skinny and blond I could. But then if my kid’s size and coloration weren’t linked to “danger” in the cop’s heads, that neighborhood would be much more expensive.
So, “in a perfect world” is irrelevant, because there was never and there never will be one.
And if do-gooders like Jeb Bush stop trying to help us achieve “perfect justice” we’ll rub along as best we can in this one, ignoring the *ssholes and doing the best we can. Provided we stop lying to children and excusing their failures and their occasional grievances, and teaching them that what matters in the end is to work hard and be the best you can, and that if you do that you’ll succeed despite your skin color or features. Yeah, you might not achieve the moon on a platter, because luck comes in there, too, but you’ll do much better than if you never try.
Teach your children well. Regardless of their tan-status.
ALL lives matter.