Two different colleagues relayed stories where the words wetback and beaner were used recently. I didn’t expect to hear these two words in 2008. Even the folks who demonstrated in Ojai last week did not admit to being racist (though I suspect differently). And despite the fact that we have a black man running for the President of the United States, it is obvious that racism is alive and well in America, and in our neighborhood. Both these words were used inside crowded businesses and the derogatory terms were heard by those it was directed toward. In both cases, the recipients were highly educated and active participants in our society and economy. What is happening here? During the mid-1970’s, when I attended elementary school in Fresno, I did hear these terms. But in Trader Joe’s? Inside a Mexican food restaurant?
Perhaps the majority of the readers on this blog do not hold these racist views nor do you see this your neighborhood. Despite being an educator in California and having attended many workshops on the topic over the years, and despite feeling aware of race in society, I am surprised and shocked by these events. It seems that my white male skin continues to shield me from the realities for people of color and I must continue to open my heart and my mind. We don’t need a color-blind society, but we could have one that honors and recognizes all people regardless of their race, and this is something worthy to work toward.
Cross posted on Ojai Post