|And, of course, it's on white bread.|
The friend who made that distinction was and still is strongly vocal against racism. He hates it deeply and has, occasionally, displayed this is pretty confrontational (and even violent) ways. But, still, he saw a distinction between racism and prejudice. Racism, he pointed out later in the conversation, is about hate and notions of racial superiority; prejudice is pre-judgement, based on stereotype.
This conversation happened decades ago. Since then, it seems the lines have been blurred or even erased.
Once, my younger son said something about having learned that Dr. King had spoken out against oppression of "black people." My older son said, "That's racist!" -- simply because his brother had said "black people." (Apparently, my son got the message that political incorrectness -- if indeed, "black people" is -- is the same as racism.)
This is what the tone of society's ideas about race has done.
I could go on about a number of things, including the continuing loss of cultural identities as a result; or, I could again write about the story of a black student of mine at Rutgers who wanted to be referred to as "black" and not African American, because his people had not come from Africa... But I won't.
I'll just reference this nonsense -- an article from a few years ago that a friend just posted. It's an article that tells about a principal who says there are "broader racial implications" that mean that a teacher should not use peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as an in-class example. As a result of some "equity training" the principal has recently received, she says:
“What about Somali or Hispanic students, who might not eat sandwiches?” Gutierrez said.... “Another way would be to say: ‘Americans eat peanut butter and jelly, do you have anything like that?’ Let them tell you. Maybe they eat torta. Or pita.”
She's right on one level and wrong on another. She's right in that this is a teachable moment. It gives a good teacher an opportunity to expand the cultural knowledge all of his or her students by asking good questions. But to imply that it is "racist" to mention peanut butter and jelly because some kids don't eat it is just asinine. And to carry that kind of an attitude is to breed linguistic fear -- the kind of fear that lead my older son to call my younger son a racist for mentioning the works of Dr. King in what he had been, somehow, conditioned to believe was "the wrong way."
I can't believe people don't see what a culture of fear we are creating. It's a culture of oppressive pseudo-sensitivity.