2017-05-17 / Editorial

23ANDME

Michael N. Searles

America has been dogged by race for much of its history. The question that has challenged politicians, statesmen, clergy, scholars, civil rights leaders, and average Americans is, “Will America ever overcome race?” While we have made progress in the march toward equality, the legacy of race still haunts us. One of the issues that has been debated and may lie at the crux of the problem is do we want a color blind society. While there is an argument in favor of a color blindness where no one sees the color of your skin but responds to the content of your character, there lies another question, “Can we see the color of a person’s skin and unbiasedly judge the content of his or her character?” To not be affected by obvious physical differences is unrealistic or even counterproductive. A deeper question is, “Can color and its historical significance be recognized, accepted and even appreciated and not be a stumbling block to national and cultural unity?” There has long been a dream that interracial marriage would break down the walls of segregation and racism. The rate of the mixedrace population is growing three times faster than the general population, and some hope that this will produce a non-discriminating beige color society. The apparent browning of America is supported by the number of mixed race families we see every day: Black men with white women, white men with black women, black and white men with Asian partners, and white grandparents with mixed-race children. The configurations are endless as are the relationships. Yet with so much interracial interactions, these relationships may not create the hoped-for racial harmony. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, mixed-race Americans face discrimination in the form of slurs, poor customer service, and police encounters. There also is pressure for those individuals to identify with one side or the other. It seems that nothing is as disconcerting to the public as not knowing a person’s ethnic or racial identity. It also is difficult to determine on what basis mixed-race persons are being discriminated.

Walter Francis White an African American civil rights activist led the NAACP from 1931-1955. Walter White’s story is particularly interesting due to the fact he had blond hair and blue eyes. He investigated lynching in the South unobserved and sent descriptions and details to the NAACP. Walter White could be called a volun- tary black person since he could have lived his life as a white man enjoying all the privileges and rights pertaining thereto, yet his strong conviction and identification as African American would not allow him to pass. A signifi- cant number of white people in America say they do not want to live around black people. No one knows what will change that feeling or concern, however, many white or light-skinned persons of color currently live near or with white people without their knowledge. There are spouses and family members who do not know that their husband, wife, father or mother is black and that discovery and realization could change attitudes. Genetic testing services such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com that provide scientific evidence of heritage are gaining popularity.

People are spitting into a tube or swabbing the insides of their cheeks and sending their samples to be genetically tested. The results are sometimes surprising. People who believed they were essentially from one group are discovering they are not. We see the commercials on television and Youtube showing how assumptions are being shattered. As people are being tested, some will find a significant portion of their genetic makeup is from Africa. They may not broadcast the findings but maybe as we discover that racial purity is a myth and we are made up of many different people and nationalities, we will feel connected, less judgmental, and more comfortable with the world. This is a hope we seek in our pursuit of making America a more perfect union.

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