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WILLIAMS: Seeing people based on the color of their skin is not always racist
There are some aspects of seeing people based on color that we simply are not going to ever eradicate from the human race, even though we would like to do so.
Some people don't want to hear this — people who would even consider such a statement racist — so let me start in a gingerly way by discussing other forms of discrimination that don't provoke the same reaction.
No one seems to have a problem with Jews who prefer to date and marry other Jews, or Catholics who prefer to do the same (or Mormons, atheists, Democrats, Republicans and so on). Why? Because it makes sense that people naturally gravitate toward those who share their worldview — or, in the case of religion, the same Other World view.
If, as a devout Catholic, you believe that those who don't accept Jesus as their savior are going to hell, you'd naturally prefer to marry someone not destined for fire and brimstone, and whose presence won't risk hellfire for the children you have together. Some people might consider such thinking kooky, especially if they're not religious, but at the very least, they probably would respect the right to see the world this way and not judge them as bigoted. Most reasonable people consider it perfectly legitimate for someone to "discriminate" in his or her dating choices by limiting options to those with the same religious beliefs.
Then there are the practical mechanics of making a lifelong marriage work. Marriage is hard enough — there are struggles about finances, parenting philosophy, personality differences and whether to watch the ball game or "Scandal" — without adding an even bigger struggle over the basic questions of who we are, where we come from, and where we're going when it all comes to an end. So, from a practical standpoint, marriage and dating are simply easier with people with whom you have all this in common.
The same is true when it comes to politics. No doubt many interpolitical marriages work just fine, but for the most part, Republicans and conservatives date and marry other Republicans and conservatives. The same typically goes for Democrats and liberals — if only because they usually spend time with like-minded friends and colleagues, making it a sort of self-selecting, self-limited pool of dating prospects.
Most of us understand this just fine. Because few seem to have problems with folks limiting their marital choices based on religion, worldview and maybe even politics, let's turn up the discussion a notch. What about blacks who prefer to marry blacks, Asians who prefer to marry Asians, and whites who prefer to marry whites? Are they racist? Not necessarily. Sure, some might be; that goes without saying, as racists come in all sizes and shapes.
However, I'd argue that the vast majority of them aren't racist. For the most part, it's a question of inexpressible taste. When a black person dates only other black people, it's more than likely not because of a conscious or even subconscious racism, but because they happen to be attracted to other black people. There are some black men who might be attracted to white or Hispanic women, and might even casually date them, but who would never consider marrying and having children with someone outside their own race. When pushed to say why, you'd likely get one of two answers: that it could never work socially, including parental disapproval; or because, although they may never have thought about it much less expressed it, people want their children to look like them.
It may seem unseemly and unfortunate, and some might even call it wrong for folks to limit their dating and marriage prospects that way. I agree that it's lamentable. What you can't argue, though, is whether it's natural, because the desire to be with others who look and think like you seems to be a fundamental characteristic of human behavior.
If this subconscious desire is truly racist, is it something today's social tinkerers — the progressives who believe that human nature is like a huge chemistry set, and by just changing the equations, they will create a perfect humanity, free of hunger, suffering and violence — can fix through policy? No. You can't change most things about human nature that way. There are so many nuances to the issue of race relations that it's impossible for policy to get at them all, and I would argue it's not even desirable that we try. Just imagine a bunch of liberal Ivy League graduates sitting around a Senate committee conference table trying to come up with a plan to eradicate subtle racism in American dating. It boggles the mind.
We seem to have lost sight of the real and socially relevant definition of racism: the belief that some people are inferior and, as such, deserve fewer civil rights protections than others purely because of the color of their skin. That is what we should deal with, not some perceived covert racism characterized by interpersonal relationships, but overt racism expressed to the detriment of its intended victims.
Is it true that everyone who marries within their own race or culture or ethnicity specifically does so because they believe others are inferior? Of course not. The real question — and indeed the only question that matters from a public-policy standpoint — is, would these same people deny someone employment in their workplace or otherwise repudiate the full humanity of another person because of his or her skin color? That's what matters. That is what we as a society need to focus on.
• Armstrong Williams is the author of the book "Reawakening Virtues." Join him from 4-5 a.m. and 6-7 p.m. daily on Sirius/XM Power 128. Become a fan on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.
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