Saturday, June 06, 2009

BROWN AND PINK

Obama continues to move along useful paths, using his bully pulpit only to gently and carefully – as is appropriate – to suggest to Us new ways to look at important things.

One point is that he offers the vision of looking at race in shades of gray. This is a welcome step away from polarization; such polarization had wrought great havoc among Us for too many decades now.

I’d like to take it a step farther; I’ve thought about this before, but given the PC sensibility and “offensensibility”* I’ve always been a little nervous that the terminology would create yet more occasion for offense. Here’s the thought: when you look more closely, you realize that there actually are very few ‘black’ human beings and very few ‘white’ human beings. Indeed, the only truly ‘white’ folks are either ‘albino’ or vampires.

Just about every ‘black’ person is actually a shade of brown; just about every ‘white’ person is a shade of pink. This was clear to any kid who worked with crayons back in the day. When you were drawing ‘white’ folks you didn’t reach for a white crayon; you reached for some sort of pink crayon (yes, it was called ‘flesh’ color because ‘pink’ was too close to ‘pinko’, the common term for someone soft on Communism although not actually a ‘Red’ … how helpful cartoons were in understanding the world in its less mature aspects).

So, in the service of accuracy, there are no ‘blacks’ and no ‘whites’; We should get used to talking about ‘browns’ and ‘pinks’. On both sides that change will reduce the polarization and the preening, neither of which are helpful, especially to a nation that needs all the accuracy and self-restraining humility and patience it can possibly lay its hands on.

NOTES

*This is a marvelous term that I first came across in the mouth (or beak) of cartoonist Berkeley Breathed’s splendid Opus the Penguin.

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