Long ago, in the mists of pre-history, it started.
We were on this side of the river, and they were
on that side. Our people were valued, theirs were to be slaughtered if
they stepped foot in our village.
The Constitution of the United States defined a Negro as equivalent
to three fifths of a white man (technically, only in terms of political power).
They were good for pickin' cotton, but you wouldn't want your daughter
to marry one.
Out West, there was a lot of land. Tens of thousands of
Indians lived on it; tens of thousands of "white folks" (who at one time were
from this village or that, or were Roman or Germanian, but those minor tiffs can be forgotten in the face of
such differences as this) wanted to. Clearly, those
people in the way were stupid, brutal, dirty; fit for extermination. The only
good Injun was a dead Injun.
When they were pretty much cleared out, there were plenty of "heathen Chinee"
to look down upon. Build our railroads! Do our laundry! Head down when we
In our own modern age, it was the official position of one of the
most powerful states in the world that the Superman could
only be tall with blond hair and blue eyes. Jews, Gypsies,
Catholics and Queers need not apply.
Sometimes, we in the U.S. have fooled ourselves into thinking we'd put
such attitudes behind us, but we found other obstacles to place between
us — rich and poor, or even recent
immigrants vs. more established ones.
It was always something. You do your business on that side of the road, and
we'll do our business on this side. …
Don't ever let me catch you with him again. …
You don't know what they're like.
When I was a child, the Perez family lived down the street. Mikey and Millio,
a bit older than my two older brothers. Sometimes I couldn't understand
what they were saying.They taught me how to throw a
Frisbee. They showed me how close brothers could be.
Directly across from us was Nancy, my playmate. Her family were Protestants. Talking with her (on a very shallow level) brought me my
first real realization that not everyone was Catholic. Even then, it was a while
before I learned that they believed in some quite different things. But I still
enjoyed playing "let's get married" with her.
One year in high school, I was in summer school and didn't know anybody.
James, a Chinese boy, took notice and hung out with me at recess.
Dave, the vice president of the company where I had my first real job, was
from Pakistan. He dressed amazingly well, and remains in my mind the
archetype of social grace.
My one-time girlfriend of ten years was Filipino. When I would visit her, I would
often receive several days of immersion in a foreign culture, as virtually all of
her acquaintances here were also from the Phillipines. I was her
The first real friend I met after moving to Santa Barbara is Iranian. He improved my tennis game, resurrected some of my dormant
ability to speak German, and suggested that we live together, despite
my unwanted sexual desire for him.
Why would I have wanted to shun any of these people? Or them to shun me? Somewhere within
me, deep or on the surface, to a greater or lesser extent, each one of them is a
part of me. I've not yet had a close Negro friend — maybe that's what
that little chip on my left side is waiting for.
"We must learn to live together as brothers
or perish together as fools."
— Martin Luther King, Jr.