By Sean Wright, a Finalist of NewsPortalSite’s Writing Contest

A
friend’s husband uses racial slurs and opinions that slavery was “not
that bad” for African-Americans. Another friend reluctantly admitted
that her boyfriend declined my party invitation when he found out I am
Black. It was rumored that a coworker constantly complained about the
influx of black faces into the company. My shock at these incidences was
not that people were still thinking and acting this way in the 21st
century, butwho
did and said these things. My friend’s husband is Hispanic and the
other’s boyfriend is of Middle Eastern descent. The coworker is Jewish.
In the past few years, it hasn’t been difficult for me to find
substantial evidence of Anglo-Americans finally validating and including
African-Americans. A Black man is in The White House, and there are
more commercials than ever before featuring African-American families.
But in my microcosm, and much to my dismay, it appears things are going
backwards in race relations between non-Anglos and African-Americans. . .
One of my Latina friends learned English and about American culture by
watching American news. I have only to look at the news and conclude
that it shoulders some of the blame with its lopsided portrayal of
African-Americans. Positive organizations Blacks founded or participate
in like community after-school programs or The National Association of
Black Journalists don’t get as much press as an African-American man who
robbed a store. Many African-American eye witnesses are equally
disturbing, smacking of ignorance. They are usually women with heads
full of rollers or young men with sagging pants — both with poor
grammar and exaggerated hand gestures. Another friend, who is ethnic but
not Black, has an older relative who sums up his disgust for
African-Americans in two sentences: “We come to America, beat the odds
start prosperous businesses and so on. You (Blacks) have been here all
this time and do not/can not do the same.” Whenever I hear this “apples
to oranges” comparison, I want to shout back in anger and weariness, “My
ancestors had no choice in coming to America. And they were forbidden
to practice their religion, speak their native languages, and even to
learn how to read and write English! You were afforded the luxury to
take advantage of what America’s forefathers intended: religious freedom
and the overall freedom to pursue the American dream.” My pride longs
to remind them about Blacks like Oprah Winfrey, to share other
African-Americans’ success stories who may be not famous: my
grandparents, for example. The real George and Louise Jefferson. My
grandmother owned two dresses as a girl, and she told me of how she
coveted the iced tea at the White family’s home she and her mother
worked in. “I always thought that was the prettiest drink,” she’d tell
me. My grandfather was so poor as a boy that he only got certain foods
at Christmas. Through earnest and persistent efforts, they got their
barber and cosmetology licenses and opened a barber and beauty shop. The
shop has been in my family for over sixty years. Sigh. As multi-faceted
as this issue is, the same motive is at the heart of all the animosity:
Once again, Black caricatures eclipse those Blacks who cast off the
cloak of poverty, dodge discrimination and “move on up.” My hope for
cross-cultural education improving relations between African-Americans
and others may be Pollyanna. It may be slow to get results. But it is
possible. I welcome sincere questions about everything from the origins
of Ebonics to hair care differences to Soul Food. I’ve learned to say
hello and thank you in a few exotic languages and take it upon myself to
understand the basic principles of other religions. My desire is to
have more tales like this: late last year, I did business with a
family-owned tailoring establishment. I had a nice chat with the lady at
the counter; she was warm, pleasant and quite complimentary. “Have a
nice day,” she said, “Come back and see us,” with a Vietnamese accent.
“Thank you,” I replied, “I sure will.”