My good friend Sarah shared this link with me that I think is worth posting again. It’s an article on the current Tiger Woods situation, with a focus on the racial aspects of its cultural interpretation and portrayal.
I’ve become hyper-sensitive to racial issues in the past year and a half. Moving from the south to Oregon (what I would declare the whitest state ever) drew so many of those conflicts and complications into sharp relief, and grad school hasn’t hurt.
My students here, most from Oregon, the rest mostly from Washington or California, imagine the South to be this place of hatred and racism, where every hallway still has separate water fountains and even if they aren’t labeled that way anymore, everyone still wishes they were. This was not my experience of the South at all, and it saddens me that such ignorance still abounds.
Obviously, the history is still there, is still visible in many cases, and still deserves a lot of attention. I am not here to defend anything racist that has happened or does happen in the south. However, to paint my experiences and personhood (as a product of southern states) as less than, backward, callous, and shallow, merely reflects your own weakness.
My university experience was one million times more diverse (and enriching because of that) than the one at the university at which I teach and my students attend. They. Have. No. Idea.
One of my aunts suggested that my students probably all get their ideas about the south from Gone with the Wind and Dukes of Hazzard. I think she’s probably right. I tried to tell them that regional stereotyping isn’t nice. I tried to tell them that by making these claims about an entire portion of the country, they were, in effect, practicing the same things they were preaching against.
ANYWAY. Race is real (despite all contradictory biological non-evidence) because it exists in the minds of my students. Race is real because it still informs relationships and everyday interactions…including those surrounding the Tiger Woods story.
I encourage you to read the article I linked above published on the fantastic blog Racialicious, which deftly addresses issues of race and pop culture.
Ultimately it’s not enough, but awareness of our own and others’ understandings of race, difference, and identity, in all regions of the country, and how those are coded is where we need to start.