Chocolate is good, right? (Part 2)

This post, contrary to natural expectations has nothing to do with nutritional guidelines, chocolate’s relationship to estrogen, or even with willpower.  It’s actually about black-white race relations.  This is Part 2 of 2 (I’m not insightful enough to write more than 2 posts on this topic.)

I suggested at the end of yesterday’s post that “separate but equal” may be bad in some instances — probably worse than I realize — but is not inherently bad.

Although we all know exceptions, the various races are largely separate and have been so for quite some time–since Noah or Babel, I suppose.  I’m no sociologist or anthropologist, either, but it might be more apt to say that cultures are more philosophically separate than races.  Culturally similar beings naturally flock together.  I’m not one to decry the existence of black churches and white churches, either.  This status quo seems perfectly natural to me, and not a problem to perpetuate, as long as — and I hasten to add this — there are no animosities or disfavorable glances from one “side” to the other.  Seems to me that periodic get-togethers would be a good idea if a black church and a white church of similar stripe are within reasonable proximity:  the stripes, after all, would presumably represent a good deal of common ground.  However, the fact that people have collected around cultural similarities, whether race is a factor or not, says to me that those natural similitudes and affiliations may be played to, as long as they are not viewed as absolutes for eternity.

In melting-pot cities, I naively, un-observantly wonder if there is actually much integration in any sub-sphere.  2% of me feels guilt when others talk about cities — how God is in the cities and how they love the diversity and feel called to “ministry” in the city, etc., ad culpum (would that be the Latin for “toward guilt”?).

College students where I teach now seem to live somewhat more above racial considerations than I lived when I was their age.  A black student comes to our home every now and then with a group of students, the rest of whom are white.  Sometimes, I think about Mary’s race, but most often, I don’t.  One might say she is more “white” in her  upbringing, and in her current aspect.  She is easy to be around because she is more or less “like us.”  There are other black students, on the other hand, who seem to have chips on their shoulders and who naturally repel me by their mannerisms, their loudness, their dress, and other sub-cultural elements.  I speak here, of course, of only two races, more or less.  The actual situation is more complicated, with multiple racial groups and crossover groups at hand.

A few weeks ago, I heard a story — told by a black student with terrific comedic timing, incidentally! — about a faculty member’s child who, when passing a black student on the sidewalk, called out “Look, mom!  There’s a slave!!!”  (Major embarrassment ensued — far surpassing awkwardness.)  No slight was intended by the young child, of course.  It was merely an application of a recent learning, without wisdom or perception.  The problem comes not in the event but in the adult baggage surrounding the event.

The other night, I had Jedd on campus, and we went to the library.  A very dark-skinned female student came up to the counter as we were leaving.  I suspect she was Jamaican or Sierra Leonian or something — not a light-brown, American “black.”  The girl had an attractive countenance and was larger than life to my 34-month-old son.  He looked right up at her and warmly assessed, “You look like chocolate!”

She smiled and talked to him a little more.  Jedd’s comment was genuine, patently un-racist, and was probably at least marginally conciliatory.  I smiled and said nothing, trying not to look embarrassed or too anxious to get out of there.  Chocolate is good, right?  I mean, to say someone “looks like chocolate” is a positive, or at least neutral, thing.  Trying awkwardly to “correct” my son would have been inappropriate, I quickly thought, and I was pleased with my lack of overt reaction, although I was inwardly feeling pretty awkward.

As we walked away, I thought about race and tried not to carry my adult baggage too muscularly.  I hoped the girl was doing roughly the same.

I don’t like to think about race.

I’m not sure Jesus thought much about it in His human time, either; after all, He really only lived and moved among people of one race.  There’s not a lot of direct scriptural advice when it comes to race.  It’s up to us to apply principles of grace, love, and … well, of Jesus.

2 thoughts on “Chocolate is good, right? (Part 2)

  1. Sally Rogers Clark 04/06/2012 / 8:29 am

    There is so much I’d like to say in response to this article. For years, I have been writing such an article in my mind; maybe now is the time to put it on paper (or rather, on electronic media).. My mind is whirling, and there are so many things I want to comment on. I think I’ll start working on it soon…

    Until then, thanks for your thoughtful articles.


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