There's an interesting article in the Seattle Times this morning about how despite the fact that today's generation likes to think we're colorblind, race is still an issue in America.
Since moving to Seattle a year and a half ago, I've noticed a very strong vibe that goes something like "Racism? What's racism? We love diversity. Woo hoo! Go diversity!" In theory I like this, because I don't like racism and I do like diversity, but I think there's a point where both race and diversity can become fetishized.
When I was interviewing for a job during my first months in the area, I was asked about experiences I'd had working with people who were different from me. I told them a story about working with a girl whose personality was very different from mine, and how I learned to work with her despite that difference. "That's nice," they said, "but we meant something more along the lines of racial or cultural diversity."
"Oh," I said. "Well, the truth is I've been living and working in Utah for the past six years, and there isn't a whole lot of diversity in Utah."
"Perhaps age diversity?" they suggested hopefully.
So I told them about working with people who were old enough to be my parents, and how we overcame the generational divide, or some such nonsense.
And then I got home and remembered that in my then-current job I had a black coworker, two of Asian descent, and two gay guys (counting myself)--and that out of a total of maybe half a dozen employees. The thing is, it's not like the diversity among us produced any problems we needed to overcome, or for that matter that it made our work environment particularly rich and textured beyond the extent to which our differing personalities and idiosyncrasies did.
I didn't get the job.
I don't claim to be colorblind and I'm not sure that's really the goal, but I do try not to keep a mental scorecard of how many black friends I have, or how many lesbians. Because that would make them not my friends but my black friends or my lesbian friends. And that's dumb.
So I understand that it's important to recognize racism where it exists, and to address it frankly as such. Problems don't go away by pretending they're not there. But on the other hand, I understand why some people are kind of sick of all the emphasis placed on race and diversity and would rather just talk about people. If we'd start focusing on individuals rather than on groups, we'd have fewer instances like one referred to in the article above, where a man assumed his coworker had grown up in some gang-infested project simply because she was black.