DARE TO ASK: Is your welcome mat colorblind?
By Phillip Milano
The Florida Times-Union
To white people: Would you invite a black person to your home? Have you? --
I'm a 48-year-old female with children, and all their friends were welcome in
my home as long as they behaved. What a weird question. Get over yourself. --
Colleen, white, Orange Park
Of course I've invited black people to my home. I wish we lived in a world
where this question was patently ridiculous. -- Jorge, 52, Hispanic,
I don't like having stupid people over for dinner. They come in all colors.
-- Georgia, Lodi, Calif.
My guest list for my 11th birthday sleepover consisted of two white girls,
the one Hispanic girl in our class and four black girls. It's called
"friendship." Get familiar with the concept. -- A., 38, Kansas City, Mo.
I have many times, but avoid inviting African-Americans who always remind
others they are black. For instance, the famous comment "I'm the only black
person here." Like we didn't notice. Now you've made people uncomfortable.
That's not a relaxing evening, and you will not be invited back. -- Kristin, 44,
Ponte Vedra Beach
We're just glad nobody gets ruffled by these questions.
But if any white people were to get defensive, it might be because they tend
to overestimate the amount of true, cross-racial interaction they have, said
University of Texas journalism professor Robert Jensen, who studies race and
authored "The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege."
"A lot of white people, intellectually we can say all people are equal, but
how much have we really internalized that?" he said.
Cowardice, housing patterns, church habits and other factors have led to
ingrained racial segregation, which can be monumental to overcome in one's
personal life, Jensen said.
"You might have black colleagues at work, but your personal world is still
overwhelmingly white. We're in a society that still reflects a white supremacist
distribution of wealth and power, as well as our own struggles with internalized
Non-whites are essentially forced to interact with whites all the time, but
for whites, it's mostly a choice whether to integrate -- and therein lies the
"Moderate white America still finds it uncomfortable to bump up against these
realities," said Jensen, adding that class and culture are huge variables in
whether whites accept minorities.
He gave Barack Obama's election as an example, saying it would have been
different had he not been light-skinned, Ivy-educated and "soothing to white
"If he'd framed his politics as based on racial justice, he wouldn't have
gotten elected. Imagine if he had come from a black urban environment, and had a
cadence to his speech out of Harlem or the Deep South. Do you think he would've
ADD OR READ MORE COMMENTS
This is your column. You can help it grow! If you like "Dare to Ask,"
please call or e-mail your favorite newspaper or web site and urge them to start
running it. It's syndicated by
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to email@example.com. You can also hear his
podcasts or watch his