Glibness aside, it is thanks to the law and stricter standards for public behavior that life for minority racial groups in America has somewhat improved. But the fine concept of “We the people” hasn’t survived in we, the people. A dangerous undercurrent of hatred and fear still undermines our nation’s health. Legislation can’t penetrate intolerant hearts, and nothing has remedied the fact that countless individuals have been “otherized” – in effect, made invisible – by the historical willingness of a few to spread lies and the many to gobble them up. No one has managed to megaphone home the point that buying into stereotypical myths of any sort – hello – makes about as much sense as seeing a sale ad for prime rib in section C and proceeding to eat the newspaper.
Let’s break it down. At the core of one form of racial prejudice, strangely enough, is a harmless little element called melanin, the dark pigment found in hair, skin and retina.This doesn’t exactly let a lot of dark-eyed, dark-haired white folks off the hook, does it? Not surprisingly, the dictionary has a label for them, too. Melanochroi. Things get interesting when you add this to the debate.
If you were born of two melanous parents in the last 500 or so years, it wasn’t your lucky day in the U.S. of A. If, however, one of the two was relatively pink or whitebread-looking, you might have been perceived as a more exotic version (Americans LOVE exotica). Even then, though, you were in for a rough go. To this very day (and few would admit it), too many see diversity as meant only for merry diversion and gossip fodder, certainly not for inclusion.
Emerson had the notion that humanity has an innate tendency toward improvement, “The races meliorate, and man is born.” “No, no, the Aryan race”, say some Melanachroi and their pale-skinned amigos in mindless megabigotry. One epidermal cell capable of synthesizing the insidious dark pigment is one cell too many in this, our native land. Which land, by the way, had native Natives who were doing just fine for thousands of years before we came along. What happened after that remains a source of sadness for the few indigenous peoples left to cope with the hostile unmelanous who couldn’t care less. Perhaps this is a good place to note that Native Americans traditionally addressed all forms of life – all – as “thou”, an object of reverence.
Melanin does have some strange properties. Persons having it feel nothing, but many people without it feel something akin to panic when it’s nearby, unless they are busy panicking because they don’t have it and in a tanning booth paying to get it. Melanic individuals never think about it until they walk out the front door, only to be reminded by some idiotic quasi-unmelanous who would have all to know that it causes small brains, big thighs and stolen property. This naturally ticks off the melanous (showing almost the only moral outrage left in town), who know that natural beats store bought any day of the week and the rest is all pig swill.
Middle America has a hard time with these things; nobody ever really paid attention in high school biology. The world today belongs to the glitterati, celebrities and the mealy-mouthed mythmongers. Be that as it may, truth is what we seek, and the truth of a matter is not determined by how many believe it. The melanous are up to the eyeballs with the lobbing back and forth; they already know who loses.
Clearly, it is the lazy racism of habit, a slow absorption of mythological ignorance that over time becomes ingrained as fact and makes seemingly good people say and do appalling things to make others small. Look at Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder or Al Campanis, who both learned a few years back what should have been the private lessons of unsure youth at smug elder age, in public.
Melanin itself is oblivious to all the lies humanity can conjure up, unaware of its own enigma. It will solidly endure, shamed, shunned or highly sought, beautifully natural or “wannabe” bought. And – this is corny – but what the heck did we all think a freckle was?