When I first moved to the West Coast, the importance that people placed on race and ethnicity amused me. I noticed that people were more conscious of identifying others by their heritage or their neighborhoods by the predominant group within the area. When my husband and I first bought our home in Santa Ana, people said we were "brave" for buying in a "Mexican area."
I grew up in New York City, which is arguably one of the most "diverse" cities in the world. Yes, we used such "identifiers" - Harlem was a Black neighbrohood, Astoria was a Greek area, Howard Beach belonged to the Italians. And their was racial and ethnic strife. But at the same time, it seems to me that the level of meaning was shallower in New York. Let me give an example - if someone asked me, "Tell me about so-and-so" I would say, "Well, he's a Black guy . . .", In New York that was about all that I meant and what the listener understood. In contrast, I find people on the West Coast automatically assign a lot more to that statement - oh, then it must mean he's a Democrat, and that he listens to jazz, and that he is supporting Barack Obama, and he does not dress conservatively, and plays basketball well. Back in the Bronx, it meant simply, myeh, he's Black.
I'll limit my observations to what I experienced growing up in the Bronx. Maybe down in Manhattan it was different. In the outer boroughs of the city - a place where few visitors frequent - maybe it was supported by the subconscious thought of well, we're all in this same sh*thole together that fostered this "lack of appreciation", if you will, for "celebrating diversity."
What brought this musing on? I was looking at pictures I took of my son's first grade class, singing a song at last Friday's school Mass. When I first looked at it, I thought, "Oh, okay, there's so-and-so's kid, and there's that girl, etc." But then I noticed the faces and thought, as if these kids gave a damn, all they know is that they're standing next to their friend, following Mrs. Aguilera as she leads them through this song, and they are completely unaware of each other's race or ethnicity . . . they're just kids getting through the first grade together. The Los Angeles Times has not told them yet what to assume about what Mexicans mean to the future of Los Angeles, or studies of how Asian children perform in school, or why the Black community suffers from the lack of paternal role models.
At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, "Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.