In Ursula K. LeGuin’s 1971 novel The Lathe of Heaven, the protagonist, who can re-shape the world with his subconscious, is guided to dream of a world without racism. And rather than change peoples’ minds, he creates a world in which everyone is grey – no different races equals no possibility of racism.
I thought about this when I saw the results of a Public Policy Polling survey of likely Republican voters in Mississippi that reported that 46% of the respondents thought that inter-racial marriage should be illegal. That poll was taken in April, 2011 – not April, 1911. I should say that I was “outraged”, but I think the more appropriate word is “dumbfounded”. Clearly, none of those Republicans have spent a lot of time in California.
I don’t want to sound too-PC, but I don’t think about race that much. Working as a professional scientist, the labs I’ve worked in have been filled with people from all over the globe, all creeds and colors – and the California I’ve seen isn’t that much different. For the last decade, non-hispanic whites have been the plurality in the state, but are no longer the majority. And even that will likely change in the next decade due to a rapidly growing Hispanic population. Asians also make up ~13% of the state’s population – four times the national average.
Of course, with all these “different” people running around, some of them are bound to start falling in love and having babies. Babies that caused the number of census boxes labeled “two or more races” checked to skyrocket in the most recent census. I think about the houses on my street: mixed, mixed, white (us), Asian, white, Asian, mixed, white – and it seems perfectly normal to me. Last weekend, I attended a kid’s birthday bash – his father is Mexican-Asian, and his mother is Pilipino-Anglo. So what box does THAT kid check? But of course, I didn’t think about that then – I thought, what a great heritage this kid is inheriting because the collection of food here is awesome.
I don’t want to make it sound like we live some corny utopia where we’re all singing “Kumbaya”, but in my daily life, no one I know seems to think about it very much – or at least there isn’t a need to quantify it. Diversity and different heritages seem made for great cocktail conversation rather than for divisiveness. It makes me hope that in a couple of generations, I can imagine the “race question” may have so many convoluted “answers” that the question itself becomes meaningless.
Though I think LeGuin got it wrong, we’re not going to end up grey, but tannish-brown. I wonder how that’ll play in Mississippi.