Yesterday, I stopped at Subway for a sandwich. The young guy who started my sub then said, "Sir, I ask this only because I care about the quality of your sandwich: are you willing to have this black guy put on your vegetables?" I stared at him. "Please realize sir, he is black." This was obviously his idea of humor and the young man to whom he was referring looked somewhat bemused and mostly resigned. I said to him, "It's an odd country. You can be white and black and black is what you are labeled." "Yeah," he said. "I'm half nigger and half cracker." Oh good, I thought, my sandwich is going to be made by a young man filled with self loathing. Unsurprisingly, it was tasteless. I should have said something witty or acerbic or critical, like "Oh yeah!" but instead, all I said was, "I'll have the cucumbers, alfalfa sprouts, and olives."
In the wake of Geraldine Ferraro's racist remark about Obama, I do wonder about this. How is this that a man who has one white parent and one black is automatically considered a black man? ("I don't know why people are so shocked that she would say this," quips Bernard. "Those Italians are notoriously racist.")
In a great scene from one of Jorge Amado's novels, a group of Brazilians are gathered around discussing race. Brazil has a little of everything and in spite of a reputation for being generally tolerant of one another, race problems emerge. The characters are getting quite philosophical about all this when (I believe it was) the blacksmith breaks his silence. "The answer is to have everyone interbreed until even God can't tell them apart," he announces. At 20, this seemed like a brilliant solution to me but I got very little cooperation in my attempts to put it into action.
Maybe, just maybe, when we finally read that Obama is a white guy whose father was black, we'll be en route to this world of racial confusion. I may have scuttled my personal plans to execute Amado's plan, but I still think that racial confusion might be the final solution to racist confusion.