Remember when Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time came out? The Internet was abuzz with controversy. American-Swedish-Jewish Jake Gyllenhaal was cast as the titular character (the Prince of Persia, that is, not the Sands of Time). Many were aghast at Hollywood’s clear Euro-centrism. Of course, historically speaking, the people group living in Persia when the movie is set would have been Caucasian anyway. Not that such minor details seemed to dampen the outcry. Still, I can see where they’re coming from, especially regarding a movie claiming to be the anti-thesis of 300 (which is true: if 300 made Persians look like Uruk-Hai, Prince of Persia made them look like Jedi Knights. They can even defy gravity). It just might be kinda nice to see someone who looks like you be the hero of a major Hollywood film.
All of this being a rambling introduction to the topic at hand. It’s odd, isn’t it, that it’s often those who cry the loudest for racial equality who draw some of the most visible lines in the sand between races, with all intended benevolence. But the end result is the same: people are treated differently based on how much melanin their bodies produce. I saw an article a few months ago about a scholarship that was drawing all sorts of flak because only white males were eligible for it. It makes sense in a backwards sort of way. I can think of any number of scholarships that you have to be a black female for, or a first-generation Asian student, or Hispanic. So why not one for Caucasians? Racial equality, right?
Don’t think that I’m not grateful for all the efforts and sacrifices that have been placed on the altar of equality, though. Because I am. I am, after all, in a minority. Without such activists, I might very well be picking cotton in Texas somewhere right now. It’s only that such efforts seem rather like they must fall a step back for every two feet forward. Wouldn’t it be so much better if, instead of trying to make sure everything is divided up so that every ethnicity gets its fair share, we could simply ignore such superficial differences and take each person at his own merit?
And it’s strange to be first of all defined by an ancestor so far lost in the sands of time that I don’t even know what country he was from. I am French, I am German, I am Irish, I am Native American, I am Cuban, and yet I am an African-American. Because dark skin and curly hair are dominant biological traits. As I said, strange.
I should now be drawing toward my conclusion, wrapping up all my arguments and placing the maraschino cherry on my thesis. Only I haven’t really got one, I suppose. Neither the thesis nor the cherry. If you twisted my arm though, I guess, it would be simply that we ought to take another at face value, not face value, if you get my meaning. We like nice classifications, neat little boxes into which we can shove everything and everyone in our worlds. Black and white, rich and poor, like me and unlike me. Only it doesn’t work like that. Because then we start drawing lines, right down between those boxes. Because then it’s the ‘like us’ against the ‘unlike us’, even when we originally drew those lines to attempt to ensure that everyone got his due. And that, my friends, is an ugly place in which to be.