My neighbor is suing me in small claims court, claiming I'm discriminating against her because she drives a Lincoln Navigator! Lots of people have been discriminated against for lots of things but, trust me, this is a first!
So. What does this mean? This means that my crime is so unusual, so bizarre, so weird that my neighbor and I have actually been invited to appear on the Judge Judy show! Seriously. We are scheduled to be on the air around the end of March.
Being discriminated against for owning a Lincoln Navigator got me sidetracked into thinking about discrimination in general. I've been discriminated against because I was a woman. I've been discriminated against because of my children. I've been discriminated against because I was old -- how come all those hot guys never ask ME out? -- but I've rarely personally experienced the burning soul-searing rejection that African-Americans still suffer from as a matter of course. Maybe they no longer experience the lynchings and beatings so much any more, but still....
My son's school principal, a consummate professional who is dedicated to her work and who is making extraordinary changes in the lives of the children in her charge, once told me, "Even now, even in today's modern America, whenever I walk down the street in a white shopping area, I can see the women I walk past visibly start clutching their purses -- as if I'm about to steal them. When that happens to you on a regular basis, it's hard to keep your sense of self-worth from being affected."
While I was sitting there thinking about racial bias and what it all means, I got a call from my friend Toni who teaches African-American history and I started telling her my thoughts on racial (and Lincoln Navigator) discrimination.
"Jane," Toni relied, "Americans are not getting the big picture here. Half of America has Black DNA. They just don't know it. Or won't admit it."
"Yes. During the bad old days of the Jim Crow segregation laws -- not to mention the bad old days of slavery -- circumstances for African-Americans were so cruel, so unjust and so out of hand that a very large number of 'Negroes' who looked at all Caucasian simply changed their names, moved somewhere else, passed over the color line and mixed with the white population."
Wow! Half of America! Do you know what that means? It means that, to do it right, racists have got to discriminate against five out of every ten Americans -- including, more than likely, even themselves!
Fascinated by Toni's new information, I did some scientific research, went to Google, typed in "Passing for White" and up popped an article by someone named Steve Sailer.
"Is mixed-race ancestry fairly typical for an American?" asked Sailer. "In two ways, it is. First, more than 50 million whites, according to [molecular anthropologist Mark D. Shriver's] analyses, have at least one black ancestor." 50 million Americans? Wow. That's one out of four. No wonder my sister's hair is so dark, thick and "naturally curly"! Maybe I am African-American too. How does one find out?
Fascinated, I e-mailed my friend who is a genealogist and got her on the job. It seems that my great-grandfather suddenly appeared in Oklahoma in 1900 -- from out of nowhere. There is NO census record of him anywhere in the United States before that time. Maybe he too was one of those folks who moved from one place to another or changed their names in order to try to "Pass for White". Maybe my high cheekbones don't just come from my Cherokee great-grandmother. Maybe my daughter Lorraine isn't the only one in my family with African-American blood.
Would I be upset if I suddenly discovered that I might be part "Colored"? Hell, no. If I found that out, I would be delighted!
Now if I could only find out that I am part Chinese too. Why? Because I want to have as many diverse genes in my DNA gene pool as humanly possible. The larger the gene pool, the more one has room to swim!
And also, isn't it high-freaking-time for all of us to start to "live in a nation where we will not be judged by the color of our skin but by the content of our character"?
PS: I'll let you know when me and my neighbor duke it out on national TV. I'm really excited about this! I get a hotel room, paid meals, a free plane ride to Los Angeles and 15 minutes of fame! Plus maybe someone will give me a Lincoln Navigator too -- so that I won't have to be discriminated against for not having one either -- although I'd much rather have an electric car and hang out with Al Gore.