Are we in a post-racial age?

I ask this question because of a conversation that I had this past week. I went to observe my organization’s after school mentoring program last week for the first time. The program takes place in the rec room of an apartment complex in southwest Houston where many refugees and immigrants live. Most of the kids there were from Spanish-speaking countries, Turkey and a few African countries. The kids all knew each other fairly well and speak English pretty well. When I arrived, they were at the table talking about how much they disliked school.

After reading and an arts and crafts activity, I sat down with the kids while they were playing with blocks with a high school volunteer. As the kids started fighting over the blocks, one of the Turkish boys said that he did not like black kids and that he only liked white people. The other volunteer and I were literally speechless because the child was six. The other volunteer pointed out to him that he was playing with a Congolese boy at the moment and he also played with another black student at school. I asked him why he said that and he told me that one of the black students was mean to them so he did not like black people.

After Senator Obama began President-Elect Obama, there has been a lot of writing and talking about the post-racial age that we are in. But as the passage of anti-gay marriage bans in three states and my conversation with a six-year old about race shows, people are still supporting and at least implicitly teaching intolerance. This experience made me wonder which adults in his life taught him the stereotypes that he now believes.

Striving for a post-racial age seems to miss the mark. Ignoring our cultural backgrounds is impractical. Our cultural differences exist and impact our lives, so why should we ignore them? Shouldn’t we be striving for an age of tolerance?

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