Chicago Sun-Times
Discussions across the racial divide

When is it appropriate to refer to a person's race?

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It depends.

For instance, I wrote a personal account of something that happened to me on Monday in which I referred to the person's race.

A reader from Berwyn had a problem with that.

"While reading your column today I couldn't help notice that you specifically pointed out that the truck driver was African-American.

I have to ask. How does that have anything to do with what happened to you? I mean, why even point that out?...That just seemed wrong."

Here's why I pointed out the truck driver's race:

I was telling a story. I couldn't effectively communicate my feelings about the incident without describing the truck driver as an African-American because part of my angst was caused by the driver's race. That's not to say that wouldn't have been upset had it been a white driver who nearly ran over me. I would have been.

But I was trying to send a broader message.

I came up in an age when black people really did look out for each other. As a black woman, I find the disrespect some black people are showing towards other blacks appalling. I couldn't make that point without describing the driver's race.

My reader also argues that by calling the truck driver a "brother," I automatically draw attention to race. What is wrong with that? Had I described him as fat or short or bald, would someone have had a problem with that as well?

I understand that there are people who believe we should all be color-blind. I don't. I believe we should appreciate our differences and see them much like one does the pieces of fabric used to make a quilt.

The fact that I described the rude driver's race shouldn't be taken to mean that all black drivers are rude.

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This page contains a single entry by Mary Mitchell published on July 29, 2008 4:02 PM.

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