There’s a hilarious scene in one of Jackie Chan’s Rush Hour series where he follows Chris Rock into a joint run by black brothers.
Chris, being black, goes something like “Wassup Nigga” and gets a friendly reply. Then Jackie, who plays the role of a cop from Hong Kong who knows little about American culture tries it on his black hosts – with disastrous results.
That scene of how its OK for a black to call another a Nigga while someone else of a different shade couldn’t, is, for me, emblematic about how Americans and much of the west approach color: with a hypersensitivity bordering on the ridiculous.
Color to us coloreds, or if you want to be politically correct about it, the pigmentally advantaged, is a fact of life. We talk about it all the time, joke about it, acknowledge it and the fact that darker hues are generally not that desirable even among huge swarthy of the swarthy.
But to whites, or shall we call them the pigmentally disadvantaged, and those who have drunk the liberal kool aid, all talk of color is somehow abhorrent and racist. It’s as if we are all expected to tiptoe around the room not acknowledging that there is a colored elephant in the room.
It is this mentality that has conditioned the shock and awe that greeted Meghan Markle’s revelation to Oprah Winfrey that someone from the Royal Family asked if her son might pigmentally gifted.
Why is it racist to wonder what shade the baby would come out, since the mother is partially Indian, is beyond the reasoning of many mixed couples and multiracial families.
The English language, does not different between racialism and racism. Perhaps it should. The former an acknowledgement that the world is not monochromatic and needs to be perceived in all its hues and shades; the latter a description of prejudice because of someone’s skin tone.
When I was working in Malaysia in The Star many decades ago, before the country descended into its racial stereotyping and tropes to what it is today, we all used to be totally aware of our race.
We’s rib each other mercilessly and tell racial jokes to each other, have good laugh about it and ed up in Rennie’s for a beer or eight. At the end of the day we were all racialists, in the sense that we were not color blind.
This did not shield us from the realization that beyond our racial stereotypes and traits we were all humans and friends. We could live with those difference and we did.