Opinion: The color of our skins

POSTED: 07/21/14 2:00 PM

Ever met someone who was proud of his white skin? I did. It was 2005 and I was canvassing a neighborhood in California for work. Suddenly, there was this old guy in his garden who started a conversation with me. Forgive me for not remembering the details of the conversation. What stuck was a remark about “a few good white boys” and related remarks that made it clear to me that I was eye to eye with a thoroughbred American white supremacist. Did this make me feel uncomfortable? You bet. I did not want to get into a discussion with this bloke and I certainly did not want to do any work for him. I looked for the exit – fast.

Yet after all these years, that encounter has stuck somewhere in the back of my mind – maybe to remind me that real racists do exist in this world and that some of them have no qualms about their perceived superiority over other races.

When I arrived in St. Maarten eight years ago, I quickly became “that tall, white Dutch guy.” In itself that’s of course an accurate description, but what often followed were remarks like, you’re coming to tell me in my country what to do?

My answer has always been the same. No, of course I am not coming here to tell you what to do. The thing is, I have an opinion and you have an opinion. They are not necessarily the same and they are what they are – opinions. My opinion is also not necessarily better than someone else’s opinion. It is – quite often, I should add – different, but I would rather die than claiming that my opinion is better than the opinion of someone else.

How do I get to this point? Ah, yes, racism. Describing someone as tall and Dutch is one thing. Why add white to the mix? I don’t get that.

The police used to send Today reports about robberies that contained a description of the suspects, including remarks like “of dark complexion.”

Given the demographics of our island, I’ve always thought that the addition of skin color to the description of a robbery suspect is unnecessary and also useless. Why? Because it is not a distinguishing feature. It would be different if the suspect were white. I have always left the dark complexion-description out of the reports that appear in Today.

Some may find this racist. Does this not suggest that I think that all robbery suspects are “of dark complexion?” I thought about that, too. And the truth is, in the seven years that I have done court reporting for this newspaper, I have never seen a white robbery suspect sitting in front of the judge.

This is, however, more a matter of demographics than anything else. I figure that in, say, China, most bank robbers would be Chinese. Would the police in Peking describe suspect then as “having Chinese features”? What is the point of that?

The trouble with racism and discrimination is that it is denied so often. Seldom do people dare to speak or write clearly about these issues. When they do, they “play the race card” – something akin to the tantrum of a three-year-old who does not get his way. “You are doing this because I am black” is a weak argument. We happen to know that a local journalist has used this argument when someone refused her an interview. It is the reasoning of someone who has no real argument to defend his (or her) case.

I suggest that we stop doing this kind of stuff. As a truly colorblind earthling, I consider it more useful to judge people by their actions than by the color of their skin, their ethnicity, or their nationality. There are bad hats everywhere – of all colors, of all nationalities, and of all social classes – and in all those groups, you find good people too.

I for one do not judge people by what they look like, if I judge people at all. Actions speak very loud, louder even than the color of one’s skin.

Hilbert Haar,

Editor-in-Chief @ Today

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