I might be walking on thin ice by the end of this post, because I’m about pick at one of the most sensitive issues in American history, but here goes…
My “modest proposal” is that all white people be put into slavery.
In the spirit of this assignment, I wanted to get really controversial, so I hope none of this offends anyone.
I’ve lived and grown up in New York City my entire life, and I don’t think anyone would argue that New York City is probably the most diverse cultural melting pot in America. Up until college, NYC and the way the city operates is really all I knew (or at least knew well). So, coming to college (and Bucknell of all places) really began to put things into perspective over the course of my 4 year college experience. As the years went by and I became increasingly acclimated to the “whitewash” of Bucknell, each return trip home to NYC became more and more of a culture shock. For the first 18 years of my life I never really bothered to think about the weird assortment of people around me; whether it was an insane person on the subway or some ethic group that I couldn’t quite put my finger on where they were from. It was simply home to me.
In retrospect however, I’ve come to a certain conclusion: everyone is racist.
Not overtly. Racism is clearly nothing compared to what it used to be. And if nothing else, what Manhattan has been able to achieve in terms of its cultural diaspora is an absolute credit. That being said, racism still clearly exists. There are hints of this throughout NYC and society as a whole. Manhattan is actually still a fairly segregated place if you think about it. After all, consider Chinatown (goes without saying), Harlem (the boundary of Harlem keeps slowly getting pushed North, but it is still vastly populated by people of African-American descent), Hell’s Kitchen (back in the day was dominated by Italians), Spanish Harlem (largely Hispanic and Latino), SoHo (I don’t know what weird kind of people live there), or the East Side (mostly wealthy Caucasians). Aside from geography, racism is also subtly placed in common culture: Chappelle’s Show is one of the most well known shows of our generation (currently ranked #50 on the imdb.com list of highest rated TV shows) but at is foundation it is about racism. Granted, Dave Chappelle was trying to bring up the discussion of racism in a creative, unoffensive way. However, the knock on the show was always that it reinforced stereotypes.
So, the point of examples such as those, without belaboring it, is that racism absolutely exists, albeit in a subtle way. Whether it is in the form of an area being called “Chinatown” or a subway car full of 10 different races, all thinking about some stereotype. Despite the thick and thin America has battled through to get to where we are today, there still seems to be some underlying resentment or sense of imbalance.
So how do we solve this? The idea of reparations has been thrown around, but would that be enough? Why not a complete role reversal? Put white people into slavery for awhile and then see how society differs. Empathy at its utmost possible level.
Given that this is a radical hypothetical, I haven’t fully thought through the ins and outs of how this would work. There would need to be some system to see which white people were “worthy” of enslavement. Could you imagine Michael Richards being enslaved by a black family? And how long would someone need to be enslaved for before they got the message? 5 years? 10? 20? And although I have presented this modest proposal in the context of white and black people, there could theoretically be an equal role reversal for Germans and Jews, the British and Indians, and so on. The point of such a proposal would be to provide a much needed balance to a world in which racism clearly still is a contributing force.
On a final note, another interesting thing to think about might be that in addition to solving the problem of racism, such a role reversal might also serve to set straight some economic imbalances. If African-American families in Harlem had white people from the East Side working for them for free for a 10 year period, the economics of Manhattan would obviously significantly shift.
Hope this was an interesting, unoffensive read for everyone.