I've been coaching tennis this summer with a very diverse group of instructors. Most of them are much younger than me and are in college or just starting. A few were my tennis students long ago and have since grown up and are now teaching with me after having played high school varsity tennis.
Over the course of the last few weeks, I have attended several of their grad parties. At one of these parties, in honor of my friend Ben, something crystalized for me that I had been thinking about for awhile. Ben is Chinese and has several Chinese friends who were all at the party. Two of his closest friends are Penny (also Chinese) and Sam (from India). Ben, Penny, and Sam are all tennis instructors with me this summer. Sam and I were chatting as we watched Ben and some of his friends play Foosball.
"I've never seen so many Asians standing around a Foosball table before," Sam remarked. They all laughed and I turned to look at him.
"You're Asian," I stated
"Well, I guess so...South Asian," he replied.
Later at the party, Penny told me about this web site and showed it to me on her iPhone.
High Expectations Asian Father
Her friends (also all Chinese) chimed in and said it was exactly what their fathers were like as well. I began to notice at subsequent social gatherings and during tennis lessons how Ben, Penny, and Sam were all very relaxed about race. In fact, they weren't simply relaxed...they were decidedly not PC at all. I've noticed this in school as well. Towards the end of the year, I overheard the following conversation.
"Hey, Marcus, I can hear you all the way around the corner," Tim (a white student) said, "it must be because you are black."
"Black people are loud," Marcus replied, "It's because of all that friend chicken and watermelon."
We hear stuff like this all the time and it's mostly done just to get a rise out of the staff. But after a conversation with Ben, Penny, and Sam, I think it's more than that.
"We just don't care," Sam said. "We're more open about this stuff. People are what they are."
"I actually don't like being Asian," Ben remarked, "In most photos, I look too Asian."
"I hate what Chinese culture did to my dad," Penny added, "He's an absolute asshole."
I'm sure part of this is your typical teenage apathy but I have to say I was shocked at some of what they were saying and, after some reflection, it was a pleasant surprise. Racism ends when no one cares anymore about epithets. Certainly when there is actionable hate behind them, we still have problems.
Like the gay issue, young people today are shaping a very different view of race. It's not framed in the classic PC vs. Bigot debate. It's completely different. New rules are being written every day and many people across the entire spectrum of debate on race are going to be metaphorically hit in the head with a shovel.
I don't think they are going to be able to handle it.