In response to, “Why can’t we just ignore racial differences already?”
In the 70s when I was in HS, our town had 11 black kids in our three year HS of 2000+. Most of them lived in our neighborhood, along with the Koreans, Jews, and the rest of us Catholics of varying ethnicity, mostly Polish and Irish in that town at that time. The white “Protestants” were definitely the minority in our neighborhood, and in the town generally, and they were looked upon with suspicion by the rest of us. It was the 70s and “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland were in full swing.
When I was right out of HS, a very baby-faced 18 year old (think Jimmy Baio, Scott Baio’s pudgier younger brother) and was working in the factories and later as a security guard was when I first ran into “real” black guys, guys who had grown up in neighborhoods that were all black, where they weren’t the “other”. I got to be really good friends with this guy Bill I worked with as a security guard on the swing shift, we’d cheat playing crazy 8’s with each other, tell stories, bullshit, he was goofy, we had a good time. He was older, in his early 20s, just out of the navy. He kept talking how he was gonna get me a job with him in his cousin’s bakery that paid real money, $10 an hour, we were gonna go hang out at his bar, we were gonna do a lot of things that we never did. Because one night, I’m giving him a ride home, and you know, the polite thing is to invite someone in for coffee or whatever but he gets real embarrassed and goes “yeah, um. I’d invite you in but… my family… you know… “ I was kind of too stupid at the time to say anything, so he goes on “well, you’re WHITE. It wouldn’t be safe for you, in this neighborhood.” That’s the first time it really sank in for me, how serious this race shit was. That he was worried I’d get assaulted, worried he’d get physically harmed, just for being seen with me. A white guy.