Friday, March 28, 2008

Black Ice

In today's New York Times, there's a story about a black Harlemite who is going to be teaching from Antarctica this fall. A guy called Dr. Stephen Pekar, a geologist at Queens College, recruited Shakira Brown, a 29-year-old science teacher, for the following reason:

“I’m tired of having a bunch of white people running around doing science,” said Dr. Pekar, who is white. “When it comes to Antarctica, it isn’t just the landscape that’s white.”

That's very true. When I was at McMurdo Station, station population was around 1,200—and yet there were only a small handful of black people, maybe less than 20 (or perhaps that's just how I remember it). Which leads to a funny story:

I was talking with a guy one day while working in Antarctica and he was trying to tell me a story about someone else, but I didn't know the guy he was talking about. He was telling me, oh, he's in the carp(enter) shop, he hangs out with so-and-so, he's about this tall, etc.

I'm trying to think who he was talking about and then I realize it. "Wait," I say. "You mean the black guy?" "Uh, yeah," my friend says. "Yeah, he's, um, he's African-American."

That seemed to me the height of absurdity. If we had been living on an island of four-foot-tall pygmies, would my friend have hesitated in describing the island's only pro basketball player as, "You know, that tall motherfucker"? I doubt it.

Some people have brown skin. So what? That's not usually the most easily identifiable characteristic about them—but it is when people with brown skin make up 1% of the population of wherever one's at.

But maybe my attitude on this results from growing up in the south, where it's no problem to say, Oh, yeah, the black/white guy. Also, African-American is often a misnomer: Not all black people come from Africa.

At any rate, I like this development and the story—diversity is always a good thing, and that'll be a treat this coming fall for Ms. Brown's students to see her working and teaching on the Ice.


Jake-Freedom said...

Good call - I totally agree.

Not all African's are black either - I went to high school with a white girl who was born and raised in South Africa and she got a minority scholarship to college because she was "African-American".

scram. said...

hahaha! in regards to your comment, jake - that's ridiculous.

america is awesome.

Ross said...

This conversation seems familiar to me. Who were you talking to?

ClatieK said...

How would you feel about being "the guy with the mustache," considering how mustachioed men have been marginalized in the past?

Also, it's confusing when you get to call each other "my villain" and "Groucho" but the rest of us aren't allowed. No wonder we tiptoe.