sorry to be so long in responding - my life has been crazy lately. My upbringing was vastly different from yours. In all my schools (in southwest Dallas) the students were either Caucasian or Hispanic. The first black student enrolled in my high school in 1969, my senior year. It's not that my parents were trying to keep my siblings and me from knowing people of other races, but there weren't any other races in our part of town, there really weren't. After our public schools were desegregated (by court order), many more black families began moving to other parts of town (previously they'd mostly lived in far South Dallas), and in the late 70s and early 80s we had an influx of newcomers from Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia, and so on, so our Asian population began to grow. When I met my future husband in 1968, I think he was the first person I'd ever actually met who was a first-generation foreigner (he was born in Holland). So I really grew up in a narrow world in that regard, but I didn't realize it because that was all I knew.
I have lived in Dallas most of my life. There have always been very definite boundaries between the races here. I worked with a lady who used to be a realtor, and she said for many years there had been an unwritten policy on the part of the major real estate firms to steer any black clients to South Dallas; they pretty much wouldn't even show them property in north Dallas. So north Dallas was for a very long time solidly white, and the northern suburbs as well. Even now, in the 21st century, the Dallas Morning News is running a project called Bridging the North-South Divide that has been pointing out the numerous ways in which the southern sector has been neglected in terms of infrastructure and investments. And of course the southern sector is predominantly black.
My southern suburb is (by last census) 48.8% white, 45.5% African-American, and the remainder divided between latino & other races. I know lots of people of other races now, but not to the point where we sit down and have serious discussions about their racial experiences and history - but neither do we sit down and talk about my experiences with a father who disappeared from his kids' lives...what I mean is, unless you know someone really well, it's likely to seem contrived or forced to just bring up such topics of conversation.
I think I agree with your statement about retiring the words diversity and multiculturalism. In using them so glibly, don't we in a way dismiss the real essence of a person and forcus solely on the exterior, the color of skin? In Dallas we have had city councils that constantly fell into bickering because they always divided along racial lines, always looking just at "our kind" rather than at what is best for the entire citizenry. It has caused me sometimes to almost despair of there ever really being racial harmony.
I have a question for you. I believe that using the term "African American" to describe every black person in this country is absurd. As my husband points out, he was born in Holland and is a naturalized citizen, but he doesn't describe himself as a "Dutch American," just as an American. My ancestors came from England, Scotland, Ireland & Germany - I guess I should label myself as English-Scots-Irish-German American. Doesn't it seem that using the African-American terminology indiscriminately is yet another way that we put a wedge between our races?
Thank you for your post. I really appreciated it.