New Jersey is the nation’s fifth most segregated state for blacks and the fourth for Latinos, says Cassandra Jackson in The Accidental Caucasion, her July 6 essay  for the Huffington Post. Jackson, who is African American, teaches English at the College of New Jersey. She tells about her difficulties in hiring a nanny. Prospective nannies “heard Caucasian” in her telephone voice, but when they met her in person, they were no longer interested in the job.

I had delightful phone conversations with numerous white women, who when they arrived at my door apologized for getting the wrong address. They looked terribly flustered when I announced that I was indeed the person that they had spoken with by phone. Some recovered from the shock. Others sat nervously peeping at every photo frame in the house to figure out if my husband was black too. One quickly announced that she would be raising her hourly pay rate.

She refers to the research of John Baugh, on how speech can trigger discriminatory practices.

Writes Jackson:  I am reminded that even in the age of Obama, Americans are still deeply invested in race as an impervious category of difference. Indeed, it is the reason why the Obamas are black, rather than multiracial. Racial difference is still the primary means through which we understand our world and our place within it. And, any experience that challenges categories of race is usually unwelcome.

Thanks to Lesa Day, an author, speaker, and parenting coach, for drawing this essay to our atttention. Read Jackson’s essay here.