Sunday’s Wisdom #275: Black and White

“You can’t stop Today, as it comes speedin’ down the track!
Child, Yesterday is history, and it’s never comin’ back!
‘Cause Tomorrow is a brand new day, and it don’t know white from black!”
– from “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” from Hairspray

The first time I saw this musical, I was very surprised at its depth, and relevance. It deals with issues of finding one’s place, and all of us doing that together. Whether it be a fat girl dancing with joy, her fat mother rising above the haters, a black-and-white coupling, a young man being true to his convictions even at risk to his career, a prideful girl learning a little humility, or, my personal favorite, people coming together as equals, no matter their skin color.

That ideal is particularly dear to me.

I grew up in a city that was basically an international way station, which gave us a fairly diverse population. We had white people, black people, natives, Hispanics, people from Korea, people from Romania, and so on. Race, or however someone appeared, was never a big deal, so far as I can remember. We had problems, of course, but not that one. I was never told that there was any real difference between us all, and there was no “us” and “them.”

I was raised knowing that any person is a person, like anyone else.

Of course, I was not entirely ignorant of the problems of racism. I was taught, like everyone else, about the evils of slavery, and the heroism of the Underground Railroad. I was taught about the tragedies of segregation and prejudice under the Jim Crow laws, and the humanity of tolerance and equality, and the peaceful, loving unity which ended Jim Crow. I was taught about the pain, and I saw (and have seen since becoming an adult) the echoes of that pain lingering on for far too long.

Still, those seemed so removed from me, either far away or in the past. Our society might have been scarred, it seemed to me, but it was healing.

I have since been very saddened to not only learn that we had further to go than I knew, but to witness the reigniting of racial tensions, of prejudice and hatred, in my country, and I have learned more keenly about such hostilities across the world. With every new example of racism, be it anti-black or anti-white or anything else, I have longed to see the day when everyone remembers that we’re all just people.

There is no real difference between a black person and a white person, not beyond what you see.

All of us have had to deal with the unfairness of the world, though some lives have been harder than others in various ways. All of us have needed help at some point. All of have ancestors who suffered much, who did terrible things, and who accomplished great things. The history of one race is the history of all races. All of us share the same past, and the same present, and the same future.

However bad it is right now, and however bad it gets, I believe in the dream of Martin Luther King Jr., that we can create a society, if we so choose, where every person is simply accepted as a person. When we know no difference between a black person and a white person, not in how we treat each other, and judge each other, and love each other.

That day, I believe, is coming. It may be longer coming than we want, but it cannot be stopped, and we can make it come faster.

It’s just a matter of what we choose.

I believe in the dream.

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3 Responses to Sunday’s Wisdom #275: Black and White

  1. ospreyshire says:

    That’s good how you grew up in a multi-ethnic environment. I was the same way especially in the neighborhood of my childhood home. We didn’t have that many issues going on, but things became noticeable for me when I moved to a not-so-diverse suburb during my teenage years where I dealt with dog whistle language or store employees trying to follow me around even though I was going to buy something. That’s when it became more clear. Don’t even get me started about my college years and afterward. I’ve also been researching things that haven’t been mentioned in history books which has been enlightening. That and realizing how hurtful certain forms of media were has also been eye-opening to me. If you’re honest and genuine about seeing others as equals regardless of race or ethnicity, then that’s great.

    Out of curiosity, what things have you learned recently about racism in society, history, the media, etc?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Merlin says:

      Hm… it’s not one single, specific thing I’ve learned, but a lot of things but together. I’ve learned that there are people with agendas that thrive on continuing the cycle of hatred. I’ve learned that there is a difference between remembering the past, to learn from it and prevent future atrocities, and dwelling on it, and all the pain within it, until it gets to you and you end up committing the very same atrocities. I’ve learned that it’s a very tight, tangled knot, which can only be undone by what amounts to racial apathy, just not caring what race someone is anymore. I have learned that such is the natural result of the virtues MLK Jr. espoused, those of loving each other instead of hating each other.

      I suppose I’ve just learned that there is hate, and there needs to be love.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ospreyshire says:

        Gotcha. Just know that I’m not one who wants to continue the cycle of hatred. There is a lot of history that doesn’t get talked about which is quite detrimental. You know the saying goes “Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it”. There are times where I got angry not being taught some things in school and whatnot.

        The first big story that affected me after I graduated college was finding out about Black Wall Street. It was a neighborhood in Tulsa, OK that consisted of African-American millionaires due to people doing for self, oil money, but also because of segregation. However, it got razed by the KKK, police, and several armed white people and several people died. It was also the first time America got attacked by an airstrike 20 years before Pearl Harbor happened except this was done by Americans to Americans and no one got punished. No one got punished for their actions and it was covered up for decades. I was shocked hearing about that for example. Definitely check out the documentary Hate Crimes in the Heartland for more information.

        It was frustrating being judged by my skin color and realizing how bigoted so many shows and movies are. Even with all of that, I’m still angry and I hate injustice, but I still can’t hate people’s race or ethnicity. It’s great that you want to see people seen as equal, but I will tell you that in this society you don’t have to prove your humanity and your innocence is automatically presumed.

        I do agree there needs to be love even if it is really tough for me to love others recently.

        Liked by 1 person

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