I’ve been reading Linda’s blog for some time now and hers is an experience I share. I was touched by her post and wanted to share it with you.
Blogs I’ve been reading lately have been about the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous speech. I wrote a comment on one of those blogs then decided I needed to post that comment here.
“When my daughter was young, back in the 70s, I did a program for mostly white kids using Fisher Price people to show how they were all kind of the same but kind of different–clothes, hair styles, skin color, etc. The mother of an adopted Korean daughter thanked me for that program. Then I did that program for kindergartners who were mostly black–they didn’t get it. There were so used to seeing the differences they couldn’t see the similarities. Broke my heart.
As an adult I was with a group of friends one day when one of the guys made a comment about us not all being caucasian. Surprised, I asked who wasn’t. He said he was Eurasian. I had never noticed.
Apparently it is easier to not notice if you are a member of the group not often discriminated against.”
When my brother was in third grade he had a birthday party to which he invited his best friend from school. The child said he could not come. My brother was heart-broken. My Mom called the boy’s mother to reinforce the written invitation. Finally, the mother said my Mom did not know that her son was a Negro. Mom said of course she knew but he was my brother’s best friend so we really wanted him to come to the party. His mother said in that case he could come. How sad to be afraid to let your child go to a friend’s house for fear of discrimination.
It was years later before I realized that incident may have been the catalyst for me being invited to visit my black school friend’s houses. I played with everyone so I didn’t know there might have been something special about those invitations.
I am so glad I was raised to be color blind.
Color blindness is nice, but it does make one blind to the problems of what it’s like to be discriminated against. I love Linda’s comment, “Apparently it is easier to not notice if you are a member of the group not often discriminated against.”
I’m sorry, but not having been discriminated against it has always been harder for me to put my self in someone else’s place and understand what their life might be like. I grew up, and tried to help our daughter grow up in a color blind world. When I was still traveling as an itinerant preacher I stayed with white families and black families , I have been invited to weddings and funerals where I have been the only white person present, and one of those funerals was in one of the worst parts / most gang-ridden parts of New Orleans before Katrina. All I ever felt was the presence of other people.
To be honest, I was more uncomfortable when I was visiting Northern Ireland on a speaking trip and a dear family took me to a concert in Belfast. The concert itself was fine, I remember them well, The Scottish Fiddle Orchestra. At any rate, we left the largest concert hall in Belfast about 10:30 at night (not anything that normally fills me with unrest). I did notice that all the concertgoers were moving quickly to their cars, but it was not until I saw British troops in battle gear crouching behind cars throughout the parking area and the dispersal area that I sensed what ‘fear’ of assembly might be like. The troops were there just in case the IRA was going to choose that moment to rain fear upon the population. Nothing happened externally – but I was forever changed internally.
I wish there was a simple way to help people move past their inability to see similarity. Over that I weep.