A Conversation on Race.

I had a conversation, via a social media site, with an old friend of 40 years or so. It started out with one comment, evolved into another. And even though we are good friends, we see things very differently.

J said:

I love people. White,black,yellow and brown. Old and young. I have been fortunate to have different folks in my life. It is my greatest wish and dream that we can all look at each other and respect the differences we have. Embrace that we aren’t the same and accept things we don’t understand. This is my mantra.

Although I appreciate her perspective, one thing bothered me a great deal. The whole issue of skin color first.

So, I replied:

When we stop labeling people with colors, only then will we be accepting of everyone. I prefer to say I respect all peoples. I can’t say I love them if I don’t know them. And some people I won’t ever love because of the way they treat others. Respecting the humanity of another is more vital than love, because it accepts their negative attributes and positive attributes equally.

Love is a word thrown around far to casually. That demeans the value of meaning of the word and emotions it evokes. Love comes in many levels, from agape love of deep friendship, to the passion of romantic love. But a global love of all mankind is impossible as long as we maintain a thinking brain capable of reason and individual thought. We will always have our prejudices, and our exclusiveness of those who are different than our norm. An alien invasion might bring humans of all sort together against a common enemy, but as soon as we are safe, we will go right back to squabbling like children.

J said:

Well we would be ignorant to not acknowledge color and it’s differences. It would be a kumbya world if we could say “human being”, but we don’t. Let’s wake up smell the coffee and talk about these things openly and honestly. That’s it for now.

I replied:

How is it ignorant to not notice color? Culture and language sure, because culture and language are different from place to place. But neither has anything to do with color. I know blond haired Mexicans of German descent. So, am I supposed to look at their skin color and make a judgment on whether they are Mexican or German? Their families have lived in Mexico for three generations, are they still German just because they have light skin?

Skin color doesn’t matter a damn to me. I’ve lived in too many places with too many different cultures. What matters is how people treat other people, and how they make the world around them a better place.

Coming from a multicultural family, with every race from American Indian, to African, to European, and even a bit of several other groups mixed in my blood lines, I have relatives who are everything from snow white to dark brown. A family reunion is a colorful site to see. But, we are all related.

So is most of humanity in one way or another. Kumbya moment or not, when you can look past color and see the human beings FIRST, then you are truly on the way to acceptance and INclusion instead of EXclusion of everyone.

One of the things I found most wonderful about living all over the world is getting to know women of other countries. The thing is, once we found a way to communicate, we discovered we are very much alike. Everyone has different experiences, naturally, but at the core level, we are very much alike. We love our families, we work hard, we are smart, and each of us have that giving spark and deep down urge to nurture, even if we don’t have kids. We get each other’s humor, and we understand each other with compassion. And we can do all of that with a look, a smile, gestures, and a nod of the head or wink of the eye. And skin color has nothing to do with it. It is all about being a human being.

In a perfect world, everyone would get past the color issue. But, we are all human, and it isn’t ever going to be a perfect world. However, I hold out hope that some day everyone will learn to respect the differences as much as the likeness of one another. And I am blessed to have already crossed that threshold. Still, there are some people I will never love, or even like, because of the way they treat others. And that makes me human and imperfect too.

No response from J yet.

So now I am awake and thinking this over instead of sleeping. I cannot find a way past how I think, because to me it is so very wrong to look at skin color first. Yet, here in America, we do, and that bothers me a great deal more than I thought it did. Because I don’t care about race or skin color, I simply cannot get my head around the idea that it is so important to other people. Each race has issues, some more than others, about the entire topic. And I am not talking black and white only, it is also obvious in other groups who come here, move into the same area creating a cultural ghetto, and sit around hating America and their neighbors for being different. When they talk about it, skin color always seems to be one of the first comments on the list of “Why we hate …”.

I live in what many call the Mid-South. Traditionalism is greatly valued here. This is a former slave state, and has a huge population of their descendants. In the five years that we have lived here, I have never seen anyone be disrespectful to another because of skin color. It is almost a conscious decision that everyone has lived here for many generations, and that is all that matters. The only people they look at twice are “outsiders or Northerners”. Because, like in many places, if your people haven’t been here for 100 years, you are new to the area. But, Southern hospitality trumps all, and people are welcomed with a graciousness that is unexpected.

Memphis is the largest city anywhere near me, and it also has a huge population of black Americans. As with all large cities, it has it share of crime. There are areas that I will never go to, day or night, because it is too dangerous. Those areas are mostly white, black, or Hispanic. One race, one language, and exclusion of those who are different, creates racism. There are also areas where I may be the lightest person in ten miles, but no one cares as long as I am respectful. The same goes for my area. Mostly white, but mixed with several other cultures, as long as people are respectful, there are never any racial problems.

Yet, there are still those who have prejudices that are taught to them from birth. And that is a true shame. We, as human beings, should have evolved past that by now. Instead, we see certain groups encouraging racism toward others just because of skin color, affluence, or any number of petty differences. Creating a false idea of caste and classes is one of the surest ways of dividing people.

Giving a face to the seven deadly sins is an instant creation of anger, fear, hatred and racism. Using the pulpit to encourage that behavior is absolutely against the tenants of nearly every religion I have studied. Yet, we see it happening all over the country. Using racism to score votes is equally abhorrent, yet it is regularly done from coast to coast every election cycle. Inciting fear and hatred is against everything this country has worked toward for generations, yet there are still those who use both as a way to prod people into discontent. Bearing false witness about another is a sin, yet so called religious people do it all the time toward other religious people who are “different.” And still, in today’s so called enlightened world, we use race and skin color to create offense, and highlight differences among us. Until we get past that and accept the humanity behind the skin, it won’t change and we will be that much worse off for it. .

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