Archive for February, 2008

My Brother’s World: Perceptions of Race
February 22, 2008

     The warm rays of sunlight penetrated my epidermis as I sat watching a young boy of color prance in and out of a spewing fountain. The water must have been refreshing for him, but it could not have been as refreshing as seeing the smile on his face. His bare feet, rolled jeans, and shirtless body were bombarded with shots of water springing from the ground; laughter saturated the air. I sat mere feet from a sign that forbade playing in the fountains, but there was no way in God’s colorful earth that I was going to end this excitement.

     Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a middle aged couple quietly enjoying the same sunlight. With skin as fair as the falling cherry blossoms, the couple seemed to be entertained by the sight of a careless, euphoric child. After further investigation, I noticed that they did look as refreshed as I did. In fact, the sight of stern brows and pointed eyes obliterated my perception of their noon-day bliss. Although they did not notice my observations, it was quite obvious that the boy of color was the recipient of these glares.  Bitterness and resentment seemed to radiate from their body as they relentlessly peered at the boy, and I failed in my attempt to dismiss this misunderstanding because the looks continued for several minutes. The sun and serene park gave no reason to justify these faces of disgust. Are they upset that we were breaking the rules? There must be another explanation; after all, the aggravated beast of prejudice has been dead for years.

     As my heart began to beat faster and stronger, my wife gently touched my arm to dispel the emotions she saw growing. She led us to the other side of the park because of her fear for the verbal manifestation of my emotions (in retrospect, I would have ignored the loving protection of my wife, and confronted the beast that I thought had long been dead).

     As we walked away, the dissapointed child told me that he did not understand our departure. With as much truth as I could muster, I squeezed his hand tighter and said, “I don’t either, brother…I don’t either.”          

     Perceptions of race have evolved little since the formal dismissal of segregation. Though we quietly co-exist, Dr. King’s assimilation never fully came to fruition. Churches, fraternities, and sororities loudly proclaim the fact that we will retreat to segregation when we feel we can get away with it. Prejudice and discrimination still confidently hold their places in America’s storybook, yet we fail to see them because of cohabitation. At the core of these issues, the perceptions of man lie. My wet, baby brother fell victim to perception of color by individuals who probably are not aware that color still sparks certain emotions within them. My friend who complemented the African-American basketball star during a post-game interview for being “articulate” is also unaware. We can mandate the mutual use of bathrooms and water fountains, but how do we alter the hearts of men? After all, it is that heart that determines where man goes and what man believes.

     In my humble opinion, a world where individuals are color-blind is as mythical as religious unity, but this reality should not dampen the efforts to educate the ignorant and reason with flawed perceptions. Honestly, I am scared for my biraical brother. He has neither white men nor black men to fully embrace him in a world where color most certainly matter. The looks I receive in public as he proudly rides on my shoulders foreshadow issues that he will be forced to endure. His ignorance will fade quickly. Through all of this, I still see hope.

     It is much like the boy who stood among the hundreds of thousands of starfish that had washed up to shore. As he picked them up one at a time and hurled them back in the ocean, an older gentlemen asked why he could concern himself with a battle that will never be won. “You can never save them all,” he said. The boy picked up another starfish, held it to the light, and replied, “No…but I can save this one.”

     The tyranny of racial perception is a beast that cannot be slain; however, a single heart is vulnerable to truth. Truth…is that we were all created in God’s image. Boasting of this craftsmanship, how anyone could be perceived as anything other than a beautiful replica of a timeless treasure… is utterly beyond me. Ultimately, I forgive the couple in the park on behalf of my ignorant brother, because it is what his Creator desires. However, we have more work to do.  

Coming Soon: