Updated: Dec 31, 2021
Growing up on a farm in northern Indiana, surrounded by white people, my only exposure to people of different races was watching Soul Train on Saturday mornings, right after American Bandstand.
The color difference between the two shows was staggering but as a child…who hadn’t grown up experiencing the color divide…I didn’t see what other kids saw…what adults saw.
I saw two shows where young adults danced…where I got to see the latest fashions and upcoming singers. I saw happy smiling faces and I wanted to be like the people on TV.
Believe it or not, more than anything I wanted to have beautiful dark skin. I didn’t comprehend the difference between the races…and I’m so thankful for that. I would spend hours basking in the sun with baby oil smeared all over my body trying to get that deep rich dark skin. It never happened.
You know what else never happened? I never developed a hatred or fear of other races…because I never understood the racial difference between us. I saw blacks and whites the same way I saw people with brown hair versus red hair…green eyes versus blue eyes. It was just variations of being human.
My freshman year at Purdue I experienced my first racial encounter. I had signed up for a Gender and Racial Diversity class. My counselor thought it would be a good idea since I came from such a small farming community. I’m not sure she was right for the right reasons, though.
I sat in class and listened to other students recount stories of sexism…racism…hate crimes…and they were angry. They had every right to be angry given how they’d been treated and what they’d witnessed.
I, on the other hand, had no such experiences. Naively, I shared what I had experienced. I shared how I grew up in a white community and watched Soul Train. How I didn’t understand the racial tensions because I’d not had to face them. I openly asked why we couldn’t move past the hate if we didn’t believe there was a difference. The class exploded.
All their pent up aggression was directed at me…a naive farm girl who didn’t understand why we all just couldn’t get along. Why we couldn’t just decide that from that point forward that we weren’t going to buy into the racial…stereotypical…bigoted bullshit. Who would we be if we weren’t defined by our differences…our fears…our hate? So many had been conditioned to continue the fight our ancestors had started…because someone had to win the war. Nonsense.
If we really want to move forward as a race…as a human race…we need to learn to celebrate our differences and to embrace how very much we all have in common. We will never be able to right the wrongs of the past…and it’s not our job. Our job is to forgive…to heal…to love.
Whether our perceived differences are race, religion, sexuality, nationality…what does it matter…what does it really fucking matter?
Go ahead, make your list of why it matters because I’d love to see it. The only thing I could possibly consider putting on my list of why it matters…is because I don’t understand it. I don’t understand why you are black and I’m white. I don’t understand why you are Muslim and I’m not. I don’t understand why you are gay and I’m straight. I don’t understand why you were born in another country and I was born in the US.
And it doesn’t matter. I don’t understand why the world is round either…or how quantum physics works…or why my hair is brown and my eyes are hazel.
And it doesn’t matter.
Those things exist…you exist…I exist. And we are all human…and that is the most amazing, unexplainable thing we have in common. We are walking miracles. Let’s treat each other like it.
If you still can’t get past race, religion, sexuality, nationality then I’ll leave you with this question….what do you hate about yourself…fear most about yourself? Cause I’m pretty sure that that’s what drives your bigotry.
Let’s work together to create a new cult-ure. One of love and equality. Namaste