Saturday, March 16, 2013

RACE: Are We So Different?

We are different, but only on the surface.

I applaud MOSH for their exhibit that takes an honest and earnest look at the manmade racial categories that overshadow our God-made humanity. It is called "Race: Are We So Different?"

If we are to close our eyes and listen to our brothers and sisters around us, we might have a greater perspective to what they are saying.

Instead, it is impractical to expect us to go about our lives blind to the amount of melanin that defines our individual existence. Reality demands that we see our world in terms of colors and hues that force us to face stereotypes and perceptions each and every day of our lives.

Although I grew up in Orange Park and was sheltered from the crucible of busing and desegregation that defined much of Jacksonville’s local history, I faced the subtleties of race when I attended public schools in Clay County.

As a black student in a majority-white school system, I was fortunate to be staffed into the gifted program. I had the opportunities to take advanced and honors classes that I knew were not enjoyed by my peers of color.

It was a challenge for me to find students or teachers who looked like me. To their credit, Clay County’s public schools were focused on my education regardless of what color my skin happened to be. The fact that I am a productive member of society could be credited to the dedicated men and women who mentored me along my search for knowledge.

This, in my opinion, is the essence of what a color blind society should be. All that I knew was that I had the chance that generations of families risked their lives to attain – a free, quality education for every student. Surely, there were times when I witnessed racism but my youthful optimism permitted me to believe that these incidents were manifestations of the dying gasps of a truly lost cause. This is a mindset that I understand was a luxury that could be afforded to a young suburban upbringing. I am grateful that I did not have to endure the reprisals, recriminations and retaliation that marked the education of many in my generation.

Even when race riots erupted at my high school in the early 1990s, I had the perspective to know that good and bad in our world were not as simplistic as racial lines and stereotypes. This was a defining point for me because I was exposed to the dangers of race matters when they are not addressed in a healthy way.

Today, I am glad to know that our city is taking an honest look into the issue of race to help us come together and learn something new about ourselves and our community.

Perhaps, one day, we will all be able to list ‘human’ when we see ‘race’ on a form or document to complete.

The dream as envisioned by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for a society that sees character over color does not have to be impossible.

See you at MOSH!

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