I am blessed to have lived in a number of different countries through various phases of my life, so I admit I see the world a bit differently than most. I have been outside the proverbial forest so often, I think I can offer a unique vantage point of the trees (humans) within.
I am not a sociologist, so I can’t argue those issues effectively, but I do recognize human behavior patterns due to my background in marketing. Human’s typically believe pretty close to their parents beliefs whether that be religion, politics, race or any other things we are typically taught not to talk about. If we can’t talk about our differences, how can we expect to resolve them?
I thought about science as a solution since it is not as taboo of a subject. I started thinking about the “color of racism” and found some interesting things. Since it is hard for a blind person to be a racist, I looked at this from what we can see instead of what we can’t.
Did you know that in physics, a color is defined as visible light that has a specific wavelength? Therefore, neither black nor white are colors! White contains all wavelengths of visible light, while black is the absence of visible light. Therefore, if you try to define a person's race scientifically or mathmetically, you will get a divide by zero error!
So if the color spectrum isn’t the correct way to refer to people of different colors, I deferred to a friend of mine from the opposite end of the scale for answers on how he would like to be addressed. I asked “should the subject of color come up, how would you like me to answer it?”. He just laughed and said “However you like, it’s just a label, it isn’t me.” I replied: “But if I had to use a label, which would you prefer?”, as I was trying my best to be politically correct. I absolutely loved his reply: “Well, I think I was born a negro; but became a black person; then somehow without my input I became a person of color; then about in the 1980’s, I became an African-American. But now, you can just call me by name.”
We quickly became friends. A few years later, there was a real estate conference in Northern Idaho I wanted to attend and my wife couldn’t make it so I asked him if he would like to car pool and share a room. He replied “Are you kidding, they use people like me for marsh mellows up there!” I was so color blind that I didn’t even think about the Aryan Nation having a compound up there at the time.
A few years later, we both served on the Board of Directors for the Ada County Association of Realtors. When we were being welcomed in on our first day on the Board I replied, “It is about time we had some color on the Board”. The room went silent as people thought I just invited a lawsuit. Instead, I put my arm around my friend and said “He has the most colorful personality of anyone I know, what did you think I meant?”. My friend put his arm around me and said “Thank you. What did you think Jim meant”? Again, the room went silent for a bit, until we started laughing.
To this day, I still struggle with labels. I think about the term “African-American” and wonder what the 4.5 million whites in South Africa think of that term? I wonder what someone in Britain would think of being called an African-American or is the politically correct term there supposed to be an African-Brit?
I recognize that racism is no laughing matter, but if we spent more time being “humor-beings” instead of acting like human beings, we might all get along better.
I choose to laugh with people, not at them!