Monday morning I was backing into a parking space in town – I glanced to the right and noticed a pedestrian, but he was out of my way. In the next moment it flashed through my mind that I had not comprehended what color he was, so I did a double take.
I am totally into details. I rarely miss a thing - shade of skin color, length of nose, size of eyes, shape of face are all things that I normally notice. Yet I’ve had several of these “wait, what color was s/he” moments in the past couple of years. It causes me to question my perspectives and perceptions.
My mother was a fantastic observer of her surroundings. She had her opinions but for the large part, she was free of judgments. How she felt about what she saw did not distort it. She taught me how to tell if a long-haired pony tail belonged to a man or a woman by observing other features from behind. She was the first to point out that black people came in different shades.
There’s a saying about how God sees no color. But He made color. I prefer to think that he does see and love color, all colors, shades and features.
Yesterday I was flipping through a book that has a chapter by Thabiti Anyabwile. It’s about image. He starts with the whole premise that race doesn’t exist. I didn’t get very far before I was interrupted – first by tears, than by a visitor to my office.
I think it all struck me because I’d had a conversation earlier about our American understanding of customer service and how it might differ from a Kenyan one. I’m among the first to be cynical about such things – but there is a very basic truth in the dichotomy of the fact that we (all humans) are in some sense and on some level - the same and on another level - very, very different.
Holding this truth is so very important because the implications are magnanimous.