Thursday, February 02, 2006

Searching Hard in Pursuit of Nothing

Recently one of my favorite actors, Morgan Freeman, said Black History Month is “ridiculous”.
His reasoning was that the idea of black people in the US having a single month where their history is discussed is demeaning and that all black history is significant and forms a part of a larger and comprehensive history worthy of discussion year round. At least this ‘interpretation of what he meant’ is what I gathered from all of the news accounts I found to read. I applaud his intellect and his courage.

He also said this:
“The more you talk about race, the more it is an issue that doesn’t resolve.”

This quote lit up my interior and put a smile on my face. The reason it did so is that I have promulgated this theory as my own for some time now and I will tell you that I have had people tell me I am insensitive, and they came close to branding me a social ignoramus.

The conventional and liberally popular theory is that race must be talked about in order to ‘sort it out’ and create a positive line of communication for change. And in what now may seem a complete reversal in tone I see this point as well and it has been productive, in a manner, over the passage of time.

I also believe we could have gone faster if everyone understood that race is merely a concept.

I have told the people willing to discuss this opinion with me that it is my idea race is a mental construct only and therefore not actually real. It is a concept, with no foothold in reality. The idea that a human with different color skin is somehow different from those with another color skin, has no intellectual or scientific merit, and therefore renders the point moot; thus creating a default position of equality in humanness; which by additional rational extension creates a conceptual position, not a reality position, that skin color differences separate us in any meaningful way.

I am saying that we have quite literally invented the idea that race matters. We have willfully manufactured its artificial reality. This is a daring statement, however I believe it to be true. It is all just a concept you see. A pure human invention. The reality of skin color differences can be dismissed in this way. Yes it requires some intellectual exercise, but I believe the idea to be accurate. When the reality of race can be intellectually dismissed then the idea of racial difference is left wearing only its ‘conceptual’ clothes. And then you see, we can just quit talking about it and we have simultaneously created a higher and more positive ground to work from.

How did we change a concept into an ugly reality? It is achieved through fear. Fear of things different. Fear of cultures different and ideas not our own; ideas held by people with incoherent languages and cultures that might shock us. All of this leads to trying to capture our fears; and often the literal capturing of humans and their enslavement such as occurred between the US and the inhabitants of Africa. Greed certainly played a role as well.

I think Mr. Freeman is voicing a clarion signal. He was born in 1937 in the deep south of Memphis, Tennessee. Do you think he has not seen racial intolerance? Yet today he says:
“The more you talk about race, the more it is an issue that doesn’t resolve.”

In candor I say the following with some pride; Mr. Freeman said what I have known for a while. Then again, perhaps he has also known this for a long time as well. Race is a concept. When we reach a point that Mr. Freeman suggests, where it is no longer necessary to discuss the idea, we have come to a refined understanding of what skin color is and more profoundly, what it is not.

Can we all just be silent for a while? Jesse Jackson are you listening? Race is a concept, not a reality. The more you promote differences rather than our essential human sameness, the more you promote race as a reality, then deeper is dug the hole from which we all strain to catch a glimpse of a more dignified and worthy racial and spiritual peace.

This is a difficult mental wrestling match, this idea that race is a concept. To state that it is a concept immediately dismisses the real visual observation that skin colors differ and offers you up to the free-wheeling ‘non-thinking’ race liberals as a bigot.

My wife and I, who are considered white, adopted an infant ‘child of color’ 23 years ago. He is a recent graduate of the University of Texas and we are immensely proud of him. If he carries any racial divide scars they are invisible to me.

During his childhood the only discussion about his ancestry or skin color was limited to allowing him the truth of his adoption and his origin, but never any more than the starkness of truth alone. This might sound like an uncaring parental attitude. Perhaps we should have hovered over him, asking daily if he was treated differently because of his skin color. We took a different approach. We treated race as concept, unworthy of daily discussion or concern. It was treated as a concept devoid of any reality that could craft a real difference between us.

I asked our son recently, “How much prejudice have you experienced in your life”? (The first time he had ever been asked this by his mother or father) He said, “What do you mean? Why would anyone care or bother me about that?” He has lived his first 23 years without the idea that there was any issue for him to deal with; a sort of ‘blind and conceptual’ approach if you will. Ours was a mute response to the world’s raging discussions over color.

I offer this as some small proof that if you can understand my point of race being a concept, then you can learn to see people of a different color through a uniquely filtered and spiritual lens. And I affirm to you that unless you understand race is a concept not a reality, you will continue to be confused and noisy about it. When we all understand this, then we can grow quiet, and peaceful.

If you have been patient and read all the way to this point and I have simply confused you, then I will offer you a simpler borrowed styling from the late John Lennon.

'Imagine there are no races, it's easy if you try.'

And Morgan Freeman, a 69 year old man; a child of the segregationist south agrees with me.

Thank you Mr. Freeman, you made my day.


Grant said...

Say what you want, but I still think Asian women are really hot. Stay away from my dentist. I saw her first.

Otherwise I'm with you.

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

I heard that Mr. Freeman had said that and I thought "Excellent! Truer words were never spoken!" :)

Great post, Rick! :)

Seven said...

Stacy and Grant,
Thank yu for the supportive comments. God's care, and have a wonderful weekend.
(Super Bowl!)

a fish on a bycicle said...

I'm glad I found you Rick, I truly I am (or did you find me?). I offer you fart stories, and you offer me a stepping stone that might change my perception of every day life. It seems an unfair trade but I'm not complaining.

We are very much a multicultural society here in London. I 'feel' I am not racist, but I have never known how to express it, or conceptualize it, until just a few moments ago.

I have a mental image now of the Martians landing and separating us into groups guided by their perception of what is 'different'. Fat ones over there, thin ones here, tall on the right, short on the left, with never a thought for skin tone.

Cheers, have a "super" bowl!!

Seven said...

You are a gem Colin, and the pleasure is all mine.
God's care

Jack Nasty said...

Why can't we love the differences.We are all connected to the same loving source walking around in all different shades of colors, with different back grounds and heritage. Why can't we celebrate the differences. If we were all the same how boring would that be. I learn from people who are different from me. The people who come from different places and look different than me have a lot to teach me. I find joy in the fact that we are a coat of many colors. The question for me is why can't the people on the planet celebrate the many differences and not be in fear of it. Why is race wrong???

Seven said...

Mr. Nasty
I did not say race is wrong. I said race is not.
In my view what you describe would be expressed as learning from and sharing with other people; not learning from and sharing with other people of different colors and races.
One piece of advice that Mr. Freeman gave Mr. Wallace in this recent interview is that they should know one another simply as Mr. Freeman or Mr. Wallace, not as black Mr. Freeman or white Mr. Wallace.
There is nothing wrong with race. In my view this would be impossible as you would be finding fault with something that does not exist. That's impossible and it is the point.
The black leaders that are currently excoriating Mr. Freeman are so wrapped up in the color of their own skin that they have mistakenly come to believe that it matters. This is one of two things: Diminished sense of self or racial prejudice.
Mr. Freeman has escaped this suffocating and unresolvable trap and I commend him.

Sandra said...

I wish more people would open their hearts and adopt as you did -I like you even more now Rick! Did you ever see "Bruce Almighty"? Morgan Freeman plays God. A cool, loving, fair, humorous God. Excellent.

Seven said...

I have loved his acting for many years. I place Mr. Freeman and Anthony Hopkins in a distinct and separate acting league.
(Even though they are different colors...hehehe)pakzb

Rob said...

Morgan Freeman has a very appropriate surname. Like Rick, I have enjoyed his acting and his humanity for years. His eyes don't lie. I think the reason that the race card is played so often by so many is that these folks are not yet free. I am stirred by the Freemans and others who tell it like it should be, even Cosby when he gets on about what young people should be learning and doing with their lives. I adopted two mixed race children- girl then boy, and I'm scared to death as they grow, they might not hear what Morgan is saying to them. My job is to make sure they do, because one day, it will be their job to tell their children. Person to person, generation to generation, like a new underground railroad. Thanks, Rick.

Seven said...

Thats a very graceful articulaton my friend.
Ebony or Ivory....blindness can be a blessing

LC Scotty said...

Excellent post, sir. I think the first movie I remember seeing Mr. Freeman in was Glory; one of my all time favorites.

Honestly, I had never considered the notion that we ought to just stop talking about race, but it is brilliance. I suppose there is a correlation between how important something is and how much it is discussed, the question remains though: Does the importance drive the dialog, or does the dialog create the sense of importance? Or does it work both ways?

Ultimately, we are all human, we all come from some spot in West Africa where Homo Sapiens first arose. Our ancestors, scattered to the four corners of the Earth have been alternately changing as individual groups in response to evolutionary pressure and then co-mingling to redistribute all the goodies.

OT: Thanks for swinging by my blog, please make yourself at home.

Seven said...

Thanks for the thoughtful comment.
Your next to last paragraph adds a great deal of clarity to what I was attempting to articulate.
I think the flow of conversation re: importance v dialog does in fact does work both ways.
I already got you bookmarked...:-)

Memphis Steve said...

The liberals among the leftists seem to feel that if you keep stabbing a wound it will heal. The leftists among the liberals seem to feel that if you keep that wound bleeding you can use it to gain power and control.

And the black people I know seem to feel that white liberals who grovel and apologize for simply being white are pathetic little doormats who don't deserve any respect. And I tend to agree.

Seven said...

Rapped out in language that is decisive and real. I find this view prevalent among many of my friends with white skin.
I do agree with your description of the remarkably myopic view of the NPR (national public radio) crowd of "I'm sure sorry I have white skin, may I continue to treat you as though you need help because your skin color is darker than mine......please let me love you and help you because you are a skin color minority and obvioulsy need lots of help and please, please forgive me and let me bow down to the unworthy gods, because I'm only white. It plays out daily on NPR.
If everyone would just shut the heck up and understand that color of your skin means nothing...and I mean it; nothing....
MLK said "judge a man by the content of his character, not by the color of his skin"...can it get any simpler or magnificently worded than that?