Motivational and Inspirational Stories
Being A Color
Author: D Anthony, D-Rose Impressions, 02/01
started out as a casual conversation. My friend had mentioned
in a previous discussion that she was irritated by an
interaction with her daughter's teacher's assistant at
the elementary school. Her daughter was reprimanded for
hitting another student - explaining to no avail she was
only retaliating for being hit. My friend had an issue
because her daughter alone was reprimanded, with no
consideration that her daughter was not responsible for
the initial infraction.
Apparently, her inquiries didn't go over well with the
teacher's assistant and, as my friend reported it, she
needed to walk away before it grew worse. After giving
the event additional thought I, a couple days later, mentioned
that I felt the teacher's assistant had reacted in just
about the only way she could have. She hadn't witnessed
the reported initial infraction - thus she had to respond
only to what she saw. I could see by her expression however
that my logic was not going over well.
I continued "the teacher's assistant was not in
a position to believe one child over another or in any
way show favorites." "She had to rely on her
own eyesight", I added. Getting even more visibly
upset now, my friend disagreed, telling me "there
is more to the story." You bet there was more to
I went on to tell her "regardless
of the situation, she was likely just doing her best in
a difficult situation." I asked her "what did
she think - that the woman had something against her daughter."
I told her "no matter how you view it she had failed
by not being able to stay and work through the conversation."
I guess I really didn't notice how much her body language
was changing. But by the time I did notice it was out
Through anger, through tears, she bellowed, "You
don't know what you are talking about
she's a racist!"
There it was
It was never about her daughter, the
other kid, who was lying and who was telling the truth
- no it was about so much more. It was about perceived
interactions between the teacher's assistant and kids
of other races
it was about an overheard comment
made to a parent - and that parent's subsequent discussion
with my friend
it was about impressions held by
a few parents and even a co-worker or two
about the media
it was about past struggles
it was about present pride
it was a lifetime
of emotions forcing their way to the surface. Wiping
the stream of tears from her cheek she cried, "she's
Timing couldn't have been better as she was late for
an appointment. A cooling off point was definitely in
order. We agreed to finish the discussion later that day.
Thinking about the conversation, I was somewhat amazed
at the force with which the feelings had erupted. All
of a sudden these feelings, obviously deep rooted and
ingrained, had bubbled out - past long standing inter-race
past the lessons of a successful career
in corporate America
past gratitude for her children's
past the logic of fairness and doing
the right thing. "I heard her tell a parent that
their little girl was showing her 'black attitude'
people like that shouldn't be allowed to be around kids
other people feel the same way
and if that makes
me a racist, then maybe I'm a racist too", had all
found a resting place in her feelings. And I was amazed.
It's interesting that no matter how far things progress,
an undercurrent of racial tension seems ever present.
Of all of the factors (including gender, age, education,
tax bracket, religion, birthplace, height, weight, language,
marital status and profession to name a few) which combine
to make us so fundamentally distinctive, it is race that
typically results in the greatest divide. It is race that
stirs up the greatest passion. Why is that? Is it because
of unresolved history
fear of that which is not
or just plain old ignorance?
Whatever the reasons, we will never be what we could truly
be as a human race until it is resolved. And the only
way it will be resolved is one conscious at a time. Thus,
I set out to prepare for our follow-up discussion.
Catching up with her later that day, I guess I shouldn't
have been surprised. Her outburst, short as it was,
had been emotionally draining. And I was a shoe in
for the title of 'Person Responsible For Her Headache'.
Undaunted because of the importance of the topic, and
armed with what I believed to be a more logical approach,
I forged ahead - confirming she wanted to complete the
I asked if she had ever seen the teacher's assistant
mistreat a child of another race. "No", was
the admission. From the dictionary I read, "a doctrine
or teaching, without scientific support, that claims to
find racial differences in character, intelligence, etc.,
that asserts the superiority of one race over another
or others, and that seeks to maintain the supposed purity
of a race or the races." I asked what word I had
defined. "Racism", she responded. "Do you
think that description fits the teacher's assistant"
I offered rhetorically. I turned to another page and read,
"having little knowledge, education, or experience;
uneducated; inexperienced." I asked what word
I had defined. "Ignorant", she answered. "What
are the chances that ignorance more appropriately explains
the actions of the teacher's assistant", I continued
"What are the chances that ignorance more appropriately
explains your interpretation of the assistant's actions?"
Already, I was starting to detect just a hint of doubt.
I moved on to my next question.
I asked if, to her knowledge, the kids perceived a different
treatment for some. "No", again was the answer.
I asked if all of the impact, positive and negative, of
her daughter's interactions with the teacher's assistant
were tallied - whether the overall impact would be positive
or negative. "Positive", was the response. I
challenged her to recall any past instances when anyone
had assisted her in a flawless manner, no matter how well
intended. The undeniable truth is we are all human - which
unfortunately suggests we all are subject to saying and
doing the wrong thing at any given time. And because we
are human, assistance can't be expected to be perfect. The true measure of an individual is not what he or
she says and does at any given instant, so much as it
is the sum total of their words and deeds over a period
I reminded her of a recent episode of a television show,
'Boston Public', centered on an elderly Jewish teacher
accused of being a racist. The last straw was when he
bluntly asked a police officer searching the school grounds
whether the suspected assailant was black. Prior to the
hearing to expel him one of his African American students,
a target of one of his questionable remarks, approached
the principle in the teacher's defense. The principal
asked the student wasn't he offended when the teacher
told him, "my job is to get your black a-- in college".
The student responded, "no, because he will get my
black a-- in college".
When it's all said and done, we were all created as magnificently
complex individuals with countless attributes which, incredibly,
ensure that each and every one of us is perfectly unique.
Personally, I believe the creator's plan was to introduce
all of these differences, the constraints and opportunities,
to provide us with choice. We have the choice to look
beyond those differences. We have the choice to celebrate
or to reject those differences. We have the choice to
do the right thing. In other words, to quote a D-Rose Impressions passage, "I don't know for sure but based
on what I've heard, of the two, hell is more likely to
Definitely considering this new information and how it
should be incorporated into her thinking my friend was
definitely on a different path now. 'Truth be told', I
believe she was a little surprised herself at the severity
of the outburst - and it's obvious deeply rooted origin.
I reminded her that she shouldn't believe the 'hype'.
Unfortunately most people are more than willing to accept
the latest popular rumor, perception, or opinion - with
or without substantive foundation. And seemingly the more
negative the better. I was reminded of the philosophical
conversation I overheard in the university library between
two women of apparent educational status. One woman had
spent several minutes building her case that bad always
negatively impacts good. "It's the case even in nature
when you rub charcoal and paper the charcoal rubs off
on the paper", she explained. To which the second
woman responded, "you're right
I never looked
at it that way before." Having heard about as much
as I could take, I walked over to them and said, "excuse
me I couldn't help but overhear your conversation
first of all for argument's sake let's assume that your
premise that light is good and dark is bad is somehow
valid." I continued, "How do you explain what
happens when you rub white chalk against a blackboard?"
I paused just long enough to watch both of their mouths
fall open and turned and walked out of the library.
I suggested to my friend that a more appropriate response
than a discussion fanning the flames with the parent might
have been to approach the teacher's assistant. She could
have simply indicated she had overheard the conversation
and, as a concerned parent, had obvious concerns. Maybe
the teacher's assistant would have explained
she would have apologized
maybe she would have been
a jerk. Whatever the response it would have given speculation
a chance to become knowledge
it would have given
understanding a chance to grow.
As the discussion concluded, I offered that as much
as young people today speak of words like racism and discrimination,
the truth is that most of us do not really have an understanding
of what they truly mean. I told her "talk to
your parents and grandparents... read up on your great-grandparents
and great-great-grandparents - then you'll get an appreciation
for what those words are all about
how they look
what they sound like
how they feel." On
that day I was able to make an impression on one person - a dear friend whom, I believe, will factor these thoughts
into future perceptions and actions. It was a good
Michael Jackson has an interesting lyric in one of his
songs that goes - "I'm not going to spend my life
being a color." Maybe one day we will get past the
use of race, and our other God given characteristics and
attributes, as criteria for grouping based inclusion and
exclusion. Maybe one day we'll see them as the true blessing
that make each of us special. For some reason I believe
God's favorite color is that of the rainbow.
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