Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine


Closing Pandora’s Box

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When I look in the mirror, I see a man—but I remember that most people see a black man. I realize that I am from one of the hundreds of various dark races in Africa but I remind myself that my soul is colorless and that color is not relevant to my character or virtue.

I strongly believe that the currency in this universe is character and virtue. In an ideal world I am a man without a color qualifier—or more bluntly, a color disqualifier. Walt Whitman was a poet but James Baldwin was a black poet. Einstein was a scientist but George Washington Carver was a black scientist. Joe Namath was a quarterback but Doug Williams was a black quarterback. Incidentally Doug Williams won the Superbowl in 1988 and hardly anyone wanted to talk about it.

I’m not here to complain about racial inequality because I just don’t want to do it here. However, events towards the end of 2014 left me speechless. Many of my new friends had lots of questions about race relations and how I compare conditions in Canada with those in the States. Without getting into the specific issues, here’s what I have to say: The laws that were written about which people were white and what rights that they had came into existence when Canada and the United States were “acquired” hundreds of years ago. To my knowledge, the only historical mention of white skin pre-North America was in European love songs.

When skin color became a legal and constitutional issue, Pandora was let out of the box. So here is my simple wish for 2015. Let’s close this Pandora’s box back up and seal it tight.

Here’s how to do it for me. When you see me, see me—not black me. I will in turn see you—not a white or whatever-color-you. I am happy to celebrate your heritage with you when you don’t approach me with judgments based on your cultural value systems. I’m happy to let you be you when you are happy to let me be me. I’m disappointed when the biggest take away from our meeting is my skin color. I will be equally disappointed when the main thing that you want me to gather from you is that you are Swedish or Irish or Newfie or Nigerian. Let’s talk about some real issues like empathy, sympathy and compassion.

In 2015 I want us to find value in reexamining our personal narratives. Let’s not be so strongly defensive of traditional opinions—they are not truly our own. We have to illuminate the blind spots in our social perceptions. Many of the problems that I see in the news today are a result of social blindness and tone deafness. Those are the provinces of privilege or in some cases abject poverty and ignorance. Wherever we are on the social spectrum, we can become more responsible for our own attitudes.

We’re better than we were last year. Let’s break the hate cycle. Let’s build a more loving society by working together towards mutual understanding. Love is work. Let’s collectively roll up our sleeves and get to it.

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