Story by Elisabeth Jordan (above); Commentary by Christena Dowsett (below)
The sun bristled onto the stark washed concrete. He walked alone, as a tall building to a flat landscape. It was a swift moment, matched by the speed of the car as it raced alongside my thoughts.
A black man walking, unkempt, out of place. My heart raced and my breath drew short.
As soon as I had passed him I felt the tension release from my body. The old judgment had crept in and its immediacy terrified me. It saddened me. I had not seen him. I had only seen what I had been taught: to fear the different. Different skin color, different clothes, different gait.
Wrapped in my trespass I went on methodically, as though I took this route every day. On lonelier roads, it happened again. Green trees providing shade above a singular man walking. This time, I looked not at his garments nor judged his gait; I found myself gazing at his face as if familiar. He looked like a friend of mine … a friend from the streets.
Racism: A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities AND that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.
In America we often think of racism as black and white. We are trained in the notion that those of darker skin are somehow less worthy than those of lighter skin. It’s in our TV shows, our education system, our churches, and our families. We prefer, often on both sides, to stick to our own color.
It has dawned on me, over and over again, that the only way to kill racism is to become friends with someone of the ethnicity that you fear.
You cannot hate Muslims, when you hear how much their heart breaks over terrorist attacks too.
You cannot hate Hispanics when you learn the stories of what they went through to get here and how desperately they miss their families.
You cannot hate White people when you learn what their upbringing was really like.
You cannot hate the Mentally Ill, when you befriend those who suffer.
You cannot hate the Poor when you spend an afternoon wondering if your friend will have a warm meal tonight.
You cannot hate the homeless when one becomes your friend.
You look for your friend on street corners; in the faces of panhandlers.
As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”
Today let us love. And make new friends.