It’s March Madness, so I figured I would go to youtube and relive some of the great one shining moment videos from years past, and you know what stands out the most? It was watching young adults, black and white celebrating together or consoling each other, even opposing team players. At that movement of jubilation or sadness, they didn’t see or look for color. It didn’t matter because they were all in it together.
What a concept!
If only the world could act like that, I think to myself, what a wonderful world it would be. Oh yeah,
I am pleased to see that we have differences.
May we together become greater than the sum of both of us.
-Surak of Vulcan
I am the child of Charles and Frances Cooke two African-Americans born in the early 1900s in the southern part of the United States. As such I have always identified myself as African-American and from time to time was reminded of this by society. From being chased out of a park while being called a nigger when I was 10, having a police officer point a gun at my head when I was 15 simply because I made the mistake of tossing a football around the yard of a white friend who lived in the suburbs, to being pulled over numerous times in my early 20s despite not fitting the “profile” because as kind of a nerd I normally had on penny loafers with argyle socks and matching sweater but my skin color was still the wrong shade.
While my self identification is the result of being raised, loved, and natured by two exceptional individuals who themselves were also African-American I am also adopted, a fact that was kept hidden from me until my late 30s. I know nothing of my biological father other than the fact that he wasn’t African-American. Recently I completed one of those DNA test and found out I was in fact 54.6% Sub-Saharan African and 43.9% European. Interesting I thought as I looked at my results how many of those Europeans had looked at me and seen just the color of my skin and thought of me as inferior? How many of them don’t look like me but have a similar ancestry? Does it really matter what my ancestry is? Does it define how I should live my life?
Our ancestry defines our culture and to a large extend our culture is a leading factor in defining who we are. But while it is a leading factor it does not change the fact that we are all human. Humans with differences but humans nevertheless. It is our differences that If embraced instead of feared would in fact make us stronger as a species. The sun, Earth’s primary source of energy, emits white light but that white light is actually a composite of all of the visible frequencies of light. Without the differences all the colors bring there would be no light at all. So is the case with the human species? Where would we be without our many differences? How would we advance and grow without the varied contributions of so many cultures?
The question before us now is how do we begin to embrace our differences as a species when our entire existence shows we let those differences divide us. Seemingly there is no answer to that. Man has always fostered a sense of loyalty rooted in group identity. We pit race against race, religion against religion, prejudice against prejudice. Divide and conquer has always been mankind’s rallying call. I am pessimistic about our ability to overcome the us versus them mentality in the short term. However I am optimistic that the human is a very promising species and as Captain Jean Luc Picard once said “inside you is the potential to make yourself better…and that is what it is to be human. To make yourself more than you are.” Today our difference divide us perhaps tomorrow we will be better and our differences will be our strength.
Some of us are Republicans, some Democrats, and some independents. Some of us are people of color; some of us are not. Some of us are heterosexual, some homosexual, some bisexual. Some of us Christian, some Muslim, some Jewish, some atheists, and a host of other beliefs; in the end, we are all American, and most importantly, we are all humans.
There is often a fear of the unknown in some of us, an irrational fear that leads to isolation. Isolation leads to a lack of knowledge and understanding about those that are different from us. If history has taught us anything, a lack of knowledge often leads to disastrous results. It also can lead to the continuous growth of the prejudices we all have within us. Those prejudices are stripped away as we begin to understand those who differ from us. However, for those who remain isolated, those prejudices remain and can be easily stoked by people in power who do so for the goal of advancing their wealth and power. These individuals thrive on chaos and division. They speak non-truths and keep the people divided against each other rather than uniting for humanity’s betterment as a whole. They want us to be afraid of each other; they want us to hate each other, want us to lose our compassion for each other, and build walls to separate us. This strategy allows them to take advantage of us all. As Suzy Kassem wrote:
When two brothers are busy fighting, an evil man can easily attack and rob their poor mother.
We must strive as Americans and humans to rise above the evil that seeks to divide us. We must stand together and keep moving forward as a society. We must marginalize those who refuse to embrace diversity. For in unifying one voice into many voices, we will be able to change the despair of today into the promise of tomorrow, and from that, we all will be better.
As Yoda would say: Do not think. Do.
As children, we do not look at each other and think.
How are they different than me?
Do they believe in the same god I believe in?
Where were they born?
What is their sexual orientation?
As children, we do. We see other children and look to interact with them. We do not think about the unknowns of the child across from us. We reject the fear that they may be different than us because we do not believe there is an unknown. We allow our minds to be free, to embrace the unknown and new possibilities. In these possibilities is the growth potential that is essential for the existence of humanity. As we grow, we learn to question the culture, religion, and religion of others. Subsequently, we cease to grow; we stagnant and wither away, unable to or afraid to dream of a better future for humanity.
Yoda had it right. Do not think. Do
In 2008 I was transfixed to my television screen with tears in my eyes as Barack Obama and his family celebrated his historic victory, becoming the first African American President of the United States of America in Chicago’s Grant Park.
Here was a moment I never believed I would live to see.
Here was a man that looked like me
Here was a family that looked like mine.
Here was a family that was now the FIRST family.
It was a moment that I will always remember. It said to me that maybe just maybe, America has turned a corner. Perhaps people of color will finally be afforded the respect that they have always deserved. Maybe America was finally going to live up to the words on which it was founded that all people are created equal. Maybe Doctor Martin Luther King Jr’s dream that we will be judged by our character’s content and not the color of our skin was finally on the cusp of becoming a reality.
But then came 2016, and even though, for eight years, President Obama and his entire family were the personifications of grace and dignity, America elected a man who was the polar opposite. A man who campaigned on division and tactically embraced racism. Maybe I thought to myself, America hasn’t turned that corner.
But as miserable as 2020 has been, something special was happening. 2020 saw the rise of the Coalition of the Righteous. A coalition of varying ethnic and religious groups, gender and sexual orientations, young and old, and they were ready to rebuke Donald Trump’s message of racism and bigotry.
Today the hope I had in 2008 is building in my heart again. On Saturday night, I beamed with happiness as I watch Senator Kamala Harris. a woman of color, address our country as the first female Vice President-Elect. It was an emotional moment as I thought to myself, for 400 years, they have tried to silence us, but here Senator Harris stood, and as she spoke, you could almost hear the wind whispering in the background saying:
WE ARE STILL HERE, AND WE ARE EXTRAORDINARY!
SAY IT LOUD I’M BLACK AND I’M PROUD!
Alien #1: Are you prepared today with your recommendation on the humans?
Alien #2: I am.
Alien #1: Then this evaluation hearing shall come to order. Please proceed.
Alien #2: Thank you. As you know, I have always been an advocate of humans as a species because of their cognitive ability. When tasked with evaluating them, it was my hope that I would find them to be worthy of admission into the Collective of Advanced Planets; however, as I studied them, I was dismayed that they have not even identified themselves as one species.
Alien #1: What do you mean?
Alien #2: When faced with their differences, they do not draw strength from each other, learn from each other, grow. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Rather they choose to make it us versus them. They are drawing lines of race, ethnicity, gender, language group, religion, age, socio-economic status, and so on. That, combined with their thirst for power and money, has led them, at best, to turn their back on and subjugate the weak or, at worst, kill each other. Undoubtedly this has stunted their development as a species.
Alien #1: Yet they still do not change. Why?
Alien #2: Well, I have theorized that the human mind, despite all its unique and special characteristics, is lazy.
Alien #1: Lazy?
Alien #2: Yes, lazy. The human mind prefers to be comfortable. It is more comfortable accepting that which is familiar than that which is different. Even when they come to the realization that their actions are morally wrong and counterproductive, they choose the comfort of turning a blind eye rather than the discomfort of confronting it. Their nature is to live in the moment at the expense of their future good. One can see that in how they treat their own planet. Coupled that with their creation of and need for a socio-economic system in which each group strives to climb over the other. I can only surmise that over the course of their history, there has been a loss of a great many minds that, if not extinguished, would have flourished and led to the growth of their species. Regrettably, it is this lack of self-awareness that humans, despite many tremendous qualities, have proven they are not ready to join us.
Alien #1: Thank you; we will enter your recommendation into the record, and the human’s admission to the Collective of Advanced Planets has been denied.
Alien #1: Looking at the humans again?
Alien #2: Of course, they have always puzzled me.They are
simultaneously remarkable yet an unadvanced civilization.
Alien #1: I concur they are blessed with such vivid
imaginations and curiosity and they have come so far in such a short period of
Alien #2: Indeed one can only imagine what they would be capable of if they
only realized the obvious.
Alien #1: That they are one people?
Alien #2: Of course
Alien #1: What is remarkable is that their history has shown time and time
again the error of their ways yet they refuse to work together for the
betterment of their world.
Alien #2: True, they choose to kill and oppress each other from what what I
can best guess are imaginary lines they themselves have drawn in the ground,
religious belief systems they themselves have invented, the amount of melonin
in their skinand a host of other nonsensical things.
Alien #1: Do not try and make sense of it as it it has always been their
way. Frankly I am amazed they have advanced this far. It is unfornutate and
there is no denying that in time it will be their downfall.
Alien #2: Such a waste but on the bright side this beautiful ball they
reside on is rather unique and breath taking and their actions will undoubtly
leave it vacant and move in ready.