A Point of View © 1996
White and black not like day and night.
By Paul V. Montesino, PhD., MBA, ICCP.
Today I want to write about a difficult subject, one that brings me out of the circle of comfort in these times: our racial divide and frequent racial controversies, those disputes becoming often violent. And it isn’t an American problem, it is a universal problem. What else is new, we ask.
Before I start, I want to make several important disclaimers: my skin, for lack of a better word, is what most folks would describe as white. Big deal, you’d say, and I’d agree. I am not an expert in race relations and I don’t have the philosophical, intellectual, moral or ethical qualifications required to analyze, evaluate, never mind offer the solutions to racial conflicts or speak about any specific race or its behavior, including mine. I am not a reporter; I am simply an observer and a columnist who comments about what he sees.
Unless you’ve been living on planet Mars for the past century or so, and didn’t have a radio or TV receiver or an Internet connection, you have probably witnessed, read, or heard about racially inspired violence by some people who seemed to know not only the source of the problems, but also the solutions, and were willing to be extremely vocal and violent.
A well-documented genealogical Microcondrial DNA project published a few decades ago, found and reported that seventy seven thousand years or so ago, lived in what we know as East Africa, a man who was black and had offspring. Those black descendants grew up, “left home”, and dispersed through adjacent geographic areas, creating a biological diaspora.
During that long time, their skins, their hairs, the color of their eyes and even their languages and beliefs in an after-life that justified their worship, evolved as a result of many causes that the experts have speculated but I cannot enumerate because I wasn’t there, I am not an authority and It wouldn’t serve any practical purpose these days anyway.
Of one thing we are all in biological agreement: everybody alive today, you, I, Europeans, Asians, Americans of the north, center and south, indigenous groups, Arabs, in other words, the whole of humanity, are evolved descendants of that same East African black man I was talking about a few sentences ago. If you don’t think we are equals, ask the pandemic virus if it differentiates by color or nationality between the victims it attacks.
If that man had been a billionaire, you and I would be fighting for his financial inheritance and try to prove we are all equal, not different, but unfortunately all we have is the right to call him great-great-grandpa. Yes, he is the common grandpa many genealogical steps back.
After countless wars, invasions, colonization, voluntary or forced migration moves from one continent to another, we attack or criticize each other because we have created differences from each other that we consider natural but are actually accidental results of several thousand years of social evolutionary decisions. What makes that situation tragic are our constant battles against each other trying to justify why we are right and those we consider different are wrong and are willing to kill each other to prove it.
A lot of blood, a lot of tears, a lot of abuse has been the result and cause of that behavior, the result when they have been the painful application of our hate, the cause when we use them to excuse our own prejudice. That the consequences of that behavior persist doesn’t make it right, it makes it wastefully criminal.
We have a clear picture of the waves of conflict as they hit the shores of human understanding, but that is not the question, isn’t it? The question is what to do to protect us from what is an obvious destructive flood. We need education and legislation, but above all else respect and empathy. We have to identify and accept when our own prejudices blind us to a reality that says very little about our humanity. History shouldn’t validate the past, it should only describe it, and it certainly shouldn’t justify the present, never mind the future. When we wake up every day we should ask ourselves: what can we do today to make the world a better place to live in harmony with everybody, not just somebody? Criticism, finger pointing, tasteless jokes or grandstanding won’t do it. That’s only a distraction intended to kick the can further some more.
And we shouldn’t go to bed at night until we know what we did that day to find a response that would make us sleep peacefully and look forward to a new sunrise the following morning. That sun, in case you haven’t noticed, rises for all to give us light and warmth every day without remembering if the day before was cloudy. Open your windows and wave to your neighbors. They share life with you and there is only one life, this one.
We are all of the same basic soul color. Unfortunately our eyes are trained only to see their reflections under the clouds of confusion and misunderstanding. Our trip through this valley of tears is brief and we should make an effort to get along with our fellow travelers remembering that it isn’t the destination what counts, it is the journey. The recent killing of a black man by a white police officer who knelt on his neck is a valid social metaphor: if we want to feel secure, many of us need someone else beneath us. It’s about time we feel compassion for those beneath us.
And that is my point of view today.