“I really don’t want to know.”
by Jennifer Ben-Khaffed
I am honored to write for The Abolitionist Examiner about this very sensitive and illusory issue: the question of why literate humankind has to choose a label, and fill in a corresponding box, in an attempt to describe their physical attributes.
My opinion would best be stated as such, “ I really don’t want to know.”
I will, however, detail why I answer this way; as I know in the future, possibly very near future, I will encounter a form asking my race, and I do not at all look forward to viewing such a document. This is life: there are some things one just simply doesn’t want to do and yet must, true?
There are, too, boycotts….
- “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from his mouth doth man live” [Matthew 4:1-11 – Quote on my parent’s refrigerator]
I, myself, look first at the word race. Indeed for me, a race is and always will be something in which one competes. One can win, come close to it, far from it, or be the very last. There could be a physical impairment, causing the person to not finish. Or, as with the Road Runner, a vindictive wolf may be waiting at every corner aiming at ruining the effort. A myriad of results comes out of a competition. How one copes with the result is what makes any competitor a winner.
For example, initially one may feel a natural emotion like shame or fear about not “winning”. Feelings are tangible, coherent, existing and paramount to their holders. Some at a “loss” resign themselves to “failure”, some practice harder, some try another interest, and some, who never seem to amaze me, trot off as if “it’s just a game” were stamped on every chromosome in their being from conception. But what of the first?
The Holy Bible, a book with many devotees, allows that God made the humans above all creatures. Safe to say then, our “race” above all other “races”? And if this were true, who then again divided the human race into yet more “races”, and could that person have been more creative with his word choice? Or did he have the mind that some of these categories delineated, as true to the word race, a placement issue: winner, second, third, fourth and so on and so forth? Seems blasphemous, or better yet, ignorance run chaotic, as I do see it.
The Declaration of Independence reads, “…all men are created equal”. Perhaps the Founders should have added, “pursuant to the following categories….”
- “Difference is peace” – Frank Buchman, founder of “The Oxford Group” (a strong influence on today’s Twelve Step programs for recovery”)
Race. Ask for more specific definition and one often hears “color”. Interesting, is it really that “black and white”? And can a white man run through a black void, and still be visible?
In elementary school science, I learned that colors were but reflections. The color spectrum ROY G. BIV (red, orange, yellow, blue, green, indigo, and violet—thank you Mr. Hazelett), otherwise known as the rainbow, was but a product of light’s reflective sense. Absence of light equals absence of color.
And do you know what? Neither black nor white is on this spectrum.
In fact, I do not know where they are.
Comfortable enough for me.
May mystery be a fine friend of mine indeed.
OK. As to why my intial response would be “I really don’t want to know (why we must fill in these boxes).”
As of yet, I haven’t even touched upon all of the physical characteristics beyond color that might make for more orderly categories.
Several years ago I took a trip to the newly opened Holocaust Museum in our Nation’s capital.
I’d like to tell you about what I’ll call “the hallway of shoes”.
Walk down the length of this hallway and on the left, through a glass wall, are the shoes taken from those who were forced into concentration camps. Some thousand-odd shoes all piled atop each other and scattered in no particular order, beyond the glass wall, the entire length of this hallway.
There are pretty shoes, working shoes, walking shoes and playing shoes. Mom’s shoes, dad’s shoes, sister’s, brother’s, and baby’s, all are there.
One particular shoe caught my eye. It had a slight, thick, high heel and was the color of a pale fuschia. I remember how pretty it was. I myself would have bought that shoe from a store, or at least admired it. In fact, with thought, I believe I’ve even seen that shoe or, others that were there in the exhibit, on the feet of the people I see day to day.
Perhaps, we are all wearing those shoes, and one-day they’ll be taken from our feet just the same.
This was near the end of my experience in the holocaust museum.
Before leaving, I saw one last room, with a film running on a large screen. An older man was talking. I remember that he would take to uncommon giggling, as he spoke, and that he was very handsome in a sort of free-spirited way.
But then his eyes began to dart up and down, all around, as he began to tell a story about a day that he spent hiding from Nazis.
I may not get the entire story exactly correct, as this is from memory, but I’ll give it a try.
He was hiding in a barn with a woman and her newborn. They heard the SS approaching, and lay like a prayer side by side.
When the army entered the barn, the infant began to cry.
Panicking, the mother did her best to ease the baby’s cries.
After a lot of shuffling and tremor, the man hunters left.
The baby was dead from suffocation.
Oh, I did see one more thing in the museum that day. It was a chart. Containing some sixty-some odd boxes more or less. And in the boxes were faces. The writing on the chart was in German. On the wall was given an English translation. It read (something to the effect of) “This is how the Nazi’s categorized man for the purpose of their Superiority Theory.” I remember seeing the German words and making out “Gypsy, Pygmy, Negro, Caucasian, Asian, Jew, Indian, ET cetera et cetera ad infinitum.
So, I do applaud the efforts of The Abolitionist Examiner.
I, too, applaud my own.
It wasn’t easy growing up gray.
Then, I discovered that I’m just beautiful. Love or hate me if I’m lucky; and the rest, well I don’t think they give a poop.
In conclusion, what I see being done with this word “race” can at a close glance seem really too strong for my senses. It is that words are powerful, even when first said, or regularly said, with no interior impact, just in mime. But give them time, give them good time.
Mathematics is theory, a teacher once told me. In theory, how would the math work on repeating certain words which have first meanings or definitions, and after a time connotations or predictions. Would they equate to conclusions? And would conclusions be beliefs?
In theory of course?
My dear friend (J. Taylor) says, “The blood that runs through my veins is the same as the sap the runs through the trees.”
I’ve got some trees to hang out with.
Peace, love and wildness,
“…..but by the content of his character…” – Honorable Martin Luther King
Jennifer Ben-Khaffed lives in Clearwater, FL with her cat Tiger! All is well in the Universe.
Copyright © 2000 Jennifer Ben-Khaffed. All rights reserved.