Monday, June 8, 2015

Incongruous race

N and I spent 9 hours on Saturday at a state track meet.  There was nothing remarkable about the day, really, and yet there were things about it that felt remarkable.

I think it was because I finished reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Because N was standing on the full-sun field for 3+ hours waiting to do long jump, I stood at the fence near the finish with sunscreen and water at the ready.  I read the book in fits and starts but would pay attention when the young adult athletes ran (poetic like gazelles), which is a completely different experience than seeing elementary kids run (fury of elephants).

These young adults were amazingly fit and fast and predominantly black.  As I stood watching them, holding The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in my hands, with these runners' parents and/or peers on either side of me, I was struck by how incongruent this felt.

Here I was reading a novel about a white boy helping a slave, how Huck was struck repeatedly by the fact that Jim was human and not an animal as expected.  Huck lives in a society that considers blacks to be grossly inferior to whites, and yet, here I was seeing these athletes whose power and physique were staggering in their dominance.  It felt strange and wonderful to be in a certainly not perfect, but far better racial place.

What brought this sensation home and saddened me was when D and I started watching the film Selma later Saturday night and knowing full-well that there is still rampant prejudice; there are still efforts to subtly restrict voting rights.  There are still many people who believe blacks are inferior, who harbor within their hearts and minds a disdain and distrust of people who are not white.

And then last night reading The Book Thief and thinking of the similar hatred of the Jews in Nazi Germany.

How can you hate someone you don't know?
How can you hate an entire group of people?
How do you ignore their humanity?
How do you hold onto your own humanity and not succumb to hatred and mob mentality?  

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