Posted by: deadmousediaries | January 14, 2015

Dr. King, The Planet and My 64 Crayolas – a story from Mitchell Kyd

What color is your country and does it match your skin tone? Don’t jump to conclusions but now might be a great time to reflect on a silly question like that. Dr. Martin Luther King worked diligently to shift our thinking about some very basic things we’ve come to accept as truth.
A few years ago, I heard an obscure speaker offer some additional observations about that touchy issue, racism. He did it in a quirky little eight-minute speech in a tiny conference room for the benefit of a handful of people. His message was intentional and his words were filled with passion. He made a convincing case for questioning the focus we put on our differences and instead choosing to celebrate the thing that truly unifies us, our humanity.
I’m including his remarks below; I wish I could say I was the one who thought of these analogies but sometimes the best you can do is to recognize an intriguing concept when you hear it and then wrangle permission to reprint it. In this case, I just offered to spend the night with the guy and then buy him breakfast. (Luckily, I had already been living with him for more than 30 years and had given birth to  his children so that didn’t pose an ethical dilemma.)
Here’s what my husband offered up on the topic of racism as he checked off another assignment in his Toastmasters manual:
I am not a good persuasive speaker or a writer but I am going to share a belief of mine with you. I hope you will find it to be at least a small step in the right direction to solving a problem we have in society today. The problem is racism.
From my perspective, there are two root causes of racism. First, too many people, some in the public limelight, make way too much money keeping racism alive. Here’s one example. I work in a business where my customers are required to complete forms issued by a federal agency overseen by the Department of Justice. One of the pieces of information required is race. The choices for responding to this are: (1) American Indian or Alaskan Native; (2) Black or African American; (3) Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; (4) Hispanic or Latino; “(5) Asian; (6) White.
Let’s deal with the simplest concept first: black or white. Each and every one of us learned as children that black and white are colors, nothing more. They remain colors today. Logic would dictate that if two colors can represent race, then all colors can represent race.
Tell me then, what race is purple? Silver? Chartreuse? How about mauve? They aren’t races! Hmmm. Doesn’t the reverse logic translate to the statement that if all colors can’t represent a race, then no color can indicate race?
What about categories set aside for the world’s original people? The first choices are American Indian or Alaska Native. If you are American Indian you align yourself with a specific country; if you check Alaska Native on your form, your origin is linked to a state. African-American reflects your connection with Africa, a continent, and America, a country which lies on a completely different continent.
What bonehead came up with the idea of using a geographic location to determine your race?
If you are Native Hawaiian, you are descended from the first people to be born in Hawaii, which is now a state. If you say you are a Pacific Islander, you could also come from places such as Tonga or even Japan, which are island countries. Choice number (5) on my required form is Asian. Doesn’t Asian cover people originating from a whole group of countries that have all been lumped together and that also includes Japan? I am so confused!
Let me see if I have this right. If you were born in a state or an island or in a country or a group of countries or on a continent, this determines your race –unless of course your skin color is plainly black or white?
Here’s a question: where does Antarctica fit in? I know what you’re thinking! Antarctica has no permanent human residents! But with all those research teams that visit there, a few children have surely been born on that continent. Do we call them Antarticans and decide their race is blue?
I suggest to you now that there is only one answer when we are asked to name our race and that is human. It doesn’t matter if you believe in creationism, evolution, reincarnation or anything else; at this moment in time on this planet we call earth, there is only one race, and that is the human race.
I want you to visualize any person on this planet. Barring birth defects, does that person not have two arms, two legs, a nose, a mouth, a brain, a central nervous system, a heart, two lungs, a liver, a stomach, a digestive system, 10 fingers and 10 toes? And when that person bleeds, isn’t the blood that flows from the veins the same as yours and mine?
We have more in common than we have differences and I’ll take that one step further. How many of us have the two words organ donor included on our driver’s license? That means we even have interchangeable parts!! With that undeniable truth, how can racism still exist? Money. Lots and lots of money.
I believe racism will continue to exist for generations to come because good people say and do nothing to stop it. To my way of thinking, that is the second root cause.
Here is your call to action; it’s the one small step you can take to change the world, one line at a time. The next time a form asks you to indicate race, draw a new box at the end of the list and add “Human”. Then check that box. If you are feeling particularly bold or empowered on that particular day, underline it, not once or twice but three times.
And If you hear someone discussing race, show some intestinal fortitude and speak up! Never, ever apologize for making a stand on the evil known as racism.”
And with that, he sat down. The audience applauded and I could tell by their expressions, he had set some wheels in motion. 
There are two things I know for certain after hearing my husband’s speech: I will never be able to think about race again without becoming befuddled by the globe and my big box of 64 Crayolas. And unless the new neighbors start bleeding green, I have to agree that the race indicator that best fits us all continues to be human.
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Responses

  1. Well said, both of you! 🙂

  2. BRAVO!! To you AND Doug! I recall the evening he presented these thought perplexing words. Thanks for the reminder, it is certainly worth repeating frequently.

  3. You must answer those same questions on a mortgage application, and I had some of the same confusion. If Mother is black and Father is Asian, what block do I mark?

  4. Hoorah for humanity!

  5. We all have one thing in common ” we all breathe as humans” we have few limitations reason to exist only on this planet; our languages; our traditions etc are just a way of life; but they don’t exist in pain or pleasure in a broad sense ; I meant pain and pleasure are the two things that can be understood without any language or any humanly created spaghetti (language,and what not)


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