'They' Are Not Like 'Us'

CAROLING

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"Carla" was a family acquaintance when I was a teenager. She was a nice enough woman as far as I could tell, married, pregnant and apparently in love.

When the nurses brought her newborn to her, I was told she said, "That can't be my baby."

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The exhibit "Body Worlds 3" shows we really are all the same under the skin.

The baby, who I can imagine reaching out his tiny hand to Carla, did not resemble his mother in the least.

He had dark curly hair. She was a natural strawberry blond. His skin was the color of chocolate milk. Hers was white.

Carla walked away from her child and her husband, the man who had never mentioned his grandfather's skin was black.

Then, I thought Carla had a right to be mad that her husband had not told her his family history because of the way many people in society looks at a child of mixed blood. Still, I felt Carla should not have walked out on her child.

Now, I have lived 20-odd years longer in the world and I think it is shameful that certain people think their skin color makes them superior.

I attended schools in Mesa with a girl named for the feeling her parents must have felt when they first looked at her.

"J" and I jumped rope (she was much more coordinated), played on the monkey bars and traded insults that had nothing to do with the color of our skins. We were friendly, not close.

"J" was the only black child in school until sixth grade, when a black boy enrolled.

They did not like each other but were lumped immediately as a couple.

Who can tell whether they would have gotten along had we all not made that assumption?

In hindsight, it must have been tough for both children.

Children get their notions of right and wrong from the actions of the people around them.

The pragmatic notion my mom imparted was that raising a child was tough enough without adding race into the equation.

I lived in Los Angeles when the Rodney King verdict came down and riots broke out. I watched downtown burn from the twenty-third floor of a building in Century City while listening to my white friend wonder about her black husband's business and the home they had made with a lovingly tended yard on a quiet street in East L.A.

"Do I have to paint my face black to get home safely tonight?" she wondered aloud.

Living in what sometimes seems like a very white Bible-belt town I notice when I see an African-American.

I note it as unusual and go on about my business.

While I don't think noticing makes me a racist, it does feed a deep wish in my soul.

I would like to live in a world where I noticed the color of a person's skin because it was complementary to their dress, or because the darker lines of that individual's face were interesting or that the person had obviously taken care of their skin.

So, when I hear a mother tell me her children were mistreated at school for their skin color, I am appalled.

That could not happen in my town I tell myself as my anger surges.

I am a human being.

Human beings born in the United States are known as Americans.

I am not an African-American, not an Asian-American, not a Native American, and not Hispanic, to use the popular and politically correct terms for those Americans.

And, while some people out "there" are busy labeling people, why the hell are people of Mexican descent, yet born in this country not called Mexican-Americans?

I want my rose-colored glasses. I want to believe that the society I live in has grown up and realized that we are all the same beneath our skins.

My ancestry is German, Norwegian and British.

The Scots at the Highland Games tell me I am Scottish because who but the Norwegians would name the northern tip of Scotland, the Southland.

I decline to check Caucasian on forms because I believe that propagates the lie of skin color.

And I know, that as far as we have come following visionaries like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela, when it come to racism, some people still are bent over, looking up a place without light in their bodies (everyone has one of these orifices.)

How do we get to the better world where colors run together that Rob Thomas sings about in "Streetcorner Symphony?"

I think one way is to literally look beneath the skin.

In fact, I defy anyone to take the look that is available to the public at the Body Worlds 3 exhibit currently at the Arizona Science Center and still believe that skin color makes anyone superior.

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