I am a songwriter but I’m not just a songwriter. Still, if I were to suddenly start gabbing about fashion or colon health I'm sure many would unsubscribe from my blog. That said, something happened to me…a non music-related event—and with a holiday spirit—I feel the need to share. Here goes...
Last week, as I was backing out of my driveway, I noticed a car at the stop sign at the foot of my driveway. The driver had actually stopped! This is unusual. Most people drive right through it.
The young man driving the car could have been exercising courtesy as it was 2 days after Thanksgiving when we're all still basking in the euphoric glow of tryptophan…or perhaps he was simply following the law. Imagine that.
The car was beat up. Not shiny and new-ish like most of the vehicles coming around the bend in my neighborhood.
I noted something else: The driver was African American.
Upon our eyes meeting he smiled at me. I would have appreciated a smile from anyone, but I appreciated it even more, coming randomly from a stranger in another car who yielded to my reverse. And—maybe I appreciated it even more because he was black?
This thought bothered me. A therapist will tell me I can think anything I want. It’s my actions that determine who I am.
Sometimes (and I say this with a heavy heart), un-local people of color smile more readily in order to disarm the folks who actually call ADT (George Zimmerman anyone?) when they see an unfamiliar non-white driving around in a beat up car. :(
I have to be honest, I smile more at people of color. And men in turbans. And women in saris. And it’s not in order to convince myself that I’m unbiased, it’s because…with all of the hate goin' round these days, I bend over backward to assure the Universe there is one less hater in the world. I over-extend myself. I’m overly friendly. Of this I am guilty.
I know I’m not a racist. Although recently there’s been a lot of talk about people who swear they're not but are in denial about some ugly stuff lurking about beneath their skin.
Would I have made a note of the smiling driver if he were white and driving a new car? Or white in an old car? The driver stopped for gosh sakes. Pretty white girls in BMWs run that stop sign all the time. It drives me nuts.
Stay with me…
Last month I was in Washington, D.C. and I found myself standing in front of the White House ogling. I do this every time I’m in D.C. (which is more often these days since I advocate on The Hill and my daughter goes to school there). My husband asks me what my obsession is. I don’t know the answer. Admittedly, I do fantasize about chilling with Michelle—and maybe in a few years when she doesn't have to be so guarded with her narrative an opportunity will present itself. But that’s not why I ogle. I’m sure of it.
A friend suggests my obsession is with Power. But that doesn’t ring true. Kinda like when someone tells you a line in your song could be better and the suggestion either resonates or it doesn’t. This doesn’t. Because if I were in D.C. right now, after what we’ve been through over the last few months, I’d steer clear of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Aha! So maybe the ogling was about Obama. Flawed as he may be (and as all Presidents are), I was proud that my country chose to elect a black man. Yes. That rings true. That's why I've been so drawn to the White House. Pride. So there. That proves I’m not racist. Right?
Today I was in the chair again at NailSpa getting my bi-monthly gel mani-pedi (best thing since sliced bread) and I finally asked my go-to girl Nina, about that alter at the far end of the salon…the one with the burning incense and the tea cups filled with water and the candles and yes... the bagel with cream cheese on a paper plate! I often see the girls kneeling and praying at this alter. I assumed it must be something spiritual.
Nina explained that it represents hope for prosperity and safety of the land (Studio City, California). The water filled cups stand for purity of soul and the bagel with cream cheese is a symbol of sustenance for all. She added—it's their wish to treat everyone who walks through the door, whether stranger or celebrity, in the same exact way...with fruitful offerings, hospitality, kindness, (and if time allows...a shoulder rub when our nails are drying).
I wonder why I asked her about the shrine, on this day, after going there for so many years and not inquiring…on a day when I’m pondering my own possible latent bias. There’s a reason. There’s a reason for everything.
Maybe until we don’t notice…or don't see color or non-color, or any difference in the different-from-us, (if that's even humanly realistic), can we say we are truly and purely color blind.
This is the time of year when we search for the better angels in ourselves. I’m keeping an eye out for mine.
(The unexamined life is not worth living—Socrates)
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