Wednesday, December 26, 2007

White--or Black--or Blue--Like Me

What would it be like to have your skin turn a different color?

It does happen.

Recent news accounts have told of Paul’s Karason’s skin turning blue. Karason, who lived in Oregon until moving recently to California, drinks water containing colloidal silver. He believes that his skin turned blue not because he drinks that substance but because he applied it directly to his face. His skin condition, called Argyria, has been linked to the use of colloidal silver. Karason said that he moved to California hoping that he would find more acceptance there.

There have also been some recent news stories about the skin of a black man turning white. His name is Lee Thomas; he is an anchor and entertainment reporter for a television station in Detroit. He has a condition called vitiligo, which destroys pigment-making cells. Thomas has written a book about the experience called Turning White: A Memoir of Change. He shares his condition is with some 65 million people around the world and some two million in the United States.

I was born white. I know how to be nothing else. It is important, I believe, for me to try to understand how someone of a different race or from a different culture might see things. Many of our problems can be traced to the human tendencies to think that (1) everybody sees things the way we do or (2) everybody should see things the way we do.

I do not mean to suggest that all whites see things one way or that all blacks see things one way or that all Hispanics see things one way. That is certainly not the case. But it is also the case that we tend to be conditioned in some ways by our heritage and our culture.

It would be eye-opening if I could be of another race for just a little while. Indeed, it would be enlightening if all of us could have that experience. I wonder how race relations might change if everybody who is European-American could spend a few days being African-American and a few days being Asian-American. I wonder how they might change if folks of all any and every race could have such an experience?

What if we could expand on the concept? What if we could each spend some time being of different nationalities? How might things change if we each had to serve a term as a North Korean, as a Brazilian, as an Iraqi, or as a Russian? How might things change if our world leaders had literally to spend some time in each other’s shoes?

What if we could each spend some time being adherents of different religions? I don’t man just paying lip service to some other belief system but really, actually practicing other religions as true believers? How might things be different if Christians had to spend a few days being Muslim and if Muslims had to spend a few days being Christian? What if a Christian could be an atheist for a while and an atheist a Christian?

I was born white, I was born American, I was born Southern, and I was practically born Christian. Others are born in different settings. We err when we let our particular ways of viewing reality, even when those ways are shared with many other people, cause us to fail to try to understand and accept and get along with people whose experiences, background, and worldview are different.

It’s not that I want to be different than I am or that I want others to be different than they are. It’s just that I want us to stop letting our differences stand in the way of progress and peace.

I believe in the way of Jesus Christ enough to believe that Christians should lead the way in such rapprochement. I also believe in that way enough to say that we should be humble enough to follow the lead of others if we won’t lead the way ourselves.

I don’t want everyone else to be white like I am anymore than I want them to want me to be black or brown like they are.

I just want our common and shared humanity to matter more than our differing pigmentation.

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