I was in New York City yesterday for a freelance gig at CBS.
As I walked several blocks from the subway, I chose to look at people differently. New York City is peopled with many races; White, Black, Asian, Indian, Hispanic and all cultures and races in-between. New York has a large black population, but blacks are still a minority population in this city.
When I was in Nairobi, Kenya a few years ago Caucasian was not even a minority race. Caucasian was an anomaly, and I felt the difference. It was not a negative feeling, but more of a sensory one. Maybe it was just me, but I felt I stood out in the crowd so to speak. I was never felt fearful, only different.
The proportional difference between blacks and whites in New York City is far more than that of whites to blacks in Kenya. In Kenya, it was possible for me to travel miles and hours and not see another white person.
Yesterday in New York I decided to watch people more closely. I looked at black mothers and fathers on the subway with their kids, and I did so with awareness and appreciation. I saw tenderness, concern, and caring. I knew it was always there, but I was not as aware of it as I was yesterday. I watched family interactions with admiration and with a distant memory of covering the civil rights movement in the sixties. Back then, as a young reporter, I attended services in Black churches and listened to a fiery preacher call for justice and righteousness in an affirmative chorus of “Amen’s.”
The older I get, I have a wiser appreciation of human identity and shared dignity.
I think one has to experience being a minority before one can understand a portion of it. The only things that are truly important in life anywhere are equal opportunity, smiles, courtesy, dignity, tolerance, equality, and the clear acknowledgment of the sameness of being.