Saturday, July 25, 2009

Through the Prism Darkly

A New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last July asked: "Have you ever felt you were stopped by the police just because of your race or ethnic background?" Sixty-six percent of black men said yes. Only 9 percent of white men said the same.

A prism acts to slow the speed of light and, in doing so, reveals the colors hidden therein. I've always been enchanted by prisms. Before I knew the science, I'd gleefully watch the rainbows on the walls of our dining room reflected from the cut-glass chandelier hanging from the ceiling.

The Professor Gates case is rattling AM radio speakers across the land and is titillating the race issue once more. I say 'titillating' because I think that lots of Americans want to raise race flags in order to test and verify some deep feelings that they ordinarily keep well-hidden in polite company.

What is it about skin color, anyway? It's not the color. It's the baggage. Rather, the emotional attachment one assigns to skin color which, of course, is a learned-experience. "They" is the word that often begins a discussion of issues that dance around skin color. Pigeonholing. I quite enjoy the definition of pigeonholing that says, "a neat category which usually fails to reflect actual complexities." Nicely said.

The 'actual complexities' are way-too tough to discuss. I note that President Obama has invited both Professor Gates and the arresting police officer to the White House for a chat. Bold move. Surely, substantive statements will be made. The rhetoric will be cleansed of the usual words and phrases. It will be interesting to see the actual transcript, should it be available.

What will be the response from the citizens? Will prejudices be mollified? How will the prism of truth display itself?

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