I first remember recognizing race in kindergarten.
Obviously, I was not thinking about inequality derived from a superficial characteristic society deems valuable, yet struggles to define; however, I did befriend a black boy named Malachi.
Juxtaposed with my own, Malachi’s life was strikingly different. We clearly differed in race, and the only commonalities we shared were our gender and a love for turtles. Yet, we were best friends.
The concept of race, this time maladaptive, manifested itself in high school, when an entire section of the school entitled “B hall,” for its position between halls A and C, became an acronym for the “black” hallway, because students of minority gathered there in between classes.
Even worse than this intentional labeling of a hallway is that disdain and fear became associated with walking past this section of the school.
It was not until I started college that I began to personally wrestle with the idea of racial inequality. I still witness racial cliques with few outliers resulting in stagnant movement toward the destruction of racial profiling and the promotion of racial equality. However, I acknowledge that I, too, am a participant in this clique mentality.
In many ways, I wish I could return to the period in my life when I had not yet learned about the stigmas surrounding race. I wish I could remove the lenses of prejudice that filtered my reality and tainted my social vision. I wish I could return to a time when sharing similarities triumphed over the discussion of differences, even if it is as simple as an affinity for a shelled reptile.
AU recently joined the greater Anderson community in celebrating the life of a man who championed nonviolent liberation, rather than reactionary violence, to centuries of suffering. This month, we move into a time of reflection on the lives of black Americans who changed the course of history by mitigating stigmas and reconciling racial segregations that still pervade society today.
Today, I wonder if the things to which I wish I could return actually ever existed. Was there ever a day when my eyes weren’t blinded by my own whiteness? Why did no one, includ-ing myself, dispel the derogatory euphemism in the hallway of my high school? Why are conver-sations about race just now materializing in my life?
As anecdotal as these questions may seem, in a general sense, we are asking them at a societal level as well.
When will we finally realize that the power of inherited privilege is intimately connected with the oppression associated with the social positions into which we were born? Why are we still plagued with the same questions that precipitated a presidential proclamation over 150 years ago?
I will not pretend to know the answers to these questions, but I will stand firmly on the belief that tiptoeing around the subject of equality is in fact promoting the opposite.
If we are to continue operating on the heart of a nation stabbed by the knife of injustice, we must seek not to dislodge other members of our body through blind attempts to close a gaping wound, but rather grasp the common thread of humanity through recognition, and celebration, of our individuality and strategically suture the lesion that insists.
Evan is a junior biology major from Marion, Illinois.