Wouldn’t it be great if we were all color blind? No, I’m not referring to the time of morning when my husband asks me if his tie matches his suit. It’s about the reflection that stares back at us from the mirror every day and the way in which we see the world around us.
Although it was many years ago, I remember the day well. The stretch of highway we were traveling was desolate and our choices were minimal, but we were tired and hungry so we stopped at the tiny, somewhat dilapidated looking diner in Eastern Pennsylvania for a bite to eat.
Upon entering, we were greeted by a sign that read: Please Seat Yourself. It was impossible to miss the fact that we were definitely in the country. Crowded booths and stools were filled with middle-aged men dressed in overalls and worn-out ball caps, and women with round, plump faces wore cotton housecoats disguised as dresses. Dishes were clanking and noisy conversation echoed throughout the room, but each of them noticed the newcomers. They peered at us—one by one—from the corner of their eye as we passed them by in route to our table.
We sat down, still laughing and talking about the soccer game we’d just seen. It was a fun day in the company of good friends. But before long, an uncomfortable look came over my boyfriend’s face, and I noticed the diner had fallen quiet. A waitress wearing a tattered apron glanced nervously at our table more than once or twice but never actually acknowledged our presence.
I’ve always been a bit naive, especially when I was younger, and at first I didn’t understand exactly what was happening. It didn’t occur to me why people were staring, and why we hadn’t been waited on, and why a sudden hush fell over the crowded diner. We had been seated at that table without a drop of water, a morsel of food, or even a kind acknowledgement, for roughly twenty minutes when my boyfriend finally held out my coat and said, “That’s it; we’re leaving.”
As we walked toward the exit, the atmosphere hummed with a surreal vibe. It wasn’t until we were outside that I realized we weren’t leaving because of bad service. We were leaving because of ignorance. Because of color. Because they refused to wait on us for a reason. What the folks in the diner saw were three white people and a black man. In actuality, we were simply four people.
A few years later that black man was the best man in our wedding, and he’s still a friend today.
My husband is a soccer player, and through the sport we’ve become friends with many different people from various nationalities. Our friends consist of all kinds of black, white, and brown—some in traditional marriages and some in “inter-racial” marriages. I don’t particularly care for that phrase; as I believe we are all part of the same race…a little something called the human race.
We celebrated the Martin Luther King holiday two months ago, and my son recently spent a few weeks studying Black American history. As I helped him with a report on Malcolm X, my heart broke for the way things once were for these brave people but also for the sadness I felt in trying to explain something so unfair to an innocent 9-year-old boy. What’s worse is that even in the twenty-first century, we still have to battle prejudice. Maybe that’s why this post has been on my mind.
Ironically, both our son and daughter have best friends that have at least one black parent. They don’t even seem to know the difference, and that’s fine with us. After all, in the end what is the real difference? We breathe the same air, all of us celebrate victories and mourn losses, and our hearts beat the same way. Shouldn’t we all love and respect one another?