Sunday, June 13, 2010

People Of Color

Lately, I have been pondering the nature of prejudice. Here in the USA, we immediately think of racial bias. But prejudice comes in many shades. It can be nationalistic, religious, have to do with class and status, or intellect . . . the list goes on and on. What is sure is that prejudice diminishes life. Why? Because prejudice is a judgment or opinion formed before the facts are known and in most cases, these opinions are founded on suspicion, intolerance, and irrational hatred that resists alteration or enlightenment. Life, to me, is all about change, growth, flux, alteration, mystery, and surprise—in short, it cannot be contained by small minds with petty judgments.

When I set out upon my travels, I begin by looking forward to meeting the world in all of its diversity. I forget the color of my skin, my nationality, my religious affiliation . . . in short I abandon all that sets me apart from the matrix of where I am going, and then my eyes are open like a child's—full of wonder and awe at what is before me. Remarkable things happen this way. Doors open and miracles are plenty. Ecstasy demands abandonment. This is esoteric, but think of the mother’s love for her child. It is ecstatic in the moments of complete abandonment to the relationship.

I find it humorous and pathetic the attempts to define race. We all share the same genetic background and are of the same substance. Terms like “people of color” are particularly stupid. I am an artist and observe that everyone is colored. The term “colored people” is a silly contrivance. Melatonin produces the color we see in each other, and it also controls the amount of ultra-violet rays from the sun that enters our bodies. It is totally neutral and has nothing to do with intelligence or character.

I have painted people of various skin tones and find that I use the same colors, but in different proportions. If you look closely at the two portraits I include here, you will see that the two people share some colors. 

Nobody is black or white and everyone is colored. Many years from now, this need to define race will be gone, and all that will remain is the human family. For now, it is fun seeing the differences. When I first arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, from Rome, Italy, my initial impression was shock at witnessing a drab, dilapidated city, since I had come from one of the most culturally iconic and artistically dazzling places in the world. My eyes hurt, until I became entranced by all the dark skinned people who offered a beauty I had not seen before in such a grand way. From then on, my vision was not so much on the material surroundings as upon the people. Love allowed beautiful experiences to unfold. Prejudice would have killed my time in Africa. I am so glad that it did not—the ecstasy was waiting for me to experience.

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