The Indefinite Power Struggle
Shanika Graham-White

Thank you for this thoughtful post. “Our color is obvious. It’s our hearts that are not.” This is true not just for color of one’s skin but identity in general. Humans seem to need to categorize each other, as if our “tribe” or community is based on superficials, externalities.

For me, it is not skin color but the question of “Where are you from?” that is daunting. Like you, I was born in Florida and raised in New York — but in 8 different towns/cities by the time I was 8, and with 50 different addresses in 7 countries at age 60. I do not identify with being “from” anywhere; I am a global citizen, a digital nomad. Yet, everywhere I go, the first question is my roots, of which I have none.

For the vast majority of people in any country, place of origin is significant in defining the general values and attitudes of those residents. In New York, for example, as in every city in the world, being from The Bronx is considered different than being from Long Island… and then the further designation of “which part?” as if you are then knowable — neatly pidgeon holed — by a place you lived. Indeed, if you identify with that place, through family, community, traditions, economics, and the generalizations that inform the reputation of a place, then you can easily say, “I’m from the South Bronx” (a rough, interracial territory) or “Southhampton” (a place of white privilege) and the person who asks nods knowingly that now they understand who you are.

I could substitute “Our place is obvious. It’s our hearts that are not.” But just as color may be not-so-obvious (we are all shades of flesh tone… and I understand that the darker your skin the more likely you are to encounter racism), so it is that sense of place (and self-identity with it) may not be so obvious.

If we value — and hope for — a world of greater inclusivity and justice, it is our hearts — our individual capacity for compassion and love of self and others — that must be valued… Not defined by skin color or place of origin but by who we are now, in each moment of encounter. Instead of making assumptions based on superficialities, we’d learn a lot more about another if we were to ask, “What’s your favorite book?” or food or the most exciting thing you’ve done?

If we open up our conversations, rather than shutting them down, we will likely find connection, and then the power stuggles — the need to prove we are more than just our skin color or culture or whatever box society has defined — cease to exist. We are each and all human beings, with all the challenges and joys of life on earth… and we need each other, to work and play together to create a more beautiful world our hearts can imagine.

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