Darker Than a Cave
“Here she goes again…” I thought to myself as my highly conservative grandmother rambled on about Obama’s plan to undermine America. I never understood why people would believe a leader to purposefully destroy the country he worked hard to represent. But what was I to say? “Come on Grandma Lou, he’s not Muslim, he’s be proven to be born in Hawaii, and his skin color has no effect on his character.” I would have been beaten. And plus I was used to it. Seventeen years of visiting the outskirts of Detroit had desensitized me to the closed-minded racism that embodies Detroit city. I have never been able to figure out what causes this hatred, but it has always intrigued me. I originally blamed it on the migration of African-Americans to cities during the Reconstruction Era, but I later found that it was something beyond the realm of human senses.
It was not until this summer that I found this metaphysical reason for human discourse. I visited my Uncle Bob in upstate New York. Aside from my immediate family, he is my favorite relative. He uses logic and reasoning to assess situations, and enjoys challenging new ideas. In essence, he thinks like me, or rather, I think like him. Like my Michigan-minded grandma he owns a decent sized home that houses a respectable family located in a small town near a city, but there is a notable difference. Hatred does not lurk in the shadows, faint whispers of disgust never send chills down my spine, and the musty scent of ignorance is nowhere to be found. It is as if an aura of reason casts a force field around the house, dispelling negative thought. I guess I had always noticed this, but it was not until my Uncle Bob and I visited the city that I truly understood it.
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We only went to the city for a few hours, but being in New York City for a few minutes is like seeing all the wonders of a normal city in half the amount of time. There is almost no way to comprehend everything in plain sight. Businessmen traverse the street in their formal wear, bums trudge around searching for some sort of hope, and naive tourists flash their cameras everywhere. As we drove through this circus of reality, my Uncle and I witnessed a petty crime. A young black male was walking behind what seemed to be a family of tourists. As they stopped at the crosswalk, he reached into her purse and grabbed a seemingly expensive watch.
“His life must suck.” I spurted out angrily.
My uncle calmly replied, “We can only imagine.”
His words were so simple, but they were all that I needed. I had subconsciously suspected a racial slur or and hasty generalization of New York’s African-Americans as a response to my claim, but what I got was much more sincere. I would have never thought to look at the situation from the culprit’s perspective. I began to contemplate the tragedies that must have brought him to this lifestyle, the hardships that accompanied a life of crime, and the false sense of security that was enforced by his peers. It was here that I figured out the true cause of racism in Detroit. It is not because all black people are evil, and it is especially not because all white people are good, but rather that portions of each side fail to see the conditions that shape the other’s mentalities. It is not even the color that makes the distinction. An individual’s ideology is shaped by their surroundings and the conditions that raise them. African-Americans stricken by poverty are not “acting black,” they are acting poor. The closed-minded sect of the middle-class fails to see this, because they lack the perspective. They cannot comprehend how the lower class feels, because they have no idea how it feels. So they blame it on their first physical impression; color. But this is not a one sided street. Poor criminals also fail to see how their degenerate actions affect the social structure that the wealthy strive for. This lack of empathy is apparent on both sides, and perpetuates the false pretense of racism.
This definition can be broadened to cover other forms of hatred. No matter what group hates or is being hated, there is usually one reason, a lack of empathy. It is as if both groups are surrounded by a large wall. They examine the surroundings inside their stronghold, and find them to be the absolute truths. However, they cannot conceive what lies beyond this realm. They are blind to the perspectives of the occupants of other walled of sects. But within these boundaries, not all are lost. Some wonder what lurks outside and attempt to climb the wall and escape, but the other inhabitants see this and quickly begin to “save” the curious person by pulling them back.
The world is compiled of these walled off sects, but not every person is trapped by them. Every country, religion, and ideology builds its own boundaries of thought and uses these finite descriptions to define social morals, but there are free souls out there who see the sections from the outside. These people have an open-minded view of the world. They can scale the walls and peer into the bounded regions. Sometimes these wanderers venture into one of the strongholds, and are appalled at what they see. They know what lies beyond this finite realm, and they wish to expose it to the entire populace, but they are inflexible. The inhabitants cannot fathom that what they think to be true is actually false, so they will ridicule the explorer. This leads to a dangerous situation for a curious thinker, but their knowledge of what lies beyond allows them to escape and continue their exploration.
From this description I then figured out what it is that makes my Grandma Lou’s house so different from my Uncle Bob’s. It was foolish of me to assume that my uncle’s house is the one restricted by a shield, for it is the one that is truly free. It is my grandmother’s house that is constrained by a force field of ignorance. In this dome, there is a constant release of polluted beliefs. Hatred, racism, and ignorance float around, but are trapped by the limited thought. All in all, being close-minded is like trapping oneself in a polluted cage. It takes empathy and a good sense of reason to detach from this obliviousness and explore the world with an open-mind.