Which Race? The Human One!
By Peter S. Kahrmann
When my daughter was pregnant with my first grandson,
someone asked me what race the child would be (my grandsons father, a
young man I love very much, happened to be black). I responded to the question
with pure truth: the human race.
The heart-wrenching Trayvon Martin tragedy has brought the
subject of race to the fore. But the problem with the conversation about race
is this: We continue to talk about this issue as if there is more than one
race, and by doing so, we, in some cases unwittingly and in some cases
purposefully, feed an "us versus them" scenario. Carving humanity into races
serves the same purpose as the role of religion: It promotes the insidiously
destructive "us versus them" and a "weve got it right; theyve got
it wrong" mentality.
It seems to me that by casting people into what are
essentially fictional categories separate from some fictional category
weve designed for ourselves, we create a buffer that serves, or so we
think, to protect us from fully absorbing and understanding the horror those in
the socalled "other categories" go through. We should not be spared the
experience of our fellow human beings.
In my opinion, the bottom line with Trayvon Martin is both
simple and brutal: A 17-year-old child was executed in cold blood. There is no
doubt in my mind that that poor child was screaming for mercy with a voice on
fire with terror. It chills the blood when one realizes that the moment the
shot is fired, the screaming stops.
And then there is this: I know that terror. Just months
after being held up by a teenager and shot in the head in 1984, I was held up
again at gunpoint. I begged for my life. My hands shook, I cried, and I begged
to be allowed to live. I can tell you that when you are living in a moment in
which you have no say over whether you are going to live or die, you become
nothing more than unfiltered, mind-splitting terror with a heartbeat.
From time to time, someone will ask me the color of the
kid who shot me or the color of the man who held me up just months after the
shooting. I never answer the question. Those closest to me in life dont
even know. And why dont I answer the question? Because pigmentation has
never made a decision in its life. The kid who shot me and the man who held me
up at gunpoint belong to one race and one race only the human race.
And now, my country (and parts beyond) is grappling with
the fact that a 17-year-old member of the human race -- your race -- was
murdered. If there is anything that all of us need to do, in addition to
pursuing justice for this child and his family, it is to move the discussion
away from the notion that there are different races and place it squarely in
the reality that there is only one race, the human race.
is an advocate for people with disabilities and writes a blog on disability
issues. He resides in New York state.