“The Child is Father to the Man.” That’s what Wordsworth wrote, and some months ago a three-year-old youngster demonstrated the truism (I want to pun it, ‘proved the altruism’) yet again. He and I were sitting in a car in a suburban parking lot, waiting for his grandma. Adric noticed, then looked closely at a black man striding across the parking lot. “He looks like you, Jonathan,” Adric said.The man was about 25, buff, cue-ball bald, nattily dressed. I am nearly 70 and white, and so I was puzzled, but at least wise enough sometimes to try to see things with a child’s eye. Still, the resemblance escaped me, until I scratched my bald head. There is hope for the multiracial society Adric is inheriting.
One of the most powerful learning experiences of my life is a recent one where, pursuing a personal goal to develop my “will, knowledge, skill and capacity” for interrupting social inequities, I signed up for a two-day training. The most significant learning took place around an exercise called “The Color Line.” After filling out a self-report questionnaire and scoring myself about the degree to which I experience privilege in my life, I placed myself on a continuum based on my score. I wasn’t surprised to find myself closer to the high end of the scale — I am, after all, a white woman — nor was I surprised to see the lowest scoring participants were people of color. What did surprise me were other patterns the trainers were able to predict: the high percentage of low-scoring participants who held doctorates, how the continuum progressed from darkest to lightest skin tone, the exception of a smattering of whites in the mid-range who turned out to be members of biracial families, for example. While that activity gave me — and other participants – a lot to think about, the trainers were savvy enough to not leave it at that. Our homework was