Seeing in the Dark

This morning, I was browsing a few blogs, and came upon an incident that stayed with me. A black man, a noted scholar and community leader here in D.C., took his wife to the theatre. As a white woman was trying to find her seat in the dark, she sat down on his wife because she “didn’t see her.” I’m sure the lady didn’t mean to sit on his wife. She probably felt really embarrassed. Nevertheless, I wondered how the scholar’s wife felt about it. At the time, she might have dismissed it as an accident, but when she got home, did she think about it again?

This experience at the theatre pulled me out of the blog right then and there. I had to think about it. We have a problem of not really seeing one another.

It wasn’t that long ago that Jim Crow laws existed to ensure that white people wouldn’t have to have black people around. Legal reasons to not have to look upon your fellow man. What you don’t see, you don’t know, making it so much easier not to care.

If we still lived during the time of Jim Crow laws, the white lady in the theatre would not have had a problem because it was against the law for the races to sit together anyway:

Theaters: Every person operating any public hall, theater, opera house, motion picture show or any place of public entertainment or public assemblage which is attended by both white and colored persons shall separate the white and colored race and shall set apart and designate certain seats therein to be occupied by white persons and a portion thereof, or certain seats therein, to be occupied by colored persons. (Virginia)

If you want to see a list of other Jim Crow laws, the University of Dayton has a good synopsis:

Why did these Jim Crow laws exist for nearly a century? Once again, I am stymied by our strange legal system. How could so many states have enacted such inhumane and antidemocratic laws? On another website I found out that California had the most! Isn’t that state supposed to be a liberal mecca?

I think that it is all about seeing. If something isn’t in your line of sight, then it doesn’t exist as far as your concerned. We can choose what to take out or put into our visual landscape. I know people who do not watch the news and the reason they have given is that they don’t want to know what’s going on so they don’t have to be bothered with negative images.

When was the last time that you really noticed your neighbor? or your community? or your country? If you don’t know of your neighbor’s needs, then you don’t have to care. If you don’t know the history of your community, then you will not feel the need to preserve it. If you don’t know the condition of your country, then you will not feel the need to improve it.

Ignorance is bliss until reality happens.


About Kathleen Franks

Kathleen Franks is a writer, artist, storyteller, and community volunteer based in Berkeley, CA
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