I recently met as part of a leadership group to preview a video. After the viewing, one person questioned why no people of color were shown in the video that was supposed to depict life in Spokane.
This comment, by another person of color, shocked me into a higher level of consciousness. I had watched an entire video and failed to realize this most vital fact. I was more alarmed at the thought that I, as a part of this leadership group, was going to be responsible for the message the video would send to a broader audience.
I was thrust unwillingly into Spokane as a teenager. The struggle to adjust beyond the psychological loneliness and isolation I felt as a minority was difficult. Spokane seemed to lack visible black role models or opportunities for people who are not white.
I married and left Spokane after my first year of college. During the following years, living abroad and in different regions of America, I struggled to move beyond the Southern ethnic myths I had learned as a child and to incorporate the practice of ethnic blending I had experienced in Spokane.
Through time and attention I finally learned to build relations based upon character, not solely on the color of skin.
For 10 years I have been diligent in my attempt to adapt culturally to life in Spokane. I have found great freedoms while in my pursuit to mainstream into the community, experienced a happier existence moving beyond racial barriers, learning to understand and appreciate people, despite their ethnic/economic difference.
I must admit that there are times, such as the video preview, when I realize I have become desensitized. I have become accustomed to not expecting many positive images of people of color. I have unconsciously stopped looking for me in the crowd because to look and not find myself feels like exclusion, denial of existence, unimportance - and it feels like pain.
The lesson I will take from my experience with the video is that I must remain conscious of the impact and the possible ramifications of the messages that I send into our diverse community. I must not forget the pain of isolation, exclusion that many people of color in the community experience on a daily basis.
I must ultimately find a way to maintain my ethnic authenticity while seeking to find my way of life in Spokane.
MEMO: “Your turn” is a feature of the Wednesday and Saturday Opinion pages. To submit a “Your turn” column for consideration, contact Rebecca Nappi at 459-5496 or Doug Floyd at 459-5466 or write “Your Turn,” The Spokesman-Review, P.O. Box 2160, Spokane 99210-1615.
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