Sunday, July 29, 2007
What Color is a Rose?
If it's Sunday, I'm heading out to Oregon for the Oregon Christian writers' conference--actually, it's a coaching conference, and it's my first time, so I'm eager to see how they do things out on the western side of the country. :-) I'll be teaching a couple of classes and wearing an official "keynote speaker" hat at night--ahem, not something I'm used to. :-) But I prepared three actual speeches (my repertoire is expanding!), so I'm rarin' to go. Probably won't be blogging for a couple of days, but I pre-wrote the "Book of the Month" posts, so they're ready--come August first, Lord willing, we'll be talking about THE TRUTH TELLER.
The second Fairlawn book, SHE ALWAYS WORE RED, deals with several major themes, and one of them is racism. Some friends and I have been having a discussion about racism and how it has largely gone underground in this era of political correctness, but it is still alive and well. Now we even see "reverse" racism, where people are almost afraid to acknowledge that we do have some differences--have you noticed that some people are afraid to mention that someone is black? Or white? Or Asian?
I remember one thing from that TV show that aired in the sixties or seventies—the central character was a very attractive black woman who lived in an apartment, but I can’t remember her name to save my life. (Julia? Starring Diane Carol?) Anyway, I remember this scene as clear as day: she met a white neighbor, and asked what kind of music he liked. He said, “Oh, the Temptations, Sammy Davis Jr . . .” etc., and named four or five leading black musicians. Then he asked her, “What do you like?” And she said, “ Frank Sinatra.” (I think.) Anyway, the point was beautifully made—we don’t have to tiptoe around and cater to color . . . though we can’t ignore the obvious, either.
SHE ALWAYS WORE RED contains the following scene, which makes (I think) the same point. We're in Jennifer's POV, and she's trying to prove to McLane that she's not "too white":
I catch McLane’s eye across the table, silently sending her a message. This dinner and Justin’s service certainly ought to convince her that I’m sufficiently integrated.
“My father,” I continue, emboldened by my apparent success, “was a general in the Army. Of course he worked with people from all races. He and Mom raised me to be colorblind, to treat people as individuals, not as members of any certain race.”
“That’s right,” Mother echoes. “If more folks were colorblind, we’d have a lot less trouble in this country.”
I am slicing a section of turkey breast when I realize that silence is sifting over my dinner table like a snowfall. Bugs and Clay are quiet—not too unusual in a roomful of adults—but even Gerald and McLane are holding their tongues.
I look up. Daniel is watching me with an intense but guarded expression while McLane’s mouth has gone tight and grim. The Douyons have become markedly somber, but Mother is focused on her food, apparently unaware of the change in the atmosphere.
Lamont braces his elbows on the table and clasps his hands. “Miss Jennifer—” his face empties of expression—“if you remove the color from a red rose, what remains?”
Sensing a trap behind the words, I glance at Daniel and Gerald, but neither man rises to my aid.
“Well . . . I suppose you’d have a white rose.”
Lamont waggles his finger at me. “Not exactly, because white is a color, isn’t it? So what would you have left?”
This time I look to Mother for help. She has stopped eating, so obviously, she’s wised up to the change in mood, but now she looks like a frightened rabbit.
I sigh and catch McLane’s eye. “If you remove all the color, you’d be left with an invisible flower.”
Lamont gives me the indulgent smile a teacher gives a bright pupil. “So if you refuse to see my color, what are you seeing?”
I glance around the table again, feeling pinned down, but everyone has abandoned me. Gerald is smiling behind his napkin and Daniel has developed an unusual interest in the china. McLane wears a smug smile, proof that she enjoys watching me squirm.
“I’m saying . . . you’re invisible.”
Lamont nods. “I mean no disrespect, Miss Jen, but if you don’t see my color, you don’t see me.”
Ah. I wish I could take credit for that last line, but a friend suggested it to me many years ago.
Have a great day!