Untamed Voices

Life in Your Hands

UntitledThis is a picture I took of my younger brother. He is holding an egg. Sort of poetic.
Even if it means I’m walking on eggshells, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be ambiguously artsy and make an eggcellent pun.
And, because the image is sort of ambiguous, they’re many ways to extrapolate what we’re looking at. Disclaimer: this is about to get a little “stream of consciousness”…

First, I think a pair of hands holding a fragile egg gives literal meaning to holding someone’s “life in your hands.”
Secondly, this image reminds me of relativity. Not Einstein’s kind, but rather the quality or state of one thing being relative to something else. I usually don’t think of things racially, but when my brother takes the SAT he will check the “Caucasian/ White” box. From society’s standpoint, he is a “white kid.” I don’t mean to split hairs, but calling him white is just such a gross hyperbole. That egg is white. My brother is, at least in the winter months, a pale peachy manila, not the color of snow. If anyone bestows an adjective or noun to someone based on his or her skin tone, then he or she is just generalizing.

You might call Halle Barry black; to me she seems more graham cracker. I read something like this in 6th grade in the book Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli. The young protagonist asks some of the same questions. He was confused as to why he was called “white” when he wasn’t the color of printing paper… or an egg shell.

We love generalizing, so much so, that it has become unconsciously ingrained in our everyday thoughts and conversation. Take note the next time you use the word “always” or “never” or “hate” or “obsessed” or “best” or “worst”… or “literally” for that matter. We don’t just hyperbolize skin color. But when we do generalize something, we cut it short. (Awkward, that was a generalization). I believe that words, even ones said lightly, significantly inform our mindset, and in turn our reality and happiness.

I’m not sure exactly why collectively we seem to make a habit of generalizing and hyperbolizing, but I can think of at least one reason. It is easier. It is less messy and more convenient to box things up if you say “I always am the worst at math” when you happen to be the slowest at solving a problem two classes in a row. Or “She’s black” when she might have a complexion closer to a cup of coffee with two shots of cream. I don’t even really understand what black and white or any skin color means anymore. Because black and white and whatever other colors you might declare are pigment values—in their most basic form at least. One of the biggest dangers in generalizing is that it misrepresents the whole, and then, that misrepresentation is taken as true and then other misconstructions are made. Like, is black or white, a generalized color, supposed to indicate ethnicity, history, heritage, or race? Are there even “races” of people? How can a million variations of epidermis from graham cracker to smoke all be called “black”?

Life just isn’t that predictable, consistent, or neat.

People, perhaps Americans in particular, are really into packaging things, both commercially and culturally. It seems easier and safer tolabel package things, put them in boxes. It is certainly more convenient. Think bottled water, or granola bars. Granola bars in wrapping, wrappers in cardboard boxes, cardboard boxes in a larger box set, those box sets in larger plastic sealant, those sealants on shelves, those shelves in stores.

You get the idea. But we also have a tendency to do that with each other, too. And not just with skin color. We package strangers and even best friends until we think we have them so securely wrapped in the storage of our paradigms and then they do something that breaks the mold. It shocks us.

A friend of mine once told me he tries not to judge people until he has known them for a year. He said he was glad he did this, because people he otherwise would have written-off surprised him. My brother told me the same thing about schools. He said I probably wouldn’t have a true sense of Georgetown until I was a sophomore, that GAAP weekend and a stroll around campus, or even a semester worth of experience, wouldn’t be enough. To my knowledge both of these statements, about people and school, have been true. One thing makes humans particularly unique is the ability to discern. Discernment is a close neighbor to judgment, and quick judgment to generalizing, and generalizing to prejudice.

# # #

I know, I know, I started with an unassuming photo and made it into a soapbox to stand on.
But we package more than just granola bars and generalize appearances beyond skin color. And cupping eggs between our palms isn’t the only way we hold another life. We, too, are encased by fragile barriers, a lot like a yoke residing in a thin shell. Sometime we might see the shell and take it to be more durable, more portable than it really is. We sometimes forget the complex, vulnerable yolk inside just because we see a shell. We see the shell and forget the precious thing it houses. We do the same every day with one another.

We hold each other, for better or worse, with words.

Lucy Gibson, Untamed Voices Staff Writer

Image Sources: First Image (Lucy G.)

http://jeffdavisblog.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/label.jpg#labels%20people (Kimberly P.)

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