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Wishes in Black & White

Cleone Reed blacks versus whites Eileen Williams Sabry Race relations racial tensions Roya Movafech Wishes in Black & White

Wishes in Black & White, a book by Eileen Williams Sabry; Photography by Roya Movafegh

Today Bob handed me this book that he published in 2000 while he was living in California. The author, Eileen Williams Sabry, was featured on an Oprah Winfrey TV Special to celebrate Martin Luther King Day on Monday, January 15, 2001. She appeared along with Chris Rock, Spike Lee, and other Americans to discuss the thought-provoking question from her book, Wishes in Black & White. 

What a beautiful book, and timeless! It seems like such an important time in  our history to reintroduce this book to remind us that we are all one—all one human race. A photo of the contributor is on each right-hand page and their respective quote is on the left-facing page to their response to this question:

"Regarding Race Relations, What Do You Wish Of Blacks Or Whites?"

If each of us answered this question, what would we say? What would I say?

"Regarding Race Relations, What Do I Wish Of Blacks Or Whites?"

I wish this was not even a relevant question! I wish everyone was color blind and just saw people as people, not as a race or nationality.

But then maybe I am a hypocrite when I say this, because I enjoy basking in my Norwegian heritage. I grew up in an all-white area in Wisconsin, went to a high school that featured Norwegian Dancers, and the town celebrated Syttende Mai each May 17 with parades, art fairs, etc. Even our trash cans were painted with Norwegian rosemaling designs.

So can I simultaneously bask in my Norwegian heritage and wish everyone was just seen as people, not as white or black, Chinese or American; Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jew, or Atheist? It is our differences that make us individuals, unique from one another. Yet we all have two eyes, blood than runs red throughout our bodies, etc. It seems contradictory to hold two versions in our minds at the same time. 

I think each person has an identity that is wrapped up in their race, their religion, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation, their roles in life (I am a daughter, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, wife, friend, etc.), their profession, etc. And people throughout the ages have bonded with their like-human beings and separated themselves from those different. Prejudice is nothing new.

What seems new to me is the huge emphasis on it due to all the racial tensions, the media exposure, and everyone participating in the drama of it all, whether it is on the streets in demonstrations (peaceful or otherwise) or sitting on their couches glued to the dramas on television or on their computers. No one is immune to the tensions these days. I know, prejudice has always been a major element in our culture, but it feels more prominent to me these days.

I remember when I was a little girl walking across our huge lawn to get the mail and having this thought so profoundly enter my mine: "I am so glad I was not born black this time." When I look back on that moment, I realize I believed in reincarnation at that time but did not realize it or even know the concept existed. Yet I felt like I KNEW what it felt like to be black.I am now going on 75 years old, so that thought has been with me for about 65 years! Yet it is like I thought it yesterday, the memory is so vivid and profound.

Yes, I am very grateful to be a white person living in a beautiful quiet little coastal town, publishing books with my husband. And I am grateful that I am married to a man with a social conscience who published this beautiful little book three years before I met him. No, we are not out on the streets demonstrating for social equality, but in our consciousness, we do hold high thoughts for tolerance.. and more than tolerance... for togetherness and respect. For asking ALL people what do they wish.. and listening to their responses.

"Regarding Race Relations, What Do You Wish Of Blacks Or Whites?"



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