"The interests of a black man in a cellar, mark tardy judgment on the world's closed door."
- Hart Crane
Long ago when I was a teenager, a white man who spoke English and German asked me to read a book written by an Englishman, one Ashley Montagu, entitled, "The Fallacy of Race." Montagu was an anthropologist, one who studies the origin of mankind, the how of how we got here.
I was shocked at what I'd read. Montagu claimed that races of people do not exist. He called race " ... our dangerous human myth."
Such baffled my youthful mind: Wherein I began to ask questions.
First of my German mentor, Mr. Scharfenberg, who said what I'd read was true, that later on in life I'd realize that. My dad said it was the same mess I read in comic books, like the "GreenHornet" and "Wonder Woman." My uncle, who was a pretty sharp dude, said that white folks who write such wanted "Negroes" to rise up against whites and then be slaughtered. It would be like Hitler's "final solution" apropos Jews. My mom stewed over the idea but her moral suasions and her religious soul wouldn't allow her to hold such a world view.
If past is prologue, and in my case it is, my mentor told me something that I never forgot. He said that Einstein, whom he'd mentioned heretofore and who was a Jew, fell in love with a black woman, the renown contralto Miriam Anderson. In 1939, Anderson was barred from singing at Constitution Hall in our nation's capital by dent of overt racism against her from the Daughters of the American Revolution. The daughters dragooned Anderson into not performing in the nation's capital.
Einstein appeared to have thought that Anderson was just as precious as white women. He carried on with her until his death in 1955. Anderson died in 1993 at the age of 96, outliving her ill-advised, freedom-loving detractors.
The late astronomer and physicist Carl Sagan, in his essay "What are Colors?"said that colors in different races of people do not apply to the real physical world. Sagan explained: "Only in the visible, where many molecules are transparent, is white skin even possible. Over most of the spectrum, all humans are black." Montague said that races do not exist. Sagan said that all humans are black. Both proved their ideas correct. But how did Sagan prove that all humans are black and that white skin is an anomaly in the physical world?
Sunlight is the answer. Because of sunlight we see colors. Since molecules are transparent, fittingly then, we cannot see them. Sagan went on to say: "It is only at visible and immediately adjacent frequencies that any significant skin reflectivity exists."
We see only what sunlight allows us to see, see only the immediately visible, but see it in frequencies only; see it in quick sequences, our eyes refracting more light toward the red end of the spectrum than toward the blue. In short, we are all equally black in the ultraviolet for in the infrared, where many molecules in our skin absorb much of the light that falls on us.
Like iron, sunlight is solid. It's made up of both wave and particle. If not for light's atoms bombarding us with energy, we'd crawl over the Earth like moles, groping in the black, feeling our way but seeing nothing.
Subsequently, racism is based wholly on the metrics of human sight and the willy-nilly logic applied thereon. Therefor, racism is misbegotten situational ethics with hubris posing as reason; it's categorical imperative is power. Racism and power are interchangeable concepts.
The narrative which was written into culture's critical mass was based solely on human nature's unpredictability. Such gave rise to man's negative capabilities; such gave rise to civilization and our discontents.
Addendum: I sadly watched CNN's cri de coeur on the death of Whitney Houston. A line came to me from Milton's "Paradise Lost" - "Fame -the last infirmity of a once-noble mind." It's hard to mix the deep devotional trappings of religion, as Whitney did, with the entrapments of the secular world. I adored you, Whitney. Rest in peace."
(Baker is a resident of Steubenville.)