Racism and Myopia

One summer day when I was almost 8, I was hanging out with two older neighbor brothers. One of them was with me at one end of their long back yard, and the other was talking to some kids from the park at the other end of the yard. I looked down the yard at the brother and the kids from the park, but all I saw was blurry blobs.

My eyes are myopic and have been since grade school. In the years before I got glasses, my distance vision was bad, but I didn't know that because my eyes had gotten myopic so gradually. I thought everyone could only see blurry shapes when looking at people thirty meters away. So I couldn't tell who the second brother was talking to.

"Who's he talking to?" I asked.

"He's talking to a couple of coloreds," explained the brother that was at my end of the yard. I had never having heard the word "colored" used to describe a person, and I thought he'd said, "kulurb."

"Kulurbs?" I asked. "What are they?"

"Kulurbs," said the brother, "are bad people. They steal things."

I was surprised and a little scared. Apparently there was a subrace of human beings that were genetically predisposed toward badness and petty theft. Even worse, they were visually indistinguishable from regular people. (At the distance we were at, I couldn't see any difference between the white brother and the black kids he was talking to.)

July 2003


Gay Pride Parade, Seattle, 2003

click for more