White Lady

Another incident that occurred as a result of my recent high-hair fashion involved a group of young girls waiting for the T at Park Street station.  They were intrigued by our costumes and asked each of what we were, and pointed and laughed with us.

When one girl asked me “What are you?”, I confidently replied, “White Lightning”.

“What?”

“White Light-en-ing,” I said again, emphasizing each syllable with a a zigzag in front of my lighting bolt shirt.

“White lady?!?”

Her friends burst out laughing at this, and so did we.  The poor girl was so embarrassed that she had to run away and apologize from afar.  I tried to tell her it was fine, but it was hard to say between my huge guffaws.

I didn’t really feel embarrassed about the situation.  I am, in fact, white.  And as the sun has only recently decided to warm up the planet again, I’m really, really pale.  My legs glow.  So someone calling me ‘white lady’ is just being honest.  Since I look younger than I am, even the ‘lady’ part isn’t bad.  I’d rather be called ‘lady’ or ‘ma’am’ than 14 years old.  Still, the girl felt like it was a mortal insult.

There are cases, however, when people might feel ashamed of their skin tones, or the very visible actions of their countrymen.  I recently read The Map of Love, in which a widower from England, Anna Winterbourne, discovers for herself the ‘true Egypt’ of the early 1900s.  Through love and friendship, Anna eventually becomes a strong advocate for Egyptian nationalism.  She feels responsible for the actions of the British towards Egypt, no matter how little she is able to influence events as an individual.  She feels guilty, not for who she is, but for the unseeing eyes of her countrymen in the face of loud international cries for equality and basic rights.

The chorus today is the same – people want peace, justice, and freedom.  Can we, as a nation, give it to them?  Can we help them to find it for themselves?  Do we, as individuals, have th right or responsibility to help, or is all of our interference negative?  Take a student’s, James Karl Buck’s, documentation of protests and other events recently in Egypt.  He was only documenting the situation, and was arrested for it.  Though he was able to send information to others on his status and conditions via Twitter, and eventually secure his release, the same was not true for his Egyptian translator, Mohammed Maree.  The U.S. citizen gets out fine, and as a result is possibly endangering the life of an Egyptian one.  I am sure that if Mohammed were here, however, he would make the choice to help, even though risking his personal freedom.  I doubt, however, that James feels any less guilty about his freedom because of it.

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