Friday, January 09, 2009

The Dangers of Changed Perspective

I have a Facebook page. It actually is one of the better things I've done recently, because I have reconnected with friends that I have not talked to for years. I don't "friend" just anyone--that's what MySpace is for. In Facebook, my rule is I have to have known you in the real world. I have "friended" people from as far back in my life as elementary school--half of the kids I played with on McBeth Street in the early 70's are now "friends" of mine, and someone I am connected with knows where the other half are. There are people from my years of working in the wineries and attending community college, in California; my old undergrad campus ministry unit at Delaware; my years of seminary in Texas; and all my church colleagues, youth, and friends from here and now. It's about a 36 year span, from two high schoolers I met last week at a district youth event, to people I knew when I was 4.

The people I knew from high school are one of the most special groups to me. We even arranged a small reunion at a local Newark tavern last Thanksgiving. Recently, I got a friend request from someone I don't remember, and the information she posted included our common high school, though not from my class. She didn't have a name I recognized. It's probably her married name, but I thought a trip through my yearbook might not be out of order.

So I opened it up, and was leafing through what this particular person said was her graduating year. Sure enough, there were no people listed under that last name, and all of the first names were initialized.

As I closed the book, it fell to the page that covered my senior prom. I looked through the faces of that Queens' Court, and while I wasn't necessarily in their social circles, I recognized almost all of them. A few have even re-appeared in Facebook. But there was one face I remembered, and I was shocked to notice looked like she was absolutely fuming. I'd never noticed this before. She appeared to be the first-runner up. She's looking right at the camera, and she looks like she was about ready to drill through the picture.

Now, I wonder. Was she mad that she didn't get elected, or was there something else going on? And if it is a matter of her not being elected, was there a reason other than not getting enough votes?

I ask these questions, as I look at her face. The only African-American face in the Queens' Court. I ask these questions because in my travels through life, I have been sensitized to the fact that I had the privilege of missing a lot of what went on around me. You really can't put much value on the average Anglo's perceptions and opinions when it comes to what our fellow Americans of African, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American feel.

Now, it could very well be that she just hates having her picture taken. She may have had a fight with the guy who is standing behind her, a guy that I believe she later married. There could very well be any number of possible explanations, some of which she might have even used had she been asked what was wrong by those who knew her better than I did. I can imagine her saying to herself "they wouldn't get it anyway, tell them something they'll understand".

I want to ask the woman that girl became what was going on. And I want her to trust me, even though I am a white guy who has just entered middle age (ooh, it hurts to write that!) I hope that it isn't what I fear, that she was somehow, by prejudicial vote or racist machinations of administrators, kept from becoming the Prom Queen of her senior class.

Our senior class.

As I write that, I really do not want to take anything away from the girl who is wearing the crown in the picture. It's just that this other face is so livid, it makes me wonder. . .

So, to my fellow Newark Yellowjackets on Facebook or elsewhere on the web, I ask for your help in finding our common friend. And if she reads this herself, I hope she trusts me enough to contact me and tell me the story. And if it is what I fear, I hope that she understands that I really want to hear the story, even with all the pain she may feel.

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