An article in the UK’s Daily Mail blew me away this morning. Both the action reported and the reaction of both press and people around her have been instructive.
Will.i.am was left speechless on the Graham Norton show last night after Harry Potter actress Miriam Margolyes told the star that she was ‘fascinated’ to meet him because he is black.
The actress, 71, said: ‘Unfortunately, I don’t know many black people. We don’t get to meet across the colour line much except in show business and that’s what’s so nice.’
While the usually talkative rapper was left speechless, Inbetweeners actor Greg Davies tried to defuse the situation by joking ‘It’s exotic’, while Norton quipped: ‘It’s lovely Miriam, you’re right.’
The Daily Mail article largely outlined the shock and awe at Mariam’s remarks and how uncomfortable it made everyone present. That’s the wonderful part. The truth does make us uncomfortable. There has not been a coming together of races to the degree one could wish since the days of protest. Mixed marriage, mixed neighborhoods and mixed schools have not changed anything significantly.
The goal had been to learn about and appreciate one another; to make us comfortable in each other’s homes and other places and to foster unity. The opposite has been true. Miriam mentioned she did not know many rappers like Will.I.am host of the show on which his encounter with the actress produced her honest response to the event. Actually she was not speaking the truth as everyone sees it but as she sees it and hers is a shared vision with many who cannot or prefer not to express their take on the issue of race. She was genuine and kind about it. Others on the show at first thought her misguided; in the end they could see through her window.
We should be making ourselves even more uncomfortable about race. If we don’t, we will never move forward and will be trapped in the current morass, the legacy of the years of slavery and beyond. Life is not an iPad. No amount of engineering can make it easier for any of us. We need to create the program within that will allow us to go beyond our daily routine and grow toward something that with benefit both us and others. We need to find opportunities to meet new people in less familiar settings. To move beyond the segregating forces of 2012. It is humanly possible.