Next Life

by Benjamin Kimble, , May 6, 2010

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In my next life, I would like to be a black man. Why? Quite simply, because I want to know what it is like. Twenty three years I have been white, and I am absolutely certain that I have a good idea of what that is all about. But what would it be like to see the world through a completely different, yet essentially identical, set of eyes? The only distinguishing trait from one life to the next would be the color of my skin. Everything else - my height, weight, intelligence, interests etc. - would be the same. In other words, if I remain who I am, but with merely a coat of paint - then how drastic could this transition be?

We live in a world that we would like to think of as a rainbow, but the harsh reality is that it is black and white. Not in the sense that there are only two kinds of people, but that at the end of the day a person can only say they have lived one way or another. Either you are rich or you are poor, intelligent or dumb, fast or slow, beautiful or or white. The happy medium exists only to put a positive spin on the position that you find yourself in. Therefore, after having lived one life as a white person, the only way to truly understand the other side of the tracks is to come back as a black person.

In imagining this possibility I can only wonder what it would be like by asking a seemingly endless stream of questions. However, for the sake of concision I will just focus on a few. What would it feel like to look in the mirror for the first time, assuming that I would have knowledge of my previous life? What kinds of reactions would I get walking the streets of the same small town I have lived in my whole life, given the fact that there is a severe lack of diversity? Would I think differently about others, or even myself?

I think the bottom line is ultimately that by coming back in my next life as a black man there is one goal I would like to accomplish. And that goal is to open my eyes to a place I couldn't have possibly seen before and to embrace that experience as if it were all I had ever known. Isn't that the key to breaking down the barrier of prejudice and discrimination - realizing that no one has made the choice to be what color they are, or how smart they are, or if they are seen as attractive or not? We are all in this world together, for better or worse, so why should we spend any waking moment making it more difficult than it has to be?

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