“Oh, I know him!” We believe that we know a person because we can remember his name or because he knows ours. But, how much time have we spent with him? How many experiences are shared before we make this judgment? What do we mean when we say that we know someone and how does one come to be known?
I ask these questions because in many ways, I remain a stranger to myself. Despite intentional practices that lead to a deeper self- awareness, I am still learning about myself, why I am the way that I am and who I am becoming. I can say the same for my husband, John, who I’ve known almost ten years. We share our lives together and yet, I find myself discovering new things about him almost every day. No matter the amount of time spent with someone or the level of commitment, there are some things that will remain hidden, that are only revealed in time and that only come to light when the experience calls for it.
We also have a son who I shared my body with. I know him in a way that no one else ever will and yet, I get up each morning eager to learn more about who he is and who he is becoming. We named him and yet, we do not control his destiny or life’s purpose. He is made of us and yet, we look forward to the day when he will reveal to us who he is.
Despite all of our time together, the intimacy of our experiences and the fact that we are family, I cannot say that I know them.
I say this because I do not know fully their past, present or end. Only God does. It is simply impossible to keep up with all of their time and its actions. And yet, race makes this claim and has convinced us that we have this ability. We look at the social coloring of a person’s skin and we believe that we know all about him. But, what do we really know and how did we come to possess this knowledge? How much time have we spent with him? How many experiences have we shared? Do we even know his name?
If we have not befriended one person from a different cultural group, then how can we say that we know how all socially colored black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige people are? If all that we know about them is what our prejudices would have us to believe and what we acquired from social stereotypes, then how do we know?