HHBMedia | A Foreign Perspective

My friends had a barbecue this weekend in observance of Memorial Day, and I got a lot more out of it than just good food and tasty beer.

Racism was the topic of discussion and with a mixed crowd of white Americans, black Americans, Romanians, Asian-Costa Rican - a little bit of everything - things got interesting.

We talked about the usage of the "N" word, America's history of oppression, slavery, and discrimination in today's society, the usual patterns of race relations. And of course, I stood my ground, sticking to my guns and not budging when my opinion differed from others. Unexpectedly, my demeanor softened as soon as I talked to a Romanian actor, another guest at the party, about his views on America's issue of race and discrimination.

My first thought "What can he teach me about race in America that I don't already know?" And, I must humbly admit that I couldn't have been more wrong.

He told me a story about how before coming to America, he wasn't versed in our issues with race and didn't understand why it was such a big deal. His black American friends recommended a few historically black films for him to watch in order to help educate him in this subject. He watched everything from Amistad to Selma, but it didn't really hit home for him until he saw 42.

That's right. 42.

Seeing racism in a context as simple as a baseball game really got to him. Whites Only signs, racist baseball players and seeing the hardships that the Robinson family had to endure put everything in perspective for him.

He said, and I'm paraphrasing here, you can have the greatest movement leaders in the world (I.e. Martin Luther King, Jr.) and pass all of the anti-discrimination laws you desire, but nothing will change. He said, you can't solve racism politically or legally; you have to change hearts.

Oh. Em. Gee.

Someone who's not from this country just called bullsh*t on everything that we've been fighting for over the past multi-decades. Maybe, just maybe, we've been taking the easy road in a sense; passing laws and bills to set the parameters around acceptable behavior instead of flipping the switch on what hate we have in our hearts, and simply doing better.

According to my new Romanian friend, it's all about choices.

And in reference to his new cultural fave, 42: because Jackie Robinson chose to keep his cool, history changed.

Can you imagine having that type of impact on the world?

*** This piece was originally published for HHBMedia.com in May 2015