I will never forget the experience. I was watching a video made for teachers to help them understand what it is like to live with learning issues. It featured a group of real teachers as students while an expert in learning disabilities taught the class. For one of the exercises, the instructor gave a short speech using words that we would all know, but when put together seemed meaningless to most. In another exercise, he asked the teachers to identify an object based upon just a small piece of a picture. When they were unable, he asked them to try harder and focus, which, of course, did not change their success. After watching the video, I truly had a new appreciation of what individuals with special learning needs endure. I understood better what it is like to stick out or not fit into a classroom setting and I had a clue as to the discomfort that children or adults who struggle with learning challenges must face on a daily basis.
What does it feel like to be Black or Hispanic in a country that maintains a Eurocentric mentality? Whether it is media images, school curricula or political and social power, minorities can feel either invisible or conspicuous; in either case they end up on the outside. We have made great progress in that we have outlawed discrimination, but we have not eliminated it. In 1959, John Howard Griffin in the book Black Like Me learned through personal experience what it meant to be black. It was only by medically altering the color of his skin that Griffin could comprehend what it meant to be a Black-American. Most of us would claim not to be prejudiced, but I would venture to say that many of us still harbor basic uncertainty about some minorities. How many people react with fear when they find themselves in an elevator with men they think may be gang members?