Cumberland Times-News

Betty Van NewKirk - From the Museum

May 8, 2008

We all need to develop a seeing eye


That reminds me of an incident in an English class I taught at FSU many years ago. My students were freshmen, black and white, boys and girls, few enough in number to make discussion possible.

We were talking about prejudice - judgments made prematurely - sparked by an essay in that year's textbook. All of a sudden there was a giggle a the back of the room. "What's the matter, Henrietta?'' I asked.

She giggled again. Then, "Before I got into this class I thought all white people looked alike.''

There was a gasp on the other side of the room. Students who had often heard their parents complain that they couldn't tell Chinese, or Hispanics, or Blacks apart, found themselves targeted for anonymity.

I don't know what happened after that. I can only hope that the Caucasians took a long look at themselves and their attitudes. Perhaps for Henrietta it was the first step toward a truly seeing eye, looking into the people around her instead of staring at them.

I don't remember Henrietta's last name, and I wouldn't recognize her if she returned to Frostburg for a class reunion. But perhaps I played a part in passing along the lesson that Helen Miller had taught me.

We all need to develop a seeing eye!

Betty VanNewkirk is the historian for the Frostburg Museum.

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Betty Van NewKirk - From the Museum
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