The Parable Of The Blue Reflector -- By: Nancy K. Ferrell
PP 15:2 (Spring 2001) p. 19
The Parable Of The Blue Reflector
Let Us Point The Way To Signs Of Racism And Exclusion That Are Often Not Seen By Those Not Affected By Them.
Nancy K. Ferrell is director of Professional Services and Education in Dallas, Texas. This article originally appeared in Christian Ethics Today (May-June 2000) and is used with permission of the author.
It was a warm, sunny Sunday morning and Gibson and I were outside playing kickball. It was one of his favorite activities, and playing with him was one of mine. In the middle of an enthusiastic kick, Gibson stopped abruptly and said, “Aunt Nancy, look! There is a blue reflector!” I was amazed to discover that there was a blue reflector embedded in the concrete. I had walked by, driven over, and played ball around this spot on the parking lot hundreds of times. I had never seen the blue reflector. Gibson asked, “Where is the fire hydrant?” I still did not make the connection. My young instructor continued, “The blue reflector lets the firefighters know where to look for a fire hydrant. Look, there it is!” And there it was. The fire hydrant on the corner was across from the blue reflector.
For days after this lesson on blue reflectors from my four-year-old teacher, I saw blue reflectors everywhere. I have driven the streets of Dallas since 1940. I had never noticed the blue reflectors, but there they were, marking the locations of fire hydrants day or night.
There are at least two lessons to be learned from the Parable of the Blue Reflector1: one, always be open to learning, no matter the age of your teacher (The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them”2 [Isa. 11:6]); and two, once our awareness is raised, we see blue reflectors where we saw none before. (For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” Mark 4:22-23.) For now, I want to focus on the second lesson.
For eleven years I worked with the U.S. Department of Justice, Community Relations Service.3 As an Anglo woman, I had a lot to learn about the subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways people are excluded from access to resources and participation in the decision-making processes of community life. I learned to see the blue reflectors. The signs of exclusion and discrimination were always there, but I had not always had eyes to...
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