The Meaning of White

As a kid, I thought all beach sand was white.

Where I grew up, on the northwestern coast of Florida, the sand on the beach is white. Only when I got a little older and began to learn about the world did I realize how unusual that is.

It turns out all sand is not white; in fact, almost none of it is.

As a natural next step, I switched from believing all sand is white to believing white sand is best.

I could find a lot of confirmation of this opinion, particularly from people who lived with me in Florida.

But then, I traveled a little bit more, and I heard people saying that they liked the beaches where they lived, too.

The next step for me was concluding that, while white sand was best, a lot of people didn’t know because they’d never experienced it.

So I decided (a) to feel guilty; (b) to feel sorry for other people; and (c) to keep silent about the issue, as other people’s ignorance about beaches couldn’t be fixed with just words. It was quite a balancing act, feeling both privileged in my being a possessor of white sand beaches, while feeling guilty about how much better my sand was than other people’s.

But I then traveled to places like California and Hawaii and experienced their beaches. It turned out, there were lots of amazing beaches all over the world, all of which were good or better for different reasons, and for different people.

Perspective is one of those things whose limitations we see more clearly in others than we do in ourselves. Learning, listening, and experiencing firsthand are ways to change perspective, if we are open to them.

To many of us, the feeling of superiority that a limited perspective brings is one we enjoy. We want to feel that we are from a better place, listen to better music, and are just overall better people than those OTHER people, who, you know… are from that nasty place and listen to sucky music and aren’t very good people.

In addition, once you start growing your perspective, you realize how limited it still is, and that means never getting to occupy any of those “high grounds” (moral and otherwise) that we enjoy occupying so much. It also means having to continue to learn, listen, and experience, which can be a lot of work. Learning, in this sense, never stops, and assuming you have it all figured out never really starts, either.

So enjoy the beach , if you’re lucky enough to be near one. Just don’t be a white sand supremacist.

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One thought to “The Meaning of White”

  1. We have yellowish brown sand on the shores of Lake Erie, which gets so hot, it’ll burn the soles off of your feet.

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