October 3, 2014
by Dr. R. Scott
Something has been gnawing at me for a few weeks now and I’ve debated blogging about it, primarily because I can’t prove anything and it may all be in my mind, and it will no doubt rankle about half the people who read Take a Breath . . .
A few weeks ago in New York City two entertainment stars were memorialized in impressive liturgical services. Joan Rivers, of course, was celebrated at Temple Emmanu-el, and virtually every media outlet in the country covered the memorial service, including everything that happened before and after it. Joan Rivers was a star. And she was also someone who broke barriers for women in the entertainment industry. The end of her life was the lead story for almost a week. (And yes, I was a fan.)
Interestingly enough, within days of that service another entertainment star was memorialized in New York City. She was the African American actress – Ruby Dee. Ruby Dee was an extraordinary talent. A woman of the theater and film. She was a writer. An actor. A poet. She was married to an equally fine actor, Ossie Davis. She was also on the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, and she was never afraid to march and protest and make a difference in the world. She broke through barriers of racism and sexism, and she did so with unforgettable elegance and gutsy courage.
Yet, as remarkably talented as she was, I barely heard a word about Ruby Dee’s memorial service that week. How could an accomplished actress, entertainer and humanitarian like Ruby Dee be ignored by the national media? I’m not taking anything away from Joan Rivers. It just seems strange to me that an iconic figure like Ruby Dee can be memorialized inside the great Riverside Church of New York City and barely a ripple is made across the national landscape.
Here’s the thing about racism (and yes, I’m going there), we often think that racism is overtly violent toward another person. Yet the most insidious form of racism is when we unconsciously render others invisible because of the color of their skin. (Or age. Or class. Or sexual orientation. Or gender.)
Take a Breath and consider this: One of the most human things you can ever do is to help an invisible person become visible, which, when you think about it, is exactly what Ruby Dee did throughout her long and illustrious career. And that, it seems to me, is something worth remembering.