Emotional Growth Beyond Race

I’d like to present a challenge to the black community, in that we work on our intellectual growth and expand our perceptions of the world beyond the myopic view offered through the lens of race. Otherwise, we are left to say, “Ball!” “Ball!” “Ball!” as in the story with little Johnny.

Anyone who has spent any time at all around little kids will understand Swiss psychologist, Jean Piaget’s notions of schema, assimilation, and accommodation. Let me explain. Imagine this scenario: Johnny’s dad comes home with a new toy for his young son. He rolls it up to Johnny and says, “Ball.” The kid looks quizzically at the object and, after a few attempts, blurts out, “Ball!” His parents are overjoyed. Their child–to them an unbridled genius–knows what the new object is. 

They telephone Johnny’s grandparents and make them listen to their grandson saying, “Ball!” “Ball!” “Ball!” The parents are happy, Johnny is pleased that he is pleasing others, and his grandparents are already thinking graduate school. 

The next morning, Johnny’s mom is slicing oranges for juice. Johnny looks over at his mom. With his little chubby baby fingers, Johnny points to the oranges. Guess what he says? That’s right! He says, “Ball!” “Ball!” “Ball!” 

Intellectual Growth Stems from Expanding Our Worldview Beyond Race

Johnny at this young age has developed a scheme for his world. That is, all things round are “Ball.” Everything he encounters that is round and unfamiliar to him is made to fit into his existing knowledge base. Things are assimilated into what he already knows. 

Later he learns that everything round is not a ball. Oranges, moons, suns, and wheels have roundness, but not ball-ness. Johnny learns to accommodate for these other round objects. In essence, he learns to expand his schema and worldview. 

In order for Johnny to expand his world and develop, he must learn to accommodate. Similarly, accommodation (or adaptation) to new ways of existence and perception of the world for black Americans must be mastered to ensure expansion and development. We must learn to expand ourselves beyond race. 

As well, we must work on our intellectual growth and expand our perceptions of the world beyond the myopic view offered through the lens of racial injustice. Otherwise, we are left to say, “Ball!” “Ball!” “Ball!” in response to new and emerging themes of social interaction. Our schema: “Prejudice!” “Racism!” “Discrimination!” serve to keep some of us as limited and psychologically unsophisticated as was Johnny. 

Come on, black people. We can do it. We can accommodate. Little Johnny did!

Well, that’s all the time we have for today. 

Until next time: 

BE WELL, AND KEEP STRETCHING!

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Dr. James Davison, Jr. is a licensed psychologist and university professor. He conducts a private practice in Seattle, Washington, and has appeared on
several nationally-aired programs including The Phil Donahue Show, The
Ken Hamblin Show
, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, and
C-SPAN’S Book TV. Dr. Davison hails from Philadelphia, and is the author of several books – Prisoners Of Our Past, Sweet Release, and the upcoming Paid In Full – related to individuality and personal freedom for African-Americans.

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