J. David Bethel:

Think of the starting line of a 100-meter dash. All the participants are lined up together. Before the race begins, however, those of mixed race are asked to take a few steps behind the line. Brown people are asked to take two steps behind this group, and anyone darker is required to march four to five steps back — depending on the darkness of their skin.

The very blond and blue-eyed are allowed to take two steps in front of the line, and the very attractive in this group are given another step forward. The remainder of the runners are directed to remain on the starting line.

When the starting gun goes off, everyone has to run on the same track to the same finish line. There are no shortcuts, but some of the runners first have to catch up to those who began on the starting line, and then must catch the others who have four or five steps on them. By the time the entire group arrives at the finish, all are tired, all are sweating, all had to work hard to get there, but those who were backed up behind the line had to work harder.

I have been one of the fortunate runners. I have light hair and blue eyes. Frankly, I wasn’t even aware that I was granted an advantage until it was pointed out to me some years back. By my wife.

My wife is a mixed race Cuban-American. She came to this country when eight years old and spoke no English. At the time there were no English As A Second Language classes.

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