What the Zoo has taught me…

What the Zoo has taught me...

Karisah Watkins-Martin, Staff Writer

One sticky July afternoon, my family took a trip to the zoo. The sweltering heat from that day lingers in the back of my mind; the muggy air had a heavy presence and seemed rather suffocating. I remember my sisters racing through the zoo, my mom struggling to keep up with them as they gawked at each and every animal they passed. I, however, seemed to stay still. I had nestled myself between the bear and lion exhibit, my feet glued to the ground as my eyes seemed to open wider in an attempt to take in all that I was seeing. I had found my comfort and seemed almost entranced by the zebra exhibit.  At the moment, I didn’t know how the zebra was able to mesmerize me in a way that the snakes and tarantulas didn’t. I wasn’t sure why the zebra seemed to have such a significant effect on me, why it had caused me to remain completely still while the chaotic nature of the zoo seemed to fill the air surrounding me. It wasn’t until later that I was able to realize the significance the zebras played in my life beyond it’s pretty exterior.

The zebras seemed to provide resolution; they provided me with answers to the questions I had been asking my entire life. When you look at a zebra, you truly only see the black and white stripes separated with their distinctive edges and evident color contrast. However, look from further away, and the once separated colors seem to morph together to create a fascinatingly beautiful creature.The zebra’s mesmerizing stripes represent the black and white nature of the world, or at least, the way that some presume the world to be.

America is stuck in this close-minded frame of mind made up of sharp edges, especially pertaining to the ongoing struggle with race. As a biracial child growing up in this world, I was taught to categorize myself as either solely “white” or solely “black”; there often seemed to be lacking the box label “multi-racial” on many censuses and surveys. I was taught to view myself as a single shade, to neglect the caramel complexion of my skin that was clearly a concoction of a variety of cultures from different spectrums of my world. I wasn’t taught to embrace my unique blend of heritages; I was instead taught to separate them so that they would simply fit in one box on a survey.  The zebras at the zoo taught me that I did not need to conform myself within the boundaries that society presented. They taught me that I had the ability to represent the “grey” or “blurred” region in a world that had previously only known black and white. The stunningly beautiful black and white creature taught me the world is not made up of a single color, but instead an amalgam of intricate shades.