Once, when I was younger, I was in the Upper West Side to go visit a friend. I walked into the elevator of a very ritzy building, listening to music not aware of the two women in the elevator with me. When I finally met their glance I noticed both women were grasping their bags for dear life. They were almost shaking, as if being that close to me was a dangerous situation to be in. I was young, maybe 13 or 14, and I was naïve, not putting the pieces together until much later. The women in the elevator were white and that was the first time I ever came across racism. My mother has countless stories of where she was treated a certain way due to the color of her skin. My stories are few and for me moments like that are rare. Sure, it’s a different time, but that doesn't mean racism doesn't continue to exist. On a freezing Wednesday night, I went to go see I Call My Brothers at the New Ohio Theatre. I sat in the front row, noticing that there was barely even a stage, more like a slightly raised platform. The lack of distance between the actors and the audience made me feel completely connected. The play was a 24-hour journey in the head of a man named Armor. It was a day after a car explosion went off in Manhattan. I watched Armor go through his day full of anxiety and worry. You heard his conversations and thoughts and I had to make the decision if he was the criminal or the victim. It was fast paced, zooming through each scene, which gave the show a very New York vibe. I related to it and was able to keep up with the pace trying to decide which category he would fall in. I realized the power that society’s view had on Armor. The audience was the society, and as the play went on, I felt the pressure build. I felt the the connection between racial profiling and terrorism build and through it I realized racism lives on.
After the show, I stayed for the talkback with the writer, Jonas Hassen Khemiri, and the director, Erica Schmidt. I felt like there was more behind the show and I was interested to hear where the show came from. I was surprised to hear that the play was originally in Swedish and based off a political and social events that took place in Sweden. The show was translated into English and, with the help of the director, was given that New York feel. I was taken aback, because of it seemed so authentic, with the sounds of train wheels rustling when Armor was on the Subway or when he sat behind the bus stop and artificial snow began to fall onto the stage. These little elements made it so relatable to me, a New Yorker. Then it hit me, the topic is an international issue. Khemiri began to explain that he has brought the play around the world and every audience responds so differently to the story of Armor. “In Sweden the audience really fought for Armor supporting him, while in New York it takes much longer for the audience to sympathize with him.” I think that in the Big Apple it takes a lot to receive someone’s sympathy.
We are guided by our judgment. A lot of the time we place judgment on people subconsciously. We base our views on people often through stereotypes we have heard about a culture or ethnicity. It doesn’t matter where in the world you are, judgment comes with any society. It is unrealistic to attempt to change the masses but as an individual I always make sure to remember that you can’t judge a book by its cover.