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Apples to Apples
The task was simple; the motive—sincere. And yet all did not go as my mother envisioned.
As a child of 5 years old, I tugged on the pant leg of my mother’s work scrubs. “Can I have an apple?”
“Better grab one for your sister too, you know how she gets.”
“Okay!” With mission in mind, I trotted off to find the produce.
What my mother did not take into account was the stark contrast between my sister and me, among the most pertinent to the situation being that I adored Red Delicious while my sister would settle for nothing less than Granny Smith. I claimed the apples and put them in the cart before we proceeded to the checkout, manned by two young African-Americans, one at the cash register and one at the bagging station.
The first saw the two apples bagged together, and asked if he could take them out and separate them, due to inconsistencies in pricing. My mother agreed before turning to me and taking it upon herself to explain for future reference that I was never to do likewise again, that apples of different varieties belonged in different bags for the convenience of the cashiers.
This confused me, I was always told that there was no difference in color; my mother herself explained it to me at a young age. I argued with her, beginning first with a bold question which I asked very loudly, “Mommy, what’s the difference between a white woman and a black woman?” My mother, seeing immediately where I was going with this, tried to explain that things were different here, but I persisted with my question.
She blushed. “Nothing but color, love, you know that.”
I smiled, my point was proven. “Exactly! Then what’s the difference between a red apple and a green apple? Why can’t they be bagged together, why must they be separated?”
My mother smiled with embarrassment and glanced at the two men, laughing softly amongst themselves at the spectacle, explaining that they were used to the blank stares and politically incorrect comments of small white children, and that for once it was refreshing to have a child on their side.
The metaphor, though I didn’t realize it at the time, was simple, yet flawed. It was true, it was so unmistakably true that even a woman as highly educated as my mother could not find an answer that a determined, yet small child could accept. They say “apples to apples”, to show equivalency, but they bag them separately in stores, do they not?
I believe it’s the same in the world. We claim integration; we claim blindness to color, but maybe all we’ve been doing is turning a blind eye. Even as a small child I saw this fallacy. People care so much about being politically correct, yet still think in terms of color. Some of my peers think of all the opportunities they’d have getting into college if only they were a minority. Superficial judgments like these are common, as is blatantly portrayed in the ever-controversial movie Crash when a character played by Sandra Bullock determines a man to be dangerous based solely on the color of his skin.
Perhaps apples are not equally priced, but we’re all supposed to be free, equally priced. It’s as Rousseau said, “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” How we solve this, I’m not sure. Most agree that something must be done, but no one has come forward with an answer. Perhaps the answer is more simple than it appears to us. Maybe all that’s needed is a fresh start, a generation that loves all apples.