Appearance does not make a person

I spy somebody tall. He wears locks and has a book in hand. He wears a leather armband adorned with shells. Silver beads hug his neck. His sweatshirt boasts “Think Outside” printed above a box.

So tell me, whom did I see?

Some might say that I spied your garden-variety grassroots type–a conscious brother. The kind who thinks we eat too much pork and do too little reading. He thinks the way to move our people ahead, starts with a moment of meditation, some history lessons, and a poetry slam.

But wait, you could be wrong. The guy I saw may belong to the NAACP, hates poetry, and volunteers at the science museum to prepare for his career as an astronomer., His favorite meal could be macaroni and cheese and he just might love some juicy pork chops.

We need to discard our prescribed images of people. The look of a person does not speak to who he or she is. Someone with a relaxer may be more “conscious” than someone with locks.

Coretta Scott King, Angela Davis, and Betty Shabazz all have different looks, but they all fought for the same cause–the advancement of black people.

Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. both wore suits. The young people, who are trying to follow in their footsteps, don’t necessarily look how Malcolm and Martin did. Some people dress like they did, but aren’t necessarily politically or socially conscious.

Ironically, those people who sport the “natural” flavor, speak black power, and complain about the inefficiency of current systems easily fall for shiny shoes and silky ties.

A Nigerian friend of mine says that natural hair does not make us more African. In the same way, long locks, a huge fro, gold teeth, wealth, or poverty, do not determine the interior of an activist. Appearance is a snapshot–not the film.

There are no molds to follow. The look of a person does not determine his or beliefs. There is no image. Don’t allow your look to keep you from making a difference. Don’t let something so superficial stifle you.

Like the Sprite commercial says, Image is nothing. So do something.

Look at who people really are–not what you want them. That’s where real change begins.

Toni Green, 19, is a junior English student from Okinawa, Japan. She is the Online Editor. She can be reached at