“…. you have a whole different world view from a seated position. A lot of what I see is on the ground. Issues of race and color become less substantial when you look at the ground.” Federal Judge Reginald Lindsay who died this week at age 63 from complications from cancer.
Reggie Lindsay was an African American who grew up in segregated Alabama and became the second African American jurist in MA. But unlike many who have risen to distinction, early on in his career, 25 years ago, he developed cancer that left him paralyzed.
Judge Lindsay must have known discrimination. He had two distinctions which can be the source of discrimination: dark skin and a disability. But here’s the thing: Reggie Lindsay said that his disability shaped his perspective on many matters, including race. I find that impressive mostly because it’s not what we’d expect.
He told an interviewer, “My grandmother taught me, ‘What you don’t know can make a whole new world. What that came to mean to me is that of all the things I knew in this world, I had to understand that there were worlds beyond the world that I lived in.”
Reggie Lindsay saw his ability to think of his view of the world from a seated position …. as an opportunity. Wow!
I never met Judge Lindsay but my husband, Jake, did and he thought he was an impressive man. A few years ago, when our daughter, Lucy, was considering a career in politics, Jake asked Judge Lindsay to meet with her to discuss going to law school. Although he barely knew us, he agreed and spent an hour with her.
Funny thing is that neither my husband nor my daughter knew it was cancer that put him in a wheel chair. It wasn’t something that Judge Lindsay felt he needed to talk about. But then again, neither Lucy or Jake mentioned to me that he was even in a wheel chair. Obviously, they didn’t think it was talking about.
I have a hunch they weren’t alone. I bet that although being in a wheelchair and living with cancer helped shape his world view, it was something that others forgot as soon as Reggie Lindsay opened his mouth. Although this disability gave him a different and valuable perspective on the world, it didn’t seem to change how others saw him.
I can only hope that people could say the same of me. Don’t you?