“Skin I’m In” 26 years later –

In 1988 as a second year college student in North America, I took a grey hound trip across the continent. Ok I first took a ferry from Vancouver British Columbia to Seattle Washington. Then I took the greyhound from Seattle to Schenectady New York. This was no express bus ride, it was a trip with multiple stops in several cities, where I learned more about myself and the country which I would eventually adopt as my own. On that trip I was proposition by many predators. I maintained my sanity by listening to music on my walkman, enjoying and discovering radio channels across the country. More than 25 years later, I still miss the David Sanborn show. Also the late night sounds of the “Quiet storm.” Driving through Minnesota meant coming close to the essence of the purple one.  After 3 days and 11 or 12 states depending on who’s counting, I had a full journal, from lack of sleep and knew all the words to several Cameo, Prince and Bob Marley songs.

One song that served as the part of my soundtrack for that trip as well as subsequent cross country trips was Cameo’s “Skin I’m In.” This song is not one of their most popular but is an anthem of self respect, consciousness and self determination. The lyrics are so powerful and I think the song was just too powerful, too thought provoking to be popular. As an immigrant discovering race for first time,  Cameo’s words cut deep:

“Who’s this face in the mirror that I see
Sometimes confused by the double standards of society
And maybe I’m wrong about the way I feel
But then will somebody tell me what is really real 

Now I respect myself
I respect you too, but in the end it’s got to be
Do unto me as I do to you”

Almost 30 years later with all the police brutality, neo-racism, prejudice, anger of 2014 the words of another verse seem to challenge our collective conscience if we even have one left:

Peaceful world just out to see,
basic respect humanity
I’m just trying to be realistic without becoming pessimistic
If we have hope we can survive
A damn good reason to stay alive
Is it immoral or a sin
It seems to be according to the skin I’m in
Skin I’m in”

So almost 30 years later, I mourn our continued refusal to see beyond the superficial. I also wonder why we as humans continue to stoke irrational fears and create monsters where there are none, while allowing the real bogey men to walk free.


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