Professor Einstein's Living Proof (an excerpt)

by Yasmin Elaine Waring


“I can escape the feeling
of complicity in it only
by speaking out.”

The professor arrives on time, sockless.
The former a sign of his polite upbringing.
The latter, his lack of pretense and high
comfort quotient. His ankles bared as he
steps from the backseat of a pea green
four-door Packard convertible. The touring
sedan a reluctant perk for the modest old
man. Wearing a shapeless sack coat with
a Peter Pan collar and no lapels, his hair
glowing translucent in the noonday sun
is neatly combed—to the disappointment
of some anticipating wild locks that mimic
an electro-magnetic field. The professor
is ushered outside into a garden that may
have resembled Gethsemane, the Hall
having overflowed capacity. Wearing the
robes of a gushing faculty member too
happy to share his regalia with the most
famous scientist in the world who has
touched down on this small university to
discuss more than the physical relativity
problem. “My trip to this institution was in
behalf of a worthwhile cause. There is a
separation of colored people from white
people in the United States. That separation
is not a disease of colored people. It is a
disease of white people. I do not intend to
be quiet about it.” There are children present.
His eyes rest on a little girl with thick braids
and skin the color of printen, a German
gingerbread. After, waiting her turn to
shake the hand of the man with the
strange accent, he bends down close
to whisper in her ear. His white hair reminds
her of Moses from her Sunday school picture
books. “Don't remember anything that is
written down,” he says. She replies to his riddle,
 “I like my stories better too.” The professor is
overcome with laughter. Eight years later, when
Brown v. Board of Education is unanimously
decided, a year before his springtime death,
he will remember the gingerbread girl, and
the Emperor Robeson in their anti-lynching
crusades, and the dismissal of Du Bois' false
indictment when he volunteered as a witness.
For the last leg of his Lincoln trip, the professor
is escorted to a small classroom. Nervous
students wait, forming a narrow arc around
an empty blackboard dusty with the remains
of proofs and quadratic equations. Taking a
chalk stub from his pocket, he starts to write
on the board. He stops. Dropping the chalk,
he faces the room. An immutable law of
physics apparent: darker colors absorb
more light. His class is radiant. The professor
opens with a question, “Are there physically
preferred states of motion in nature?” Several
hands shoot up simultaneously. He picks the
gentleman with the bow tie in the first row,
leaning forward to hear his response.

--For my father, Joseph Henry Waring, the mathematician