Friday, December 17, 2004

Homespun Symposium V

What do you believe is necessary for true racial reconciliation to take place in American society?*Does your solution involve coercive governmental remedies?*Do you believe that Churches have an important role to play in this process?"

I grew up in totally white, Christian (if you professed a religion) communities in Minnesota. I never heard negative conversation about people of other races within my family. People whose origins were from another continent were simply not a part of my experience. We lived with persons of very modest means and some quite comfortable financially. That was the biggest factor in class distinction. The other distinguishing factor was what church you belonged to among the various Christian churches. One of my favorite books as a child was Little Black Sambo. It had pictures of a small black boy, in another land who lived with tigers as part of his life. It never occurred to me to look down on a little black boy who lived such an exciting life. I never realized it would offend black people to have a black boy as the hero of my story.

In high school, we had some black migrant students who spent 4-6 weeks at my school. They were not teased, negative comments were not made within my hearing. They seemed shy and tended to stay by themselves. I could relate to them as a person who had moved and changed schools multiple times and their behavior did not seem strange since they were new in a school where everybody else knew each other. Then they were gone.

At age 18 I actually worked with a few black women for the first time. I was a nursing student
and they worked as aides. It was here that I found my first overt racism. A patient refused to have a black women care for her. This was my patient and the aide was working with me. The patient got the minimal care necessary from me. I could not believe someone could behave in this manner toward another perfectly lovely human being. Ruby, the aide , was one of the hardest working and most gentle care givers that I had worked with. I became aware of the civil rights issues and the horrible treatment of blacks who attempted to go to school. I applauded
Rosa Parks and the sit-ins at all white drugstore counters. For those brave souls who were
insisting on their human rights and those willing to assist them, I had immense respect.
For those whites who were so biased in thoughts and actions I felt contempt.

Eventually, when I started teaching nursing, I had a number of black students.
They fit in with the white students by virtue of the force of their personality. They were integral
parts of the class and were always a delight to work with. My immediate boss was black. She had her masters degree and I was still working on mine. The one time racism raised it 's head was when she would not attend my wedding because she felt she would be the "token black" and though I think the others attending would have welcomed her, she undoubtedly had gone through enough negative experiences to want to avoid another. This was in New York. I went to school in the city and had a few black classmates in general classes, but never got to know them
because I attended class and went back home because of my schedule. At work I taught with
a Chinese and two Jewish women. The Director and Assistant Director were lesbians. I had no
difficulty working with, laughing with and socializing at times away from work. I did go home
with one of my Jewish friends and celebrated Seder with her family and shared the traditional
meal with many explanations to me. They were moderate Jews and very open to having a gentile in their home.

When we moved to Florida I ended up teaching in a Jr. College. Here again, I worked with black
faculty and students and had my first encounter with militant racism. I criticized the performance of a black student in the same manner I would criticize any student performance--in private with suggestions for improvement. This student evidently complained to a black faculty member and I was accused of racism. I did not have different standards for students be they white ,black, male or female. This made me very unhappy because I never harbored negative feelings based on ethnicity or sex. They represented the mixed community in the college. Many of the black and male students were outstanding, others were average both in knowledge and performance. When less than adequate knowledge or performance were apparent, it was my job to point this out and help the individual overcome whatever weakness they presented. We accepted "at risk" students and the faculty worked very hard and effectively in helping them overcome the previous learning deficits they came to us with. The majority of these students became successful, both black and white.

When we moved to North Carolina there were very few black persons in the town I now
live in. One of my favorite people at work happened to be black. It made no difference as
far as working was concerned. She was younger, had her own family and church ties. I never
saw the militant racism from the blacks in this community nor negative reactions from
patients or other staff. We have Chinese and Thai who own restaurants that are frequented
by the community. I see no overt racism from them or the white customers. A married couple who happened to be black had chronic health problems were frequently patients in ICU and staff were very fond of them. They had a lot of hugs and visits from all the staff even when they were not assigned to care for them.

Dr. Martin Luther King's speech about judging people not based on color but on character
resonates with me. I like Bill Cosby's statements on parenting and to stop blaming whitey
for everything that goes wrong. I dislike Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton turning everything
into a racial issue. I admired Julian Bond at one time and now find him hateful and feel they (Jackson, Sharpton , Bond)
work to keep racism alive and well, as a means to stay in the limelight. I admire anyone who
has fought poverty or racism or both and achieved the goals they have for their lives.
People such as Oprah, Colin Powell and Condaleeza Rice are outstanding examples.
I am happy to see blacks in leadership positions within our government and court system.
Lesser known people of various ethnic backgrounds are successful in business, entertainment,
sports and the military.

I do not believe that government can legislate this away with quotas or mandated
preferential treatment. Freedoms for one must be freedoms for all. Legal
protection against racist policies is the only thing that government should be
involved with.

Since people tend to live in areas with large numbers of their own ethnic group be it Italians,
African Americans or Asians, they tend to have their own religious groups. Churches can
do more in joining the members together in social, common worship services or joining choirs
to give a concert. We tend to stay within our most familiar social groups, not out of hate, but
because we are more comfortable. We see more mixed ethnicity in larger community churches
and that is to be applauded. Today, I think that all people of faith stand a better chance of
overcoming the racial divide within our churches as we begin to fight the gradual, continual
corruption of our society.

Blogging has allowed me to get to know more of Muslim people through the Iraqi
blogs. I enjoy LaShawn Barber's blog and find we have much in common. The
internet opens up many opportunities for greater understanding of the similarities
we all share. We all love, we hope and we bleed the same

1 comment:

  1. Where I grew up everyone was white, or Native American, and racism was a big issue. I remember as a child thinking that all "Indians" were dirty and dumb, and they didn't believe in God. It wasn't until High School that I began to realize that I had been taught to think this way, but that it was false teaching.