Attorney General Eric Holder has accused conservatives of being cowards, not willing to have an honest conversation about race in America. Well a coward is someone who is either afraid or has something to hide. Since I have neither, I am courageously marching into the gap. Let the conversation begin.
I have nothing to hide because I have the credentials to speak. My family didn't just talk about issues, they acted. When my great, great, great, great grandfather from North Carolina inherited his father's farm he decided that slavery was wrong and he gave his slaves their freedom. This was not only at a great monetary loss about $100,000 in today's currency, but in the days before farm machinery to do the heavy work, it also cost him the farm. Having sacrificed everything for his principles, my grandfather went west, had ten children and worked as a blacksmith in Illinois. At the age of ten, his middle son, my direct ancestor, was apprenticed to the general store owner and lived above the store. That young man joined the First Kansas Volunteers immediately following the attack on Fort Sumter and was wounded in the second battle of the Civil War. He served and fought in many battles until the end of the war. His final command was as a Brevit Major with the Colored Volunteers. I come from a long line of people who have made sacrifices to right the inequities of the slave system that our new nation inherited from the British when we wrestled sovereignty from their grip.
Since I was a teenager in the '60s I have not experienced overt racism except for one instance, by chance. I was in a formerly KKK-controled town, on the outskirts of the city where I live, in the Post Office standing in line to buy stamps. There were two clerks on duty; one white and one black. The black clerk finished her last transaction and called out "Next". The elderly man in front of me did not respond by stepping up to the counter, instead he deliberately turned his back to her. Again the clerk called out, "Next", yet the man did not respond. At first I was confused, but the meaning of his insult suddenly dawned on me and I was horrified, angry and ashamed. I approached the clerk and I did the only thing I could do, I apologized, expressed my outrage and told her that not all white people think and act as this man had. I was mortified that any human would treat another in such a rude and demeaning manner. I spent time examining my own heart to root out any errant beliefs that would contribute to any improper actions, thoughts or attitudes on my part and I did the small thing I could. I could not influence or change the man's heart, I could only pray for him to see the errors of his heart.
My life went on in an ordinary way until about 10 years ago when the church we attended disbanded and we began searching for a new church home. We visited many churches for a year and a half before being led to a wonderful Bible believing, friendly, Scripturally-based fellowship. We were convinced from our first visit that this was where we belonged and we joined within weeks. After a couple of years we joined the worship team and the choir. The only problem was that we were white and except for a handful of other members, the congregation was black. This didn't bother us at all, but we have heard the admonition from the pulpit several times, "Now I know some of you don't want any white people in this church, you wish they would leave, but you are wrong. The body of Christ isn't black or white, God calls people from all races and nationalities and calls all of them members of the body, the church." While I appreciated the sentiment, I wondered who it was that didn't want me there? Some people left the choir and the worship team because we joined (though nothing was said, and I was not aware at the time). We will not be moved, we are here because God called us here, we are a full part of this body and we try in every way to break down the walls built up in hearts by hate and insult and past actions. We love our fellow church members and have made many dear friends. This is the work of the Spirit, the walk worthy of the Gospel to "Love one another, be kind to one another, bear one another's burdens."
That being said let's deal with reality. We have all been affected by government attempts to remediate the effects of racism, real or imagined . I have five children and two of them were part of a magnet program established to avoid court mandated busing by bringing more white kids into urban schools rather than closing them and busing the "minority children" out to the suburbs far from home. This was 20 years ago, the same time period when Shirley Sherrod had her turning point. My experience was that my two very bright and capable daughters were not treated equally as far as opportunity was concerned. There were multiple programs like the Minority Engineering Project which wooed the black students in the program. There were all expenses paid trips to colleges and seminars and offers of "full rides" to college with free room and board provided and even a stipend included. These programs were not available for "white" students nor were there any corresponding opportunities. So while my daughters saw friends being wined and dined and having college handed to them without cost, they each worked two jobs every summer, and paid for college themselves. There was no bitterness or jealousy, they truly appreciate the education they earned for themselves, but fairness was never a consideration in these programs. Neither was need or merit, it didn't matter if the students had the financial ability to pay for college or not, the only criteria was race and skin color.
If we are to bring the race issue to an end, we must treat all people as equal as stated in our Constitution. We have to get past the idea of payback, retribution and reparations. No entire nation can be held responsible for the actions of a few or for the actions of past generations. There will never be an eradication of isolated incidents of individual racism, not until Jesus returns and all evil is punished and eliminated.
We need to examine our own hearts to discover our ultimate destination. I fear that the goal that most of us assumed we were working toward, one of a colorblind society with opportunity for all, is not the goal that our leaders have been moving us toward and suddenly we are realizing that while we traveled and slept along the journey trusting the engineers, we have not arrived at the destination we paid to reach.
To be continued: next I will examine the racist mindset of those like Shirley Sherrod.