Thursday, July 8, 2010

Race for the Ideal

One of my issues that I have no plan to try to change is that I have a streak of idealism. I tend to long for how things OUGHT to be rather than settle for how they are. I guess I have this notion that if we shoot for the ideal, then what we will end up with will be just that much better than if we simply settle for the realistic.

How many of you recognize this quote:
“I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.”

This was penned and spoken by another idealist. It was his vision that one day a person’s race would no longer be an issue; that one day what would be important would be a person’s actions, and attitudes, and that moral character would speak louder than the color of their skin….or rather, that their skin color would be immaterial. I agree with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I grew up in a city and at a time when racial issues were hot. I was pretty isolated in a “white” part of Muncie, Indiana, but I heard about the riots at the high school and it definitely scared me. I remember one late night my mom was driving to pick up my dad at work, and we passed through a “black” neighborhood. We were stopped at a traffic light when a large rock landed on our back window just above my head. Scary!

Despite those things, I was never prejudiced. I had neighbors and relatives who were, but for some unknown reason, I was not. For that, I am thankful. I was a bit afraid of black folks, but that was driven by ignorance rather than any animosity, and when I finally attended a school that was integrated my fear melted away. In seventh grade, I made a couple of new friends: Marvin Dent and James Flye. I don’t know if James remembers me these days, but I’ve recently reconnected with Marvin after about 35 years. When I found him on Facebook, Marvin didn’t remember me, but I was still excited to find him.

For a little more than a year, my wife and I lived in South Carolina. While there, my wife worked as the secretary at the church we attended. In that role, she received at least one phone call where the person calling asked: “Is this a black church or a white church?” Her answer: “Yes.” The fact was that our congregation in Columbia, South Carolina was a bit different than the norm. We were nearly 50-50 black and white.

So, back to my idealism. I don’t want white friends or black friends. I just want friends. We shouldn’t have white congregations and black congregations of churches. We should just have churches. We don’t need organizations to promote a certain race; black or white. Favoring one race over another is racism whether it is done out of a sense of superiority or the opposite; out of a sense of regret or penance. You cannot correct racist behavior by swinging the pendulum to the opposite extreme.

All that said, my idealism doesn’t make me blind to reality. There is still racism in America. It isn’t as “in your face” as it used to be, perhaps. It isn’t behind every tree or behind every door, but it is still there. What I am saying though, is that maybe we need to be more idealistic in dealing with it. Maybe instead of being so race-sensitive, we need to make our society race-neutral. Wouldn’t the ideal situation be just as Dr. King stated it? Shouldn’t we all be judged by the content of our character rather than the color of our skin. If that is true, we have to stop using race as a factor at all. We need to become color-blind.

Yes, I am definitely an idealist, but I’ll start the trend if you’ll follow.

No comments:

Post a Comment