All together now – “We Are Family”

I was drawn to the turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri on Michael Brown’s death and have been following it on Twitter. With mass media so biased in its reporting, it’s good to have a source like Twitter that appears, at least, to be an open forum for all to express their perspectives. I have long come to believe that there is no truth, there is only perspective.

There are many references on Twitter to diatribes on both the left and the right, so by reading both, you can sometimes get pieces of the events that took place. Unfortunately, it is intertwined with the prejudices on each side of the issue.  From reflections on the events of the last several days, some voices of reason are beginning to draw realistic conclusions. Reference:  little-league-world-series-jackie-robinson-west-and-michael-brown

I grew up in the 60s in white, middle-class Davenport, Iowa, a bedrock of farm implement manufacturing factories. My high school was 99% Caucasian, which was allowed because the high school on the other side of town was still 77% Caucasion. My first experience with a real live black person was in my assisting in the reading lab at the high school. I knew his name because I heard it often at the high school football games. He was a star player and a really good athlete. When he came into the lab for help, I was flattered that he would allow me to help him knowing his status in the school. He talked to me as one human being talks to another, and I never knew to treat him differently than anybody else. 

I was a bit of a wimp and a nerd in high school but he was one of the few people who never played these factors against me, and I respected him for that. He always showed respect to me, and that pretty much sealed it for me. Whenever I meet somebody, I see a human being, not the color of their skin. I don’t try to determine their ethnic background  because, seriously, what does it matter?

However, I am not ignorant as to other people’s bigoted beliefs. I heard enough of it expressed while I was growing up. Even today, some 50 years later, I will hear an opinion expressed against an entire class of people, and I will think to myself, “Really?  There are still people who think like that?”  Apparently.

I was having a hard time connecting with the sting of degradation, detachment and discrimination caused by such expression, so I picked up a copy of John Howard Griffin’s Black Like Me, and began reading it again. The sensitivity to the plight of the black person in the hundred and fifty years since Lincoln freed the slaves came rushing back to me.  I know why they are protesting in Ferguson. I don’t know if we will be able to eradicate all bigoted thinking, but I know we have to keep trying.


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