Looks like 2015 is upon us. Time seems to be passing so quickly that I sometimes have a difficult time keeping up. Nevertheless, the changes that have occurred in my lifetime seem only microscopic when it comes to relations among the races. You must remember that I come from Robeson County, the original tri-racial community (it may now be quadra-racial). I left my comfortable segregated perch in South Lumberton to venture across the tracks and across the Lumber River to the Riverside Theater for the Saturday serials featuring the cowboys and Tarzan. Though the theater was divided into three sides, we were together. What bound us was our common poverty.
And then came Thurgood Marshall and the 1954 Supreme Court decision, The Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Sit-ins, the Marches, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and the Muslims, Stokely Carmichael and Black Power, the War on Poverty, the War in Vietnam, the assassinations, the insurrections, the desegregation of schools, civil and voting rights, political empowerment, Shirley Chisolm, The Congressional Black Caucus, Run Jesse Run, Soul Train, BET, Hip Hop, 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan and the election of Barack Obama. We saw possibilities.
What perplexes me is that we still struggle with the same issue – a deep sense of distrust in the others in our society to act with fairness when the issue of race is elevated. We are not confident that those in authority will act without bias or respond without fear and ignorance. What we seem to do is fall back on stereotypes and misperceptions when confronted by those who are different – not only by race, but gender, and religion and language, and sexual orientation. We are prisoners of our own misguided and ill-informed upbringing. We perpetuate the prejudices we are taught to embrace. It is time to let it go.
So each year we have a January 1st to begin again. We can cast off the bondage of long held fears and begin to embrace the promise of a tomorrow free of those constraints. The experiences of a Trayvon, Michael, Eric, Tamir and too many others may resound in our current awareness. They and the ordeal they suffered are not to be forgotten. There are lessons to be learned from this and we as a society must be determined to learn them. But we must also be determined to craft a better way. We can and must do it.
While I can remember the challenges of my youth, I am informed rather than limited by it. I am not satisfied by the progress made but I am determined that there is a better tomorrow. One in which our common humanity is embraced and possibilities exist equally for all of God’s creation.