We Have Come So Far, But Not Far Enough
It wasn't until I was a little older that I started to understand the history behind segregation, Martin Luther King, slavery and Rosa Parks. I was horrified at the footage of high school students being hit by high pressure water hoses for respectfully protesting in Alabama and saddened with the story of Rosa Parks being asked to go to the back of the bus so a white man could have her seat. I couldn't understand why people were filled with so much hatred towards someone just because their skin color was different than theirs. I mean didn't the song say, "Red, yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight."? These images made me sad.
I grew up in North County in St. Louis, MO and seeing people with different skin colors together made me feel at home. It was normal for me to walk into a grocery store and be the minority. I loved it. In some ways, I probably lived in a sheltered world because I thought the civil rights issue was behind us. Surely people had gotten over their racial stigmas and were able to join hands for a common good.
I was in for a rude awakening when I realized that this wasn't the case. There were a few instances in high school that made me realize that the "black/white" thing was still very much an issue. In one particular case there was reverse racism because I was a white female. I didn't like how that felt. I didn't like people discriminating against me because of my skin color and deciding that they knew my intentions before they even spoke to me about it. I realize that to most African Americans this is a common, day, to day occurrence. This thought makes me sick.
Today we inaugurated for a second term a "black" man into the seat of President of the United States of America. Regardless of my political views, the fact that this has happened makes me smile. I think that it is amazing that we have come so far as a nation. It shows grace and maturity. But I am not naive. I know racism still exists.
I remember attending a fish fry in the fall. I was sitting with an older white Caucasian man and talking about crime in our neighborhood. I could not believe the racial slurs that came out of his mouth (some I had never heard before) as he described what he thought was the problem with where we lived. It made me angry, so I stood up to him. I told him that he was wrong and that this wasn't the issue and proceeded to tell him what I believed the issue was. I wanted to tell him that this was 2012 and didn't he know that segregation was over? But I held my tongue. I couldn't help to wonder how difficult it was for my African American neighbors to live under this scrutiny for something they could not control. Then there are times when I am on social media networks and am horrified by the racism that I read on people's status updates. Some of these posts are by people who are "religious", but they are really ignorant people. To think of all of the blood that was shed for the freedom of all people, regardless of race, religion or sex. I think of all of the daughters who grew up without fathers because they were hung by their necks on a tree. I think of a sister who did not have a brother because he was drug behind a truck until he died. I think of a mother who did not have a son because he was nailed to cross.
Now we face different types of prejudices against people based on disabilities, social status, sexual preference and the list goes on. People get ridiculed and hatred spewed at them because they are different. Regardless of your political persuasion or religious beliefs, we are called to love all people. My pastor said this past Sunday, "All it takes to be beautiful and lovely is to be made in the image of God. All humans are made in the image of God, so all humans are beautiful." This is what we need to teach our children, not just so they feel they are valuable and loved, but so they see other humans as valuable and loved. And so they can stand up for others when they are not being treated that way.
So today, on January 21, 2013 it is my vow to you that I am going to stand up. Jesus said "Whatever you do for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:40)." I am not going to sit around while people are slandered and unjustly maligned because they do not add up to someone's standard of being "acceptable". God loves all people (John 3:16) and we are to love all people (Mark 12:31). I do not want my child to grow up in a world full of hatred and prejudice.
The composer of "Jesus Loves the Little Children", Clare Herbert Woolston was born in 1856 and died in 1927, during a time when Civil Rights was hot and rampant. He was able to write a song that, much like Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, has survived throughout the years. I have no doubts that Mr. King sang this song to his children,
"Jesus loves the little children,
all the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
they are precious in his sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world."
And we should do the same. I think we owe them that much.