Jun 29th, 2013 | By | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Seniors Confront Racism

Having grown up in Texas, which is an indicator of where I am going with this, I inherited a variety of prejudices that it has taken years to overcome. I grew up in a heavily racially segregated world.  Blacks and whites were separated in their conclaves and never the twain did meet.  Oh, sure there were roles that blacks were expected to play, but only as prescribed by whites.  There were stores where they could shop, gathering places for “them,” services they might render.  But, these were carefully laid out and well understood.

By the time the Supreme Court handed down Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954, I had been saturated with the deep seated prejudice characteristic of  East Texas and the Deep South.  I wasn’t even ashamed of it.  After all that’s the way it was.  The line had been clearly drawn and neither side crossed it.

Dark stories have emerged from that era.  Dark, demonic, demeaning stories.  And, it would be years before a shift could and would occur.

In the meantime, during the days of the Civil Rights movement in the 60’s, I relocated to Nebraska, a state that had little to no experience or interchange with other than whites.

Love Transcends and Transforms

It would be in this environment, and in a professional position, which it was my joy to serve, that a transformation would occur.  Racially, I was granted an understanding and appreciation for differences.  I became a part of the African American community.  I was seen and accepted as an ally.  My life changed radically and happily so.

I was a part of both worlds.  I was taken in, much like an adopted child, and found the richness of a culture, the abundance of affection, the expressions of a community to be deeply satisfying. I would experience the heartache of having been so shallow, so insensitive, so lacking in understanding.

As time went on and the Gay movement began taking root, I would find myself in sympathy with those whose differences were similarly disregarded, as had been and in some places remains, prominent.

It was a wake up call to discover that differences emphasized and punished did not represent the ethic that had come in previous awakenings.  While I am heterosexual, I could come to a respect and understanding for and with those who weren’t.  While I am white, I came to understand and participate in the black world.  While middle class, I could empathize with those who were not. While I was Protestant, I found I could be ecumenical and respectful of other faiths.

I was digging myself out of the unwholesome hole of having to have enemies.  If I were to engage in battles, it would be for equality and justice, and kindness, and inclusiveness, and the richness of being open to the world’s many differences worthy of understanding and participation.

There are still those, in my circle of acquaintances, who hold desperately onto strong and unyielding prejudice.  I still love and appreciate them and their friendship.  There are those who exploit their own prejudices to the point of being derisive and divisive with others.   However, slowly and very certainly the arc of goodness and understanding has begun to take them in too.

We, who have had to examine our behaviors and biases, are now being invited to go further.  It will take some a lifetime to overcome what has been so deeply ingrained.  Others, who have walked in anothers shoes, will tread more softly and come to know, through acquaintance and experience, that others are not less than they are.

From all of this will ultimately emerge a better and more harmonious world.  I invite you to begin taking the journey in that direction, turning your back on an awful past that was and can be hurtful, condescending, and irreverent. Come with me and join the world of love, acceptance and inclusiveness.

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