It’s hard for me to imagine living under racial oppression as so many in this country do. When I was a kid, I remember hearing about demonstrations and the nonviolent message of Martin Luther King, Jr. — calling for all men to be equal. Growing up in the suburbs during those days the black/white struggles seemed very far away. The one black family in our neighborhood had several kids, but if they were part of the neighborhood pack, I can’t recall.
Which means they probably weren’t.
Anyhow, the events in Ferguson, Mo have been much in the news — the grand jury has reached a decision and an announcement is planned soon. Barricades are set up and trouble seems to be expected no matter what the end result, indictment of the white officer for shooting a black suspect or not. As much as we’d like to deny it, it seems that racism is alive and well in the U.S., even today, even with a black President and all the “progress” we’ve made.
Living in New Hampshire I’m pretty far removed from the situation, though I sympathize with Michael Brown’s parents on the loss of a child while offering full support to Darren Wilson as an officer of the law on duty. The whole awful episode makes me think about race, about how it must feel to be the only one of your kind (for lack of a better word) in the midst of another racial group… the only blue eyed blonde in a sea of dark hair and eyes, olive skin, for instance.
I expect you feel the weight of your difference, sense the many eyes on you, people wondering how you came to be among them. You stand out, like it or not. It must be very uncomfortable.
Now take that awkward feeling, and couple it with any hint of oppression, judgement or malice and you can understand why so many minorities feel the way they do. Why sometimes even the babes in arms glare at you, having learned early on that you are not their friend. Why some people try so hard to overcorrect or call out prejudice in any form — as if this is proof of their own belief in the quality of the races.
Except that inbred beliefs and prejudice don’t just disappear in a generation, hard as that might be to accept. Or because we want them to. Outdated thinking like this tends to hang on for a good, long time. What roots it out best is exposure to those of other races… a chance to see that in the ways that matter, all of us are just people.
People with different skins an eyes and hair but the same in terms of love for our children and hope for a better future.