I WANT TO BELIEVE IN DIVERSITY
My life journey has propelled me into varied directions. Early life on a southern farm and segregated schools, residence on military bases where overt racism was not tolerated, only Black family in a tiny Northern immigrant town, adult life in Detroit and Atlanta and college experiences at six institutions, large and small. I have one perspective, my own, but it represents many who are American Descendants of Slavery. I confess to being positive with Christian optimism about most things.
Didn’t I have school friends from grade to high school graduation who were white, native American, Jewish, Mexican heritage and representatives of many immigrant groups? Yes, I encountered the sometimes not so subtle racism from locals and southerners on military bases. But, mostly we were young people finding our way together.
Fast Forward 1990’s in a small liberal and progressive city that happens to be in the south that welcomes diversity. They have a reputation for doing the right thing for race relations and acknowledgement of human decency as our Christian faith demands. Love everybody. A pretty picture of hope.
Reality upsets HOPE
Rapid change in any community is unnatural and upsets the balance of timely and healthy growth. My son returned home after five years in the Air Force and proclaimed, “When did all these Hispanics come?” When one ethnic group increases by 500% in a short time, rather than celebrate, that community needs to ask “how does this affect you and you and you, not just me?” I believe that most of the newcomers were good people who wanted what we all want, a good life for those they love. Rather than hate talk, it's time for understanding diversity and group identity talk in order to avoid racial clashes.
We have elected leaders who are “believers” in equality and a race blind America. Are they learning Black American history? Are they understanding race relations in America? Do they know that the rules of engagement center around what we see and understand through the lens of our group? If a decision that they make does not disturb the life of their children, do they overlook how my children are affected? Do they ask?
If they asked me they would hear a few of my True Confession experiences
I heard an Asian Indian legislator state on a radio program that we should be happy that his people were taking tech jobs to fill the gap not available from men and women like me.
The Asian Indian I brought on an H1B Visa took me to an Indian event center program where out of the blue, an Indian man became very rude and condescending to me.
My nonprofit would annually receive a small grant from a local agency until the leadership changed and they called for grant requests primarily to make life easier for Hispanics like themselves.
At the office building where my nonprofit was located, an African group worked across the hall. One lady was friendly, however the bulk of the Africans were hostile towards me.
Helen, my friend could not get her grandchildren enrolled in Head Start or any other child care programs because the slots were filled due to increased Hispanic family demands.
My son was fired from a job, one of 20 let go, where he was full time permanent. All were Black men, partly on the recommendation of the Hispanic supervisor who replaced them with Hispanics.
My granddaughter while on summer break from college working at a fast food restaurant when several Hispanic coworkers jumped her, drew blood and a 40 year old Hispanic woman threatened to throw hot grease in her face.
My Black friend “Joan” told me about her son “Juan” who drove twenty miles to a job interview but was rejected because his skin did not fit the expected look of the person they wanted who would usually have that name.
Poor Mr. “Jones” a Black man that I knew for years as the proud owner of a handyman business, but, in the mid 1990’s he had to give up the business and get a job at Housing Authority, when his customer base dried up due to new competition.
Finally, my granddaughter, a recent college graduate applied for a job at a community college and was told that they would prefer somebody who speaks Spanish. This the child of an Black American family that fought in the Civil War, Korea, her great uncles and great grandfather fought in WW11 (one got a Purple Heart), her grandfather, great uncle, uncle, cousins served in the military and twin brother was a Marine. All seemed to count for nothing in deference to her ADOS heritage that was paid with a high price tag.
That it does not cross the minds of white, liberal, good people that this is why they are co-conspirators in perpetuating systemic racism and widening the wealth gap evades them because they are blinded into seeing "love" in only one way. They see love from one perspective and not from another's perspective. They fail to apply the "DO NO HARM" love test.
In response to George Floyd's murder, responsible leaders across the nation will convene groups and commission studies as well as opening conversations about what's next. Take the time to get and document the experiences of Black Americans. How can you understand the rage, the doubt we have that "do gooders" will even take the time to learn our history? It is in your hands now and history will record what you say and what you do by the lives of our great grandchildren.