Because it’s true. It’s history.
But, more sadly horrific… it is RECENT history.
I know people who are alive today who were alive when segregation was a law. People, it was practically yesterday.
That we, as people, thought it was okay to treat other people that way.
I try not to ever say that now.
I began to notice that I DID feel, and react, differently toward a group of Black people. Isn’t that the very definition of racism? I realized one day that if you are racist, it’s because you are first prejudice. Prejudice is a “preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience”. Most people in my small town had never spent real time with a Black person, or a Gay person, or an Islamic person. But they sure had strong, mostly negative, feelings about them. They were personally prejudice about things that they had not actually experienced.
In 1957, nine Black students who'd entered Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas were forced to withdraw because of a white mob outside. People were so angry that these students, who looked different, would dare to go to school with their students. That is the most un-Jesus-like attitude. I wish I could say attitudes like this mob of angry people don’t exist today. But they do. You have them. I have them. We all have them from time to time. History is hard to undo. We all have thoughts and feelings of other groups of people that were planted in various ways, often outside of our doing, but sometimes because of the thoughts we feed our brains. How we react to those thoughts and feelings IS within our power.
It takes humility and courage and compassion.
It takes humility because we have to be willing to admit, first, that we have been wrong. And that we do not understand what someone different than us feels and thinks. It takes courage because you have to be willing to get up close and personal, to be willing to move from “prejudice” to “experience.” And it takes compassion, because you have to see people, ALL people, as people just like you, with a different story.
When we see statues like these in this historical monument, our hearts should break. Somebody REALLY lived that. A flesh and blood person just like you, was tortured and beaten and murdered for daring to act like a person… Thousands of them were. The dehumanization this group of people experienced makes me weep.
And it was practically yesterday and happened in my backyard. You’re grandparents went to a segregated school. Their grandparents could have owned slaves.
We are not too far removed from it.
I want to break the cycle. In that step of humility, I think I also must admit that I am privileged. Because of what I did not earn, and did not choose…my ethnic origin. I was born into privilege.