We as a nation have made much progress in racial reconciliation during my life time. Yet, we have much work to do in order to achieve a more perfect union, locally, state-wise, and as a nation.
My Childhood School Experience.
I attended school in the Mandeville and Texarkana, Arkansas areas. I attended segregated schools through the 8th grade (Mandeville, W. T. Daniels, and finally Booker T. Washington). I began the 9th grade at Jefferson Junior High, an integrated school.
I graduated from an integrated school, Arkansas Senior High School in Texarkana Arkansas in 1974. I am proud of my Senior Class regarding issues of racism and sexism. We had two blacks as Senior Class Officers: Elwood Shannon (a black male) as President, Toni Birmingham (a white female) as Vice President, and Olive Hilliard (a black female) as Secretary. So we were not a racist nor sexist class. Of course, there most likely were and perhaps still are racists (black and white) in our class. I am hopeful that generally speaking we were and are a non-racist class. Similarly, there were and are racists in our nation; but, generally we are a non-racist nation. When I use the word racist I include white as well as black racists as well as other races.
I personally did not have any racial problems in school. I respected and treated the white teachers and students fairly and as far as I am concerned they did the same toward me. I was Vice President of the Student Council in the 8th grade through encouragement of my 8th grade homeroom teacher at the segregated school . But I was not interested in any prominent positions beginning with the 9th grade and beyond at the integrated schools. So I understand that those blacks who had such interests may have had different racial experiences and racial difficulties than I. Moreover, I am fully aware that the lack of encouragement coupled with my natural disinterest at the time may have been a downside of integration for me. But I am convinced the upsides of integration far outweigh the downsides.
I am fully aware that the above progress of my class came after much effort on the part of those who preceded us and after much effort of my class, black and white. So I am not so naive to think that the above accomplishment did not face obstacles. But my point is that we as a school and we as a nation overcame those obstacles.
Although, my class demonstrates the progress we have made and continue to make as a nation with respect to racial issues, there is yet much work to be done. We are yet a nation in progress reaching for a more perfect union.
My Military Experience.
Immediately after high school I enlisted in the US Army where I spent 20 years, retiring in 1994. The first 3 years I worked as an Administrative Specialist. The last 17 years I worked as a Computer Programmer and Information Systems Chief.
I attended basic training at Fort Polk, LA. After basic training I was assigned to Ft. Hood, TX for on-the-job training as an Administrative Specialist. At Ft. Hood, I had two roommates in my living quarters. Both of them were Hispanic. One was a gentleman much older than me; the other one was about my age. As I remember it the older gentleman’s color of skin seemed to be more of the White Race variety. The younger gentlemen’s color of skin seems to have been darker but not as dark as mine. In any case, race was not an issue for us. We got alone just fine without any racial concerns at all.
Throughout my military career, I did not encounter or observe any obvious racism toward me or anyone who worked for me. I worked with and for people of a variety of races and I can honestly say they generally treated me with dignity and respect as I did them. I also had a variety of races work for me in the military. I can honestly say that they also generally treated me with dignity and respect as I did them. I can recount times when white people could have easily sided with other white people who had issues with something I said or did. But instead of siding with those white people, white people protected me.
I recognize one and only one assignment in my military career where racism may have played a part. But since my approach is to give people the benefit of the doubt on things like racism, I am not certain racism came into play. Without going into details, the situation involved an incident between me, a black male under me, a black female under him, and a white male one rank higher than me. The white male asked/directed me to do something which may have harmed the black female’s military career. I felt it was unwarranted; so I told him I would not do it. That led to some suspicious happenings.
Now I know that my experience in the military may have been different than some other soldiers concerning elements of racism. My point is I know for a fact that it is wrong to paint all white people with the broad brush of racism; I am confident it is wrong to do so in this day even for most white people.
My Post Military Experience.
Now I know the military culture is markedly different from the non-military culture. The military is more structured and people have more controls on them. Nevertheless, I have worked for and with white people since I retired. In my computer business I have also had two white persons work for me. I have also had clients of a variety of races. I have not encountered any obvious racism.
I have formally been a Minister of Jesus Christ since April 2000. As a minister my ministry has sponsored the Texarkana Area Christian Leadership Conference (TACLC). TACLC is an initiative involving people from all races working together to address various community issues within the Texarkana area. Our introductory conference was held in March 2017. The initial theme was All Lives Matter with Special Focus on Blue and Black/White Lives Matter National Themes!
The TACLC initiative has confirmed my belief that people of all races care about people of other races. This initiative has also confirmed my observation that the issues are complex and difficult. They are enormously more complex than the water fountain, bathroom, restaurant, and similar issues of the past. I say this not to minimize the issues of the past.
Any resolution of current issues will require respectful communication to educate people of all races about the matters of concern. Resolutions will also require all races to make adjustments in its communities and culture, etc. Resolutions will require all races to see the urgency of the concerns yet exercise proper patience with all.
Recognition of Existence of Covert Racism.
I do not in any way mean to suggest that I may not have encountered racist/racism in my life. I am fully aware of covert racist and covert acts of racism. But I believe that one counters such covert attitudes and/or actions by living a life that reduces the opportunity for them to affect you. For example, in the cited case above concerning the one incident of possible involvement of racism during my military career, I was already read up on the Army regulations. So I knew he didn’t have an official leg to stand on. Moreover, I made it a point to go to night school and obtain a college degree in Computer Science from the University of Maryland while in the Army; so they knew they were not dealing with some unlearned person. Moreover, I made it a point to do good work in my job and not do things that violated regulations and procedures. Does that mean I did not ever violate regulations and procedures? No, because I am imperfect. But I believe that the biblical principle of do unto others as you would have them to do unto you works. The right attitude toward others regardless of race will take you a long ways in this world. So even when I did something truly wrong, the things I did right caused those over me to overlook such wrongs by the grace of God.
Passing of the Civil Rights Laws/Acts/Policies in the 1960s means that overt racism has significantly decreased and covert racism is largely what remains. This makes the fight against racism more complex and difficult. Nevertheless, we must continue the fight. Let us continue it with love and forgiveness rather than hatred and bitterness.
There are a variety of mechanisms we must use. This includes ensuring proper civil rights laws/acts/policies are retained, enforced, and enhanced as necessary. It also includes appropriate productive peaceful protests and other non-violent activities. Let all races stand and fight together against overt and covert racism regardless of the race of the perpetrator.
Moral and Economic Inadequacy.
Two major challenges confront the nation: better morality and greater economic gains for people in general. It is reported that 1% of American have more wealth than the bottom 90% of Americans. That is an unacceptable statistic. It shows that the scriptural warning that the love of money is the root of all evil is not being heeded by some in America. It also shows there is a systemic and institutional economic oppression by some onto a large part of America.
As a race, Blacks seemingly feel the affect of this oppression more so than other races given such related statistics as long standing poverty, unemployment, education, and housing gaps. This oppression is largely if not solely either by design or by community/cultural conditions that arise from the effect of past years of enslavement and subsequent discrimination, or by both design and such conditions.
Some, possibly much, of the oppression of Blacks is due to certainly historical and possibly present-day intentional collaboration between government (Federal, State, and/or local) and private businesses. This collaboration includes housing as reported in the book by Richard Rothstein entitled “The Color of Law” with a subtitle of “A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America”. A review of the book has been made by Professor David Oshinsky in a June 2017 New York Times article entitled “A Powerful, Disturbing History of Residential Segregation in America“. I include the housing element oppression because inadequate housing is emotionally, mentally, and spiritually oppressive in that it far too often leads to physical de-energization to the point of transgenerational settling and non-progressive activities. This de-energization has led to large-scale gaps in many social and economic aspects of our society.
It is intuitively obvious that an improvement in morality and individual/family economic capacity would result in less crime and less people of all races being stopped, arrested, imprisoned, and/or killed by police. This includes less blacks being killed, proportionally. This does not mean that all crime would be eliminated as you will always have some people that just want do right as rich people commit crime also.
I do not believe blacks are any more or less moral than whites or people of other races. So the problem is not solely a question of morality. It is statistically shown, however, that blacks as a race are more economically depressed than whites. Therefore economic improvement ought to be an urgency.
In fact, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed as he was beginning to focus more on blacks gaining greater economic capacity. Towards the end of his life in May 1967 he said he had come to believe his dream as presented in the 1963 March on Washington had become a nightmare; a youtube extract is here with the full interview youtube video here. This is because he recognized that the Civil Rights Acts and other laws that had been instituted were not enough for blacks to achieve socio-economic equity. He died in April 1968 when he was in Memphis protesting for economic equity for garbage workers. Clearly we as a nation have not done enough to make that dream a reality for many to the degree it ought to be; that is a failure of both the white and black communities as neither has done enough. For many blacks the dream has become a reality since Rev. King’s death; I believe he would say that if he had lived to see the many blacks that flourish in our society. The problem is that it has not become a reality for enough of us, black and white, but particularly blacks, proportionally speaking.
I am convinced that systemic and institutional policies do yet hinder people in general and blacks in particular from sufficient gains. But I am also convinced that people including but not limited to blacks far too often find themselves in positions to be exploited because of their own choices.
If a person goes to primary/elementary and secondary school, (i.e., K12), and he/she and the parents/guardians do not ensure he/she leaves with a good solid education in reading, writing, and arithmetic (what we once called the three R’s), he/she/they made the choice to be exploited by oppressive systems and people. (If we as a community including the black community allow our schools to become so corrupt and inappropriate that they fail to prepare our children in at least the three R’s then we as a community including the black community have made the choice to do so. For I believe and my life testifies to it, with the three R’s a student can then go on and learn what he/she needs to learn to live a reasonably quality life.) I say this because at least since 1970 the law has been on the side of the black person. Even where the law has not been fairly applied, we as a community have amassed much wealth and knowledge sufficient to ensure any failures are not due to present day racial discrimination. Prior to abolishing slavery and passing the anti-racial-discrimination laws such as the Civil Rights Acts of 1960s, blacks did not have such a choice as the law was against them.
Indeed, if you let some people use you, the sin in them will use you. Both black and white people will do so. Indeed, the black drug pusher does just that like the “white provider of the drugs”. They both exploit a person’s choice to use drugs.
I am not a financially rich man. But I know I could have more money. I chose to not pursue making a lot of money. When I was doing computer software on a fulltime basis I was very good at it. That is why I had high level assignments in the military to include time in the Pentagon. So I am confident that if I had stayed in Washington D. C. after retirement, I could be making a lot more money than I am now. But I made the choice to return to Texarkana where the financial opportunities in computer technologies were and are a lot less. There were and are some opportunities here but not many that fit in with my desires. I only mention this to make the point that no white person is responsible for where I am in my life at this point economically. I do not blame any white person for my choice. Are there other choices I could have made and yet walk in the Lord’s spiritual will for my life? Probably so! Indeed, many Christian Ministers including me face the challenge of maintaining integrity while we seek a healthy balance between ministry and making money. My hope is in the biblical principle that all things do work together for the good of them who love the Lord and who are called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28) and that the Lord does work with us, his people (Mark 16:20).
I could go on and on about socio-economic issues. But I think you get the point. In summary the point is this. There are systemic and institutional obstacles in this sinful world. But, each person can be overcome by those obstacles or make choices to press through and/or around those obstacles. Don’t totally blame others for your choices and conditions. The laws are in our favor now. But we must know the laws and use them for our advantage rather than by the choices we make allow others to use them for their advantage against us. It is important that we personally as well as our parents, churches, academic institutions, and community prepare oneself/those under 18 years of age to navigate this evil world which we/they will have to navigate as an adult.
For more info on race see my article entitled Of Racist and Racism.