The long, hard road to racial equality

“Racial prejudice, anti-Semitism, or hatred of anyone with different beliefs has no place in the human heart or mind.”
—Billy Graham

“Racial equality occurs when people of all races are given equal opportunity. In other words, by ignoring their racial physical characteristics, and giving everyone legally, morally, and politically equal opportunity.” —Wikipedia

Equal opportunity...who doesn’t want that? Racial equality has never existed in America, and it doesn’t exist now. But I believe the words of Billy Graham, and it is a goal that we must strive for.

It isn’t easy to rid ourselves of the tendency to judge our fellow man, and we all have our biases. It is necessary for all humans to assess our surroundings, and judging the intent of others is a part of that. We need to know danger when we see it, and it is easy to equate “different” with “dangerous.” Most bad events begin with a discrepancy between what we expect and what actually happens. That guy looks different? Well, that could mean he is dangerous. Billy Graham and Martin Luther King felt that too, but they also understand that we are all God’s children. We need to force those feelings of discomfort from our minds and hearts, for ourselves as well as for others.

I don’t think anyone needs a history lesson, but I do think it’s important to consider the past, so that we can move forward in an informed way. No one today holds the responsibility for the sins of the past, but we can be sure that our actions today don’t perpetuate that historical inequality.

I grew up in the segregated South, with all that implied. I saw the separate facilities for black and white, and the separate neighborhoods for each — well enough defined that it was easy to keep our schools segregated. There were no blacks in my school until I was in middle school, and by the time I reached high school, the all-black schools were finally closed. We were all very uncomfortable with that. I remember the campaign of George Wallace for the Presidency and the ugly feelings that surfaced in the white community from that. I understand that it isn’t easy to step outside your comfort zone, and our community is more homogeneous than most. It’s quite possible to live your life surrounded by people whose appearance is similar to your own.

Regardless, we need to do what we can to eliminate that feeling, which Mr.Graham so accurately described as having no place inside us. We can do that by openly supporting racial equality in our institutions. We can make sure that we meet our fellow man, despite his outside appearance, with a positive message. That includes people with tattoos and piercings, different hairstyles than the ones we prefer, or those whose English is limited or accented in a way different from our own, as well as those with a different racial or ethnic background. It’s all prejudice, and prejudice is the enemy of equality.

Stop and ask yourself why you feel that hostility. Is it justified? If not, ask for the ability to let go and embrace true equality. Everyone will benefit, and you will be the most blessed person of all.

Julia Brady has been an educator in the Upshur County school system for over 35 years. She has taught all levels, including special education. She currently works with college students with learning disabilities.

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