Thursday, August 29, 2013
Fifty Years of Adulthood
1963 summer, I turned 13. I had been living in the south for two years and knew practically zero black people, as we lived seperate and not equal lives. The whites in Troy Alabama shopped and visited on the town square and the blacks had their own streets off the square. We did not mix. M.L. King led the peaceful protest for civil rights and the speech was given 50 years ago this week, and it a few short months President Kennedy would be carried from Dallas to Washington in a casket.
That was the year I quit thinking childish thoughts and began reading and reflecting upon the world around me. Two decades later, working in the poor afro american neighborhoods, I would pass houses where the MLK speech would be played loundly day after day. It was their dream speech. I saw the effects of the war on poverty not really working in those neighborhoods, as grandparents raised the grand children, young men worked idly on their cars without jobs to go to, and regularly impregnated the girls in the hood who were raising children in grandmas house and collecting payments from the government to help raise them.
This is the stuff that has continued to roll on out of control and brought us to a place where integration has allowed many many african americans to become successful and educated and part of the solution, while others have languished in a system that provides enough to survive but not enough to really live, and has continued the divisions of race and economics we live with fifty years later.
My Christian faith taught me to "love everybody" but it never really modeled any kind of racial reconciliation. In fact, the many efforts to create multiracial congregations during my younger years in ministry were shortived and problematical to the point that most were teaching what was called the "homogenous unit theory of church planting" which stated that succesful churches really needed to have people that were alot like each other in social and economic status to succeed.
I would leave the south 25 years after the summer of 63. And I would find along the way that people from everywhere hate people from everywhere that are different than they are. The whites hate the wetback mexicans, the indians, the foreigners, the white trash down the block.
For fifty years I have had a dream that people would be judged not by the color of their skin but the content of their character.
Its no reflection on my character though, as I have worked and saved and lived in the mostly white suberbs here in Arizona for the last two plus decades. No easy answers to the tensions that divide us. Just keep singing that childrens song in my heart and trying to be ready to practice it. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world