Thursday, August 21, 2014

NEED MORE THAN: A National Conversation About Race

The Winning Team 1966

I live in a county in Eastern Tennessee that is 96.36% white.  Before going to the mission field in Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia) in 1960, I lived in a county in Eastern Kentucky with segregated schools, segregated neighborhoods and segregated churches.  Once in Zimbabwe, I spent my teen years in a country ruled by whites.  Even on the mission station Africans were not allowed to come to the homes of the missionaries unless they worked there or were invited. All the missionaries had servants working for them in their homes.  They were called house girls and garden boys.  None of them were girls or boys.  They were adult women and men.

Soon after I returned to my home state of Kentucky in 1966, the University of Kentucky was beaten on March 19th in the final game of the NCAA basketball tournament by what was then Texas Western with an all black starting five.  In some areas of Kentucky and indeed the whole country you would have thought the civil war had been fought and lost all over again.

The assassinations of the 1960’s brought turmoil to our streets and in our hearts.  The murder of President Kennedy in 1963, Malcolm X in 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in April of 1968 and Robert Kennedy in June of that same year all played a major part in shaping the views of my generation which were then passed on down.

I am always hearing someone calling for a national conversation on race.  It is going to take more than a conversation.  I don’t know of any group that is truly inclusive of others.  I once heard of someone saying to another person, “We don’t want this country to be a melting pot. We want it to be more like a salad bowl.”

When I was living on the streets of New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Miami, and others cities, I was always amazed at how many Little Chinas or Little Havanas or Little Japans etc. there were.  People separate themselves into groups by their own free will.

You cannot bring people together with laws or by force.  You cannot make people like or trust each other.  All this talk about race just keeps pointing out there is such a thing.  How does that make it better?  Maybe to heal all the divides we need to stop talking about the divides and start talking about what we have in common.  Like the fact we are all humans.

© Ed Cooper, August 21, 2014, Stoney Creek, Tennessee
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