Race in America brings out the best in us and the worst in us
Dr. James B. Ewers Jr | 7/3/2019, 10:35 a.m.
There are only a few topics that make us speak with emotional fervor and act with brotherly and sisterly love. Race is one of them. It hits us in a tender place in our hearts. Our feelings are sometimes emboldened with joy and other times burdened with despair. We often find ourselves caught on a racial sliding board.
We know how to stay racially embedded. When we isolate ourselves and don’t see another side, we stay racially challenged. If we look upon the other race with disdain and apprehension, we won’t change. If we spread unfounded rumors and innuendos, then we remain set in our ways.
I spent my early years in segregation. It was blatant and in your face. We had separate schools and facilities. That was just the way of life. Protests occurred but the laws remained unchanged.
Finally, America woke up out of its nightmare called segregation. No longer did Black and Brown people suffer endless humiliation with a lot of stipulations. The chains that locked our civil rights, human rights and voting rights were finally unlocked.
The ’60s, ’70s and ’80s got progressively better which brings us to today in 2019. Granted, this is not utopia; however, we can see the bright light of hope at the end of the tunnel. Of course, there are many who would disagree with my assertion.
Maybe I am just an optimist and want to keep hope alive as Reverend Jesse Jackson would say. We are living in some trying times. Yes, trying in the sense of tough but also trying in the sense of opportunity. We have a chance to heal our brokenness.
There is no generic recipe for racial healing. Each person is different. In some communities, random dinners at homes bring people of different races together. The thinking is that everyone can get along over food. The commonality in any of these strategies is that both races must want to get along and to get better.
Summer is here and most folks will be going on vacation. We recently returned from vacation and had some great interactions with people who didn’t look like us. After the customary hellos, we found that we had some common interests. The conversations were authentic and humanistic. I believe everyone left with a better appreciation and respect for the other.
We need to be open to change in order to grow. With this growth, we will become less judgmental and more forgiving. We can’t put up the race barrier every time we meet a person of a different race. When our defenses are down, our humanity takes over. We become friendlier and easier to engage.
Racial engagements are taking place in all corners of our great country. In Seattle, Washington, Laura Humpf, a certified yoga instructor, has a class entitled “Undoing Whiteness.” The class in part deals with white privilege and how our society must combat it.
Some are calling the class an exercise in segregation. Dori Monson, a Seattle talk show host, is squarely against the class and has devoted a great deal of time railing against it.
However, Cecelia Hayes, an equity consultant, says, “There are an awful lot of Black activists tired of educating white people about racism.” In the meantime, Laura Humpf continues trying to educate people about the race problem in America. She says, “The truth is that we all are one. There’s a divinity that connects us as human beings. But the reality is that we’re in different bodies, so we experience the world in very different ways.”
We have a role to play in getting people of different hues to understand we are more similar than we realize.
Is this difficult? Yes, but we can’t stop trying.
Dr. James B. Ewers Jr. served in leadership positions during a 40-year career in higher education, including at Savannah State University in Savannah, Georgia, and Miami University Middletown in Middletown, Ohio. He retired in 2012.