By William Barron
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Twenty score years ago, the first African slaves came to America. Twelve score years of slavery before the Emancipation Proclamation and a country torn apart. Four score and 10 years of Jim Crow Laws, three score more of separate but equal. Five score and nine years from Emancipation to the Equal Rights Amendment. And yet still we have a racial divide that seems to be growing not healing. We’re better now, right?
Shamefully, slavery was a globally accepted and biblically supported practice. A global industry with Arabs and Africans capturing and shipping other Africans around the world. Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right. But today’s “right” can’t be the benchmark for the past or the future. Those time-frames have their own standards for right and wrong. Yet, those past practices set the stage for today and should be forcing us to ponder: How many generations does it take to transition from being property to being a person? If all your life, and all your forefathers’ lives, you were told you were inferior; how much internal strength does it take to stand up and declare you are not? How long would it take you to overcome the constant, unrelenting message that you are less and unworthy? Is an apology needed, or wanted? You can’t really apologize for what your forefathers did; you can only apologize for what you do.
Have the federal projects and affirmative action programs created an environment of reverse discrimination and resentment? If so, just know it’s a slippery slope from resentment to racism. Those of “privilege” will never be able to empathize until they have lived what others have endured. The few incidents where they feel they have “suffered” will never compare with the score of years others really have.
A keystone of this country is “majority rules, minority rights.” We are far from this tenet. As efforts increase to ensure the rights of the minorities are respected there is a false perception that these directly result in the demise of the historical privileges of the majority. And worse, the more vocal the minority, the more resentful the majority. When will we decide to choose to accept and give an opportunity for respect? A few quirks about respect: It’s not a right or a privilege. It must be earned and cannot be demanded. It’s easily lost and hard to regain, a lot like trust.
All we are owed is to be accepted, an opportunity to show we should be respected, and freedom to pursue our dreams, but not at the detriment of others. We may be a long way from “I want no negro government; I want no Mongolian government; I want the government of the white man which our fathers incorporated” (Sen. G. Davis D-Ky., 1866). However, we might be just as far from the dream of not being judged by the color of our skin (religion, gender or orientation) (Rev. M. King, 1963). Discrimination persists, against racial, ethnic and religious minorities, women and LGBQ because we allow it and silently condone it. Those who stand firmly on “majority rule” should consider someday you will be the minority and will want all your rights protected. We would do well by remembering the thoughts of Jesuit monk A. DeMello — the three hardest intellectual things to do are 1) returning love for hate, 2) including the excluded and 3) admitting you are wrong.
We’re better now, right? Right? (#NeverFearTheDream)
— William Barron lives in Bend.