I had the privilege of growing up all over the United States. My father had served eight years in the Air Force—our moves weren’t about the military, but about his not-yet-tenured professorships at various universities. When we lived in Kalamazoo, Michigan someone (mayor? legislature?) decided racially segregated schools must begin integration.
My parents were the only ones to allow their first grade child to be educated alongside children of a different race.
We don’t like what we don’t understand. In fact, it scares us.
Hmmm…reminds me of a Disney number:
[Mob:] We don’t like What we don’t understand In fact it scares us And this monster is mysterious at least Bring your guns Bring your knives Save your children and your wives We’ll save our village and our lives We’ll kill the Beast! ~ Lyrics from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: The Mob Song
Bigotry: intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself. [Google]
I vividly recall my first grade year and the wonderful teacher (a beautiful young black woman who had every reason to dislike me and all I represented) who taught me to read quickly and smoothly—because I asked how she did so. She loved me and taught me with as much warmth and affection as she did the children of her own race. I loved her back. Those 25 other children (in my class) were my friends. With utter racial-blindness those kids included me and I learned far more than a first-grade curriculum—I learned race is irrelevant, long before I knew racial prejudice existed.
I am grateful to my parents for suppressing concerns and fears and standing in defiance of the norm (segregated schools).
I thank God social freedoms are significantly improved and vastly more equal since the darkest days of bigotry and oppression in my beloved nation.
The United States is a melting pot of cultures, races, and peoples. Some emigrated for religious freedom. Some emigrants fled intolerable living conditions (famine, pogroms, oppression, etc.). Some sought employment. Some were forced, shackled in iron.
The result: a confluence of languages, creeds, religions, races, and attitudes…and a stark spectrum of wealth. Intolerance drew visible boundaries between Chinatown and whites in every railroad town. The wealthy separated themselves from all others: exclusive property locations, exclusive clubs and exclusive circles.
Toss all these variables in the mix with an often lawless boomtown or mining camp or a city suffering severe growing pains (e.g. San Francisco in the 1850’s). Bigotry sometimes flashed past heated words and escalated to mob violence.
Lynch: to kill (someone), especially by hanging, for an alleged offense with or without a legal trial. [Google]
Many surviving scraps of history paint a picture of alarming non-politically correct reactions to range wars, claim-jumpers, horse thieves, and marauders.
Treatment of Native Americans, African-Americans, and Chinese illustrate abhorrent bigotry by 2016’s standards.
Is it possible to stand in defiance of bigotry, so prevalent in history? Is it possible to make a conscious choice to do better?—to effect an improved tolerance of those whose norm differs from our own?
I submit it is possible—and preferable—to embrace the lessons of the past and allow those realizations to work a change of heart within us.
Abolish fear of differences. Refuse the mob mentality reflected so beautifully in Disney’s The Mob Song as led by pride-filled Gaston.
2 Timothy 1:7, King James Version: 7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
Let us defy bigotry, discrimination, racism, bias, sexism, and injustice. Let us increase understanding and tolerance. Let us acknowledge and celebrate differences in culture, race, creed, religion, ideas and opinions. Let us include rather than exclude. Let us find common ground with our neighbors, coworkers, and associates. As members of the human family, we have much in common. Let us talk less and listen more until we truly hear and understand.
John 14:27, King James Version: 27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
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