One of my rules as a commentator is never write a column when angry. With this column I broke that rule. The burr under my saddle is this: I am fed up with two groups of low-life people— bigots and race hustlers. As far as I am concerned they are just opposite sides of the same coin, a coin that needs to be tossed on the ash heap of history. The time when Americans divided themselves on the basis of race should have been over long ago. Unfortunately, it isn’t—a sad fact that threatens the future of our country.
America will never reach its potential as a nation as long as we continue to behave like the Hatfields and McCoys over the issue of race. Abraham Lincoln was prophetic when he said words to the effect that a house divided will not stand. As long as America allows bigots on one hand and race hustlers on the other to set the standards concerning race we will remain a house divided. As long as we allow those who benefit from racial discord to control the narrative about race, we will continue to rob ourselves of the potential benefits of racial harmony.
Do you ever feel like grabbing America by the ear and shouting, “Would you please knock off all of this drama over race? I have had enough of race hating and race baiting. This is 2015!” More and more I find myself thinking these thoughts. These were my thoughts when young and stupid members of the SAE fraternity (my college fraternity) were taped singing a racist song that sounded like something from a 1950s Ku Klux Klan meeting. Then I had the same thoughts again when two police officers were shot recently in Ferguson, Missouri. If only we could gather up all of the bigots and race hustlers in America, put them in a giant-sized boxing ring, and let them duke it out.
Our country got off to a bad start when it comes to race, but through the sweat, blood, and even lives of a lot of good Americans of all races we have made progress. Unfortunately, we still have people—both bigots and race hustlers—who resent this progress and are determined to stop it or, at the very least, slow it down. Numbskulls like the SAE fraternity brothers from the University of Oklahoma represent one end of the spectrum: the bigots. Al Sharpton and his cohorts represent the other: race hustlers. Neither represent the majority of Americans—white, black, Asian, or Hispanic. But you wouldn’t know this from the mainstream media’s coverage of race relations on the nightly news or in the morning newspaper. Mainstream media mavens love bigots and race hustlers because racial clashes make good news stories. Racial harmony doesn’t.
As Americans, we should know better than to let race divide us. It is not like we haven’t been given sufficient guidance on the subject. The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s was led by Christians, both black and white. Christians of every denomination learn the second part of the greatest Commandment directly from the words of Christ who said: “…love your neighbor as yourself.” Christ’s admonition contains no exceptions for race. When writing America’s Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson claimed “…all men are created equal.” By this he meant equal in the eyes of God and before the law. American students learn this phrase in grade school. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. died trying to convince Americans to judge each other not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. This admonition came from his most famous speech. All of this guidance is widely known, but bigots and race hustlers ignore it because heeding the admonitions of Christ, Thomas Jefferson, and Dr. King does not comport with their nefarious agendas.
What are those agendas? For bigots the agenda is to have a world where everybody looks, talks, walks, and believes like them. In the mind of bigots, anyone who is not like them is not just wrong but bad. Not to get into a lot of psycho-babble here, but I believe personal insecurity and a poor self-image are what drive bigots. People who have a poor self-image need someone else to feel superior to. For race hustlers the agenda is money and relevance. Hustlers like Al Sharpton make their living and maintain their relevance by stirring up racial discord. Their biggest fear is racial harmony. The minute America achieves racial harmony Al Sharpton and his ilk are out of business. For me and most Americans, this cannot happen too soon.
If I sound frustrated by the on-going racial discord in our country it’s because I am. Growing up in the rural South of the 1950s and early 60s, it wasn’t until my ninth-grade year that the public schools in my community finally stepped up to the plate and implemented racial integration, and then on only a limited basis. It was during this momentous school year that a wise teacher taught me and my classmates a lesson that made a big impression on me then and has stayed with me since. Knowing that a young black student would soon be joining our class, this teacher set aside his planned lesson one day and taught the class a much more important lesson. His told us that people are like ice cream. They come in different flavors (colors), but all of them are good.
This good Christian man taught me and my friends (at least those who would listen) that what makes people good or bad is the character on the inside not the skin on the outside. He was very frank in telling us that there are good and bad people of all races, and what made them good or bad was their character not their race. He showed us a color picture in a biology text of a man with no skin. The purpose of the photo was to teach students about the various muscle groups, but this teacher used it to make the point that if you take the skin off an individual, you cannot tell what race he is. His point was the same point Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would make several years later during his famous “I-Have-a-Dream” speech at the Lincoln Monument in Washington, D.C. Under every person’s skin is a human being who should be judged according to his character. The grandmother of one of my childhood friends said it this way: “Good is as good does.”
America will eventually enjoy racial harmony because that is what the overwhelming majority of Americans want. This is why the racial bigots on one hand and the race hustlers on the other are working so hard to stir up racial animosity. They are desperate. Race hustlers like Al Sharpton can look down the road and see the end of their time in the spotlight. Racial bigots like the SAE Fraternity brothers can look down the road and see their greatest fear: people of all races not just tolerating each other but embracing their diversity. But we aren’t there yet. Further, we are going to have to endure the worst the bigots and the race hustlers have to offer before we get there. Desperate people do desperate things. But racial harmony is coming in America and the bigots and race hustlers can’t stop it. To paraphrase an old hymn, what a wonderful day that will be.
It is time that Americans—both black and white—turn their backs on the bigots and race hustlers who are determined to keep us in a state of constant mistrust, anger, and frustration with each other. It is also time that white liberals stop trying to assuage their misplaced white guilt by perpetuating government programs that raise hopes in black communities, but don’t improve the quality of life. Further, is time that black Americans stop viewing people of their own race as “sellouts” for turning their backs on government programs, refusing to use race as an excuse, taking personal responsibility for their lives, and using education, hard work, and personal initiative to improve their lives. These are people to be admired, honored, and emulated, not shunned as sellouts. My ninth-grade teacher was right. People are like ice cream. They come in different flavors, but all of them are good.