Friday, January 13, 2006

Racism's Ugly Face and Our Wonderful Children

Janet Morrison leads our children's education efforts here at Central Dallas Ministries. Recently, Janet completed work on her Ed. D. from Texas A & M Commerce in education. She graduated in December.

She is a whiz and a devoted mentor, leader, coach and teacher of children.

Across the years I've hired lots of amazing people. Our staff numbers over 100 today. But, I must say, I've never hired anyone better than Janet. Many equally as talented in their various areas of expertise and passion, but Janet ranks among the top in my book.

Let me give you a piece of friendly advice: don't be messin' with "Miss Janet's kids"!

Earlier this week Janet received the following email message from one of "her kids." The young woman who wrote these words is 14-years-old, Latina and very involved in Janet's civil rights education program.

As Janet told me, "she wants so badly to believe that race doesn't matter." The young woman's experience is forcing her to deal with some ugly facts of life in our nation. I'll let her speak for herself.

Ms. Janet,

I wanted to tell you something that caught my attention and still hasn`t let go.

Well I was chosen to represent my school in the Magnet fair on Saturday.

I had to talk to many parents and explain how Atwell [a DISD public school] will benefit their children and all the other good stuff.

Well I had many parents who did not speak English. I met this lady named Maria, a mother of two 6th grade girls. Everything was going great, questions were being answered and a good conversation was being held until she asked "What kind of people attend Atwell?"

I responded 7th and 8th grade students.

She was like, "No, I mean race like."

I asked, ''Why does it matter, if we all get along fine?"

She just looked at me, so I answered the question.

"There's more blacks than Hispanics, and more Hispanics than Anglos."

Then she responded, "Oh then, Atwell isn't what my daughters need."

I just said, "Okay. Have a nice day."

Later that night all I could think of was that small comment.

So, I started thinking, yeah we might be different color, but were all equal. We were made by one creator GOD. So,why do we think we're more than others, when we're really not?

And, if we think about it, we make others who think they're less than us feel bad. I mean, God gave us a mind of our own, put us on Earth where we have everything we need. All we need to do is use our creativity.

No matter if we're black, red, or even green, we were put here by the same person for one purpose. So why should we take so much from others who are just like us?

As I read her words, my mind shifted backwards to the days following the Katrina disaster in New Orleans and to the discussion about race and poverty in America. A number of people argued with me--some very heatedly!--that racism was no longer a problem in our country. How naive.

We have so much work to do.


Greg Brooks said...

Here is an excellent column--a conversation with White Apathy from New Wineskins magazine. This month's issue is devoted to Unity.

Eric Livingston said...

Perhaps one day we will be as wise as the Sneetches after their encounter with Mr. McBean.

Eric Livingston said...

Larry, I would love to hear your comments about the National Homeless Report. Dallas is #6 on the list of meanest cities to homeless and my beloved San Antonio is #13. It's shocking to me that Dallas is considering ticketing people who donate to "panhandlers".

cierakae said...

Exemptions (Certified 2005)
To begin with, thank you Larry for continuing to remind us that racism is not dead. I'm afraid I was under the impression it was until about 10 years ago. Two of my closest friends set me straight.
I must reflect on the fact though that at least the mother - Maria could ask the question. I attended public schools during the 60's & 70's, supposedly after integration. There would have been no need for the question at that time, because although I attended in a district that "integrated" using the "freedom of choice" plan, there was still the "black" school and the "white" school. I did not have a conversation of significance with anyone who was not of my ethnicity until the mid'80s, after 5 years of college and a couple into the work force. I find now that my two closest friends are not white females. I write this not to hold myself out to be an example of over coming the influence of my father's bigotry, but to demonstrate that there has been a small measure of progress since the 60's.
My two children, in the same school district and through our church have managed to be in multiethnic settings that have given them the lesson that it took me 25 years to learn: None of us are the same, but valuing those differences enhances our lives immeasurably.