Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Race in America

"My name is Roy. I'm a white, middle-aged, middle class, well-educated, male."

"Hi Roy!"

For years, I've had the fantasy of beginning a sermon on MLK Day that way. But having said all of that, I need to say some more. I grew up in what was then a blue collar, integrated neighborhood in Pittsburgh (Wilkinsburg) and experienced the racial tensions that were so prevalent during the 60's. We joked that we got off school 5 days every May for the annual riot season. I saw as the police waded into the violent confrontations between the black and white kids and essentially took the side of the white kids. I watched as my white friends went off to college and my black friends ended up in menial jobs or jail unless they were good enough athletes to get into a college on a scholarship. One friend from my high school got a basketball scholarship to the same rural white college I attended. He never graduated.

I could give hundreds of illustrations, some from my past and some as recent as a few weeks ago in beautiful Santa Barbara, all of which point to one inescapable truth - that the black experience in America is not the same as the white one. Unless we acknowledge this and work together to address it, it will continue to poison our common life.

Yesterday, I was driving a distance to a meeting and was listening to right wing talk radio as I drove. I came home and read a number of comments from folk on the right regarding Obama's speech on Race and I am struck by the inability to see what strikes me as obvious. Race still is an issue in the United States and Obama provides us with an opportunity to address this issue in ways that we have not. Again and again I heard or read comments that denigrated or even denied the black experience and in doing so, removed any possibility of movement forward. More and more I find myself motivated to become involved in this campaign.

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