This I Believe

Frances - Fryeburg, Maine
Entered on December 5, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe the most challenging issue facing America is racism.

I believe in the words of our pledge of allegiance, “One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

And I believe that when we Americans-all of us- face up to the challenge of eliminating racism from all levels of our society, then our nation will lead the world spiritually.

Here’s what happened to me to create this belief.

I attended a class on the subject of significant contributions by African Americans. Half of the class members were black folks, and half were white. To demonstrate that progress was being made on the racism issue in America, a white woman told a story of a wretched crime by a white man against a pregnant black woman. He kicked her in the abdomen. Very dreadful. But the white woman’s story was intended to highlight the reaction of the rural white community to the black woman: they collected presents for the baby. And I, for one, nodded my head and felt assured that progress was apparent in healing the wounds of racism.

But there ensued an unnatural stillness in the room. The black participants were strangely silent and unresponsive to this nice story. A black woman finally stirred herself and said, “What happened to the white guy?” And those few words changed the entire dynamic of our class and changed my view of how racism still affects the deepest levels of our consciousness and society.

The black woman went on to ask, “Was justice done?” And a white woman said what many of the other white people in the room believed in our deepest hearts, “Of course justice was done.” And the reaction from the black participants…to a one, was of course it WASN’T done. And therein lies a deep trouble in our country, a weakness in the social fabric. A large segment of our society believes that justice will not be done–for them.

Today we are concerned with wars, terrorism, and social upheavals. I believe that the breeding ground of all these tragedies is prejudice; prejudice of race and nation, of religion, of political opinion. And the root cause of prejudice is blind imitation of the past- imitation in religion, in racial attitudes, in national bias, in politics. I say America will lead the world spiritually when we address and root out the causes of these prejudices, for our many other social, economic and political challenges can’t be adequately solved when one segment of the population – white folks – white Americans – have in us a conscious or unconscious innate sense of superiority. This quality will not stand in our world. Our Declaration of Independence binds us. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”

And we know in our hearts that America has this task: “To bind the broken with the hands of justice…”

So after attending this class where this racial divide was made so apparent, I will try and take the following advice to face up to the challenge:

“Nothing will so deeply affect the hearts of people who have been hurt and offended by the attitude of white supremacy as to consort with them as full equals–as indeed they are.”