Monday, August 3, 2009

"The Challenge of Race"

There's been quite a lot of coverage of the recent incident, involving Harvard Professor Gates and Cambridge Police Sergeant Crowley. Pretty volatile stuff. It was such a big deal that the President saw fit to weigh in. Before he knew all of the cogent facts, the President called the play like this: "The Cambridge police acted stupidly." Hey, I'm a Regular Army Officer (albeit retired) and President Obama is my Commander in Chief. But you have to know he wishes he could get that one back. The lesson here is that even the President of the United States is prone to occasional bad judgement, due to his human nature. Notice that I said due to his "human nature," not his "racial bias."
As I look around my small town of Palm Coast, Florida, it occurs to me that WE ARE ALL OF MIXED ORIGIN! That's right, very few AKC registered "pure breeds" anymore. So my Mom's folks were from County Cork, Ireland... and my Dad's from Slovenia. Ireland you know, but Slovenia? It flew a lot of flags over time and before gaining its recent sovereignty, was the northern province of Yugoslavia. Their birth records actually say "Austria," from "Austrian-Hungarian Empire" days! A real mix of Germanic, Italian, Slavic, and Turkish genes.
Then there is my wife, Maritssa, who is black. Let's see... two grand parents are strains of Puerto Rican Native Indian (Taino) and one is a Caucasian Spaniard and one is the descendant of African slaves sent to the Caribbean Islands.... (A great example of White Europeans hate-mongering... and Black Africans capturing and selling their own kind for favor and profit!) Now if you put the two of us in a blender, what would that be? Every time we disagree, me being white and she being brown, are we having a racial problem?
When I'm at Wal-Mart, I see white people with afros and skin from olive to porcelain, black people with blond hair and skin tones from light cream coffee to ebony, every manner of Hispanic and Asian, and Indian, and Pakistani, and European, and Russian, and African, and Middle Eastern... Whew! I suppose then that every issue... and every conflict... and every mis-understanding... between people who are different from one another... must be about "race," right?
I mean, look around for God's sake. This deal is not a new thing. People have been at odds with one another since the beginning of time. Throughout history, all tribes in all lands have enslaved their own kind, as well as others. They can't get it right in Ireland... is that a "White Thing?" Seems that in Africa, the Hutus and Tutsis have no problem hating each other... is that a "Black Thing?" Seems that the Iraqis and the Iranians have a "thing" there too. The Jews and the Palestinians?... Forget about it! And the atrocities doled out in and among the Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans are age old. The list goes on - and it doesn't stop. To isolate this abomination and say, "it's a black-white problem in the USA," is just not right. No... It is a problem, for sure. But not just here. And not just black-white. And not just racially oriented.
Good Lord, people can even whip up very real hate for each other if they prefer one soccer team over another... or Dale, Jr., over Jeff Gordon... or Lebron over Kobe... or if they are pro-choice vs. pro-life. It gets so bad that Prius drivers look at you with scorn if you have an SUV! I saw a bumper sticker the other day (presumably an effort at red neck patriotism, by way of a poke at Hispanics) that said: "One Nation - One Flag - One Language!" This guy was not so bright, however, because his "All American" comment was stuck on the back of a Toyota mini-van, made in Japan! Might of had more ooompphhh on a jacked up Ford F-150 with a gun rack!
Like Jack Nicholson's great line... "We can't HANDLE the truth!" It's not as much about "race," as it is about our "flawed human nature." And human nature, at its core, is not pretty. Given the opportunity, "we can all hate each other equally, without regard to race, religion, ethnicity, sexual preference, age, gender, or national origin." We all have choices to make each day. We can choose hate or we can choose love. If you believe the bible to be true (or even just think it's "a nice book with some good ideas"), check out Matthew's gospel. In Chapter 22, the Pharisees asked Jesus what the most important commandment was (as they tried to "trick" him into "prioritizing" the 10 Commandments). His answer was so elegant and uncomplicated. He told them they could be summarized with two simple ways of being: First, love God above all else... and second, love one another the way we all want to be loved!
The "problem of race" is as elementary as our human nature. Does "racial profiling" exist? Yes, it does. Do both blacks and whites look at each other with just a smidgen of caution? Yes they do. If someone says, "There's not an ounce of prejudice in me," are they telling the truth? No, they are not. The good news, however, is that we can do the right thing... most of the time. The solution is as simple as choosing, more often than not, to live by these two commandments. It may not have been perfect, but having a beer together on the White House lawn was a step in the right direction... Except that the Prez and Prof Gates chose beers brewed by foreigners from Belgium and Jamaica. Oh, no! Here we go!

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