As a scrawny German kid moving from Schaffhausen, Switzerland to the East Texas town of Marshall, I didn’t know anything about racism. As we drove down the main drag of my new hometown, I didn’t know what the “whites only” sign on the local laundromat meant or how outrageous it was that it hung openly in plain sight anywhere in America in 1972.
I didn’t understand that I lived in a world where people hated one another based on the color of another person’s skin, ethnicity, or religious beliefs. I didn’t know anyone owned by another man or who owned another man, like a lifeless piece of property.
God had dropped me and my parents in a crucifix of the racial divide in America.
To be clear, my hometown is not a bad place to live. There are fantastic people who live and work there, who I have known all my life, and who I care deeply about and love dearly. As a good friend of mine says, “Marshall is a good place to be from.” Growing up in Marshall was great and a blessing in many ways.
Growing up as kids, I don’t recall that we divided ourselves by the color of skin tone. At least, I don’t think we did. We were just kids. Having never seen a black person before, I’m sure I had a curiosity about what made someone black and what made me white. I don’t recall feeling any fear or malice towards those who looked different from me.
We studied in classrooms together. We played together. Growing up, I had white friends brown friends, and black friends. We got in fights. Not because of race, but because we liked some girl or wanted to show who was really the toughest kid on the playground. In grade school, one of my best friends was black. We got to be friends by serving on the flag corp together. Every morning, we were responsible for making sure the American flag was flying above our campus. I don’t think we grasped the significance of what we were doing back then. Sometimes, guys got to be friends fighting. Again, not over anything racial that I recall, but just because that’s what young boys do. We were taught by teachers of every race and ethnic background imaginable for a small town like ours.
But, there were lines. Some visible, some silent. Separate churches. Unspoken practices. Different neighborhoods. And white girls didn’t date black boys —-at least not in the bright of day. Back then, I believe that could be said about lots of places around the country. These weren’t things unique to my hometown or yours, for that matter.
Bill Moyers did a film project on the two sides of my hometown released in 1984-the year after I graduated high school- titled “Marshall Texas, Marshall Texas” reflecting on the two sides of my hometown. I encourage you to watch it. You can get a glimpse of it, here.
Fast forward to present-day America. Nearly forty years after I graduated high school, and a person’s race is still an issue. Nearly fifty-seven years have passed since MLK gave his famous, “I Have A Dream” speech. One hundred and thirty-five years have passed since Abraham Lincoln, America’s first Republican president, delivered the Emancipation Proclamation. It’s been more than 2,000 years since Jesus died on the cross and freed us all from the bondage of sin. Isn’t it time we put the hateful sin of racism behind us by riping it out from the fabric of our society?
You can read Dr. King’s I Have A Dream speech here.
That’s not to say significant progress hasn’t been made. It has and continues to be made every day. We are now dealing with pockets of racism and exceptions to the rule rather than the standard. My brothers and sisters of color please hear me-all white people aren’t against you. We aren’t interested in oppressing you. We aren’t hunting you down. We are for you, not against you.
“There is no excuse ever for hatred. There is no excuse ever for bigotry and intolerance and prejudice. We are to love as God loved us.” Billy Graham
It is way past time to put an end to racism and stop defining people by their skin tone. This is what you and I can do for our country. We can do better than this. We must rise above the callous disregard for life demonstrated by one man. He does not speak or stand for us in part or as a whole.
I didn’t know George Floyd in this life. My guess is, like me—and probably like you, he wasn’t a perfect man. But, George Floyd didn’t deserve to die. Nothing he did that day warranted him losing his life. Yet, we’ve all witnessed his death. What we do with that information is up to us. We can use it to fuel change or we can bury our head in the sand and continue to pretend what happened to George Floyd can’t happen in our hometown. My prayer is that we will be moved to action that results in lasting change. Let us say NO MORE to racism. It’s robbed us of enough. Let it steal from us no longer.
In order for us to move beyond where we are today, we must institute Christ’s command to love one another (John 13:34) in daily practice. We need to support our words of love with acts of love. None of us can change the world alone, but if we can muster the courage, we can make tomorrow different than today. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still work to be done. It begins with me. It starts with you. Together, we can ensure that the generations that follow will only read about racism in their history books, and no longer experience it in their day-to-day life. We do not have to be defined by our failures or our shortcomings. We will, however, be shaped by what we, collectively, overcome.
LOVE one another.
The Devotional Guy™
ABOUT: The Devotional Guy™ is an inspirational blog written by Rainer Bantau featuring posts on a variety of topics including faith, ministry, prayer, addiction, recovery, anxiety, homelessness, blogging, writing, personal anecdotes, and memoir.