I was five years old before I ever saw someone with anything other than pale white skin.
|I was probably five years old before I ever saw someone with anything other than pale white skin. My mother and I were on a bus heading for a day of shopping in downtown Pittsburgh, PA. How excited I was! My mother was a wonderful shopper. She was also very fast. My little legs had to run to keep up with her fast pace. But, I so loved our shopping trips and the time we spent together racing around downtown Pittsburgh.
A beautiful black woman with the warmest smile I'd ever seen entered the bus about two or three stops past our own, and I couldn't help but stare. She was carrying a mop and a bucket and some cleaning products. My mother was so embarrassed that I stared.
When we got off the bus, I remember her starting a lecture about how God loved everyone. And she began to sing a song. "Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world."
Now I was confused. I knew that God loved everyone, and I couldn't imagine that my mother would think that I thought otherwise. How could God not love that woman with the wonderful smile?
I had stared at the woman because she was carrying cleaning supplies. I'd never seen anyone carrying cleaning supplies before. My mother explained that she was probably a cleaning woman. "What is a cleaning woman?" I asked.
Mom chuckled and explained that regular folks like us did our own cleaning, but that some rich people had others do their cleaning.
"You mean that lady knows rich people?" I was truly in awe.
I remember the race riots of the 60's in Pittsburgh. I remember hearing some older white folks wonder aloud about why the black people would burn down the stores and homes in their own neighborhoods. I didn't wonder. I sometimes rode a bus past those homes, and I knew they weren't fit to live in. I silently prayed that someone would rebuild homes and stores for them for which they could be proud. Surely, then, they wouldn't want to burn them.
In high school, we had our own form of race riots. Many people just didn't understand. We lived in the north. Most people thought that because our schools held young people of all races and because any of them could choose to sit where they wanted on the bus, that we didn't have any discrimination.
The black teens in our high school were angry because the school administration refused to add black studies to our curriculum. When the majority of the white student body understood the "demands" of our black friends, we joined with them in voicing that same demand. We stood with them in the hallways and refused to go to classes until the administration went along with those demands. Soon, black studies were part of the electives of our school. And how surprised everyone was when young people of all colors chose to take those classes. Why were they surprised? We were a generation who opposed violence. We were a generation who sought truth.
Today, young people all over the United States are blessed with studying a history that includes all races. They are told the truth about how both Black Americans and Native Americans were treated in this country. That story is often not a pretty one. That story is one, though, that must continue to be told to generation after generation, so that such treatment is never repeated.
But that treatment is repeated in our world day after day after day. Is our world a better place today than it was back then? In some ways it is. But, we still have discrimination.
We discriminate now on the basis of color, ethnicity, gender, body weight, and age. We say we don't discriminate, but we do. The laws say we can't discriminate, but we do. People have learned how to hide discrimination in words such as "not qualified". But we still discriminate each and every day.
Only by working hand in hand will we ever truly overcome this. Yes, I do believe that "we will overcome one day."
The one thing we have in common is that we serve the same God.
"Red, brown, yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world."
With God, all things are possible. Even becoming like children......and seeing not a woman with a black face, but a woman with a warm smile who carries a mop and a bucket.