Torrance Choates: In black and white
In this week’s column, I am going to attempt to tackle the complex issue that America seems to be having over race and what we, as a nation, can do to deal with it. You are invited to read it with an open mind and clear understanding.
As many of you know, our black ancestors have suffered at the hands of whites and white slave owners in years past. Some of the horrid things that happened would and could unnerve nearly anyone. Being an African American and learning about these horrible acts of human indignation bothered me to the utmost. And if I constantly thought about these acts and kept them in the forefront of my mind, I am sure that it could have an impact on my everyday character. And even today, I am sure that there are still injustices taking place in terms of human inequality.
The middle 1800s to the mid 1950s were years that I consider to be some of America’s darkest years. If you look back at history and even when the Indians were here, they had land that was stripped from them. Now let’s go across the continent to Europe and examine the Jewish people. Let’s look at the torture that they endured (confiscated wealth, imprisonment, and death in a gas chamber). The sad truth is, discrimination and race have made a direct impact on civilization since the beginning of time. Everyone can learn from history!
My question is, do we focus on all of these injustices or do we try to make life better and more meaningful? If we focus on these injustices, this may tend to shape our character to where we will always consider the race of people that did this are all bad. On the other hand, if we try to forgive and I did not say forget (history serves as a life lesson and a reminder for us all) and to make life better for everyone, we can overcome these race issues. Instead of holding one race accountable, we need to look at individual people. There is good and bad in every race.
My grandfather told me a story of how he fought in the Korean War and how much discrimination he encountered as a soldier in this country. He stated that when he left this country to fight on the battlefield in Korea that for the first time in his life, he felt that things had changed. His fellow white and black soldiers formed as a “band of brothers!” This brotherhood was important because they all knew it would keep them alive. As the war ended and they returned home they made a stop at a restaurant. The sign said, “No coloreds allowed!” He said that his fellow soldiers said, “Man wait right here; we will be back.” He stated that he felt that what he thought they should have said was, “Listen, this man just fought in a war for this country and if he cannot come in to eat, then none of us will!” He stated that only when he came back to the United States did he realize that things had not changed. What was so awesome about his story is he never held any sentiments towards this country or anyone for this. He shared that it was just the way things were and that back then, people were just very ignorant, insensitive, and mean when it came to things of that nature. He was a very successful man and just had a great disposition in life. He was a “winner” and to this day, he was and still is my hero!
In short, we can reflect all day about the many racial injustices across this great country. I am willing to bet anyone that despite all of this, this is still by far the greatest country to live in. If I were raising children in this day and time, I would teach them about these injustices for learning purposes. I would implore them to make sure they were never guilty of treating another human being in this manner. I would also teach them to move on and to love everyone despite all of this. I would teach them the importance and the need to be successful, to have a great outlook on life and to make the best of it. We have children and adults in every community, white and black, dying as the result of drug addiction, thefts, anger, jealousy, prostitution, etc — while we listen and look on helplessly.
Another question I have, with all of the issues that we hear in the media across our country, are we teaching our youth to be disrespectful? Many of the people who constantly push the race card use it as a paradigm. These people need to be looked at, because many of them do very little for their own community other than keep the hatred and blood boiling between the races. I am not pointing fingers at anyone; however, this is a plea, to attempt to get all of us to work together for a meaningful purpose which is to save our children and to love one another!
I find it of utmost importance to fix the immediate problems around us before we delve into other issues. There is so much work to be done but yet we face so many distractions which keep us from doing the necessary work of focusing on bringing up our youth, by teaching them to be respectful and to keep very positive attitudes no matter what.
People, we all have a job to do in this area because we all have fallen short!
Torrance Choates, Ed.D., is superintendent of Sumter County Schools.