A few years ago, a film came out depicting the untold story of a group of African-American women mathematicians, who were instrumental in the success of the Apollo moon program. The thing most remembered about that movie might well be the fact that these proper and accomplished women had to walk a quarter mile to use the toilet.
Slavery, in America, is many times described as the “Original Sin” of the nation. Certainly, this is understandable, in respect to our founding and early formative years, and, as certainly, falls within the dominant Christian narrative that has always described the manifest destiny at the core of the American story.
Race is a concept, a cultural construct, with no foundation or meaning in biology. It is a rat hole of an idea lacking any coherent, fixed definition, and illuminates nothing. Just as we grapple with “one world” we must, at same, understand and embrace “one people.”
The real issue is the “other,” the unfamiliar, the different. Humans, most will agree, are initially wary of the unfamiliar, and have a propensity to suspicion of the different. Compounding the problem, humans are champions of the game “which one of these is not like the other.”
On the other hand, humans manifest, with time and culture, remarkable diversity in their understanding of and expression of, what it means to be human. And, what creature, other than the human, as much wanders the earth and wonders of the place?
The bottom line problem among human beings is prejudicial thinking, perhaps the most virulent and destructive form of which, is what we call “racism”, or “race hatred.” Who will argue that the twentieth century has not provided the terrible truth of this? A preconceived opinion, not based on reason or experience, is something that might, one day, be seen as something close to the “Original Sin” of homo sapiens.
It is all a challenge, and, like it or not, we do this together, with no surety of outcome. It is quite a sobering thought to understand that we live in a time when all might be lost to our own worst instincts. A current poll reports that only 36 percent of Americans say they’ve taken steps to better understand racial issues since George Floyd was killed.
It is more than fair to ask our “white” citizens to reflect and consider how advantage, disadvantage, and resentment shape our national lives. We must make an effort to employ imagination and summon empathy to understand that restroom proximity is the least of it. Right now, as then, our promise as a nation is being undermined and challenged by the bankrupt corruption that is white supremacy.
There are many untold stories that might provide insight into the trials and tribulations besetting our countryfolk of color, all evidencing a shockingly unfair turn of events in an astoundingly unfair society. For example, look into the1958, North Carolina “Kissing Case,” and the tangentially related life of the not well known civil rights leader, Robert F. Williams.