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August 24, 2013

Race Relations And The Starting Point

Progress should be celebrated, along with the recognition that more needs to be done. I am a white male and 50 years ago I was 17 and living in Flint, Michigan near the "black border". I just graduated from a Catholic high school that was on the black side of the border. The students were 95% white.

Part of the reason for the nation being stuck where we are when it comes to our perspective of current equality of the races is our reference point. For many whites the starting point is 60 years ago when television started to open our eyes to the cruelty being perpetrated on blacks through segregation and physical harm. I vividly remember watching the national news on television with my Mom as she was crying as students were water hosed and beaten by policeman to prevent them from attending a segregated high school in Arkansas.

While looking at the progress this country has made regarding racial equality and acceptance it is easy to arrive at a different conclusion if your starting point is different. As a white man my stating point was 1954. For many blacks the starting point is centuries ago.

1954 was where segregation for me became a reality. Blacks have a better sense of history. My guess is they were taught about the history of how blacks were treated going back before the country was founded to when members of their race were forced to leave their native land and work as slaves for white plantation owners and others. They were not treated as human but rather as property to be owned and disposed of in a manner the their owner saw fit.

I use to think Black History being taught in college was a waste of time and money and an opportunity to get an easy grade for black stdents. Now I think it would be a good thing for society if more white students took some of these classes. Both races need a better perspective of how each of us see our past.

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