In 1981, I experienced desegregation for the first time as an eleven-year-old. Many kids from my Austin, Texas neighborhood — mostly Caucasians as well as African-Americans and Asian-Americans — were bused to another school across town. That school was in a Hispanic neighborhood. Some parents were adamantly opposed to the idea and voiced their contentions to the City Council. But most people, like my parents, went along with it, whether they agreed or not.
The idea was simple: kids of different races and ethnicities would benefit from interacting with one another on a regular basis throughout the school year. It wasn't exactly an easy transition. There were some friction at times, a few arguments and fights. As a seventh grader, I was held over a second floor balcony by a group of Hispanic students who wanted to scare me for their amusement. But we got through it. By the next year, the students and teachers adapted and became used to the new circumstances.
Overall, it was a positive experience. Integration did happen and remained in place...until recent days. So, desegregation was the correct approach to overcome racism.
When people segregate — only hanging around people that look and act like them — that behavior becomes normal to them. And it builds a resistance to being around anything different. Segregation feels deceptively safe, building a wall of the familiar around oneself. It also makes it easy to look at anything different in simple blanket statement terms. It creates an "us versus them" mentality. And that's why it's a self-perpetuating trap. It's also self-isolation.
Quite frankly, it does the racists' work for them.
So, I'll just say it: Segregation is wrong. As a human race, we grow and improve by learning about the world and people around us through our experiences. We decide what's right or wrong for us, but we're ever-learning.
No one is any better than anyone else. We all have our gifts, insights, and relevant ways to contribute to society, if we choose. We can all learn from each other.
But that won't happen if we close ourselves off from one another through segregation. And yet, that's a disturbing trend that's growing in the United States and other places around the world. Schools and universities are having segregated safe spaces and even graduations. A certain racist theory is ever-divisive and actively promoted. People are being encouraged to discriminate against other races in the name of "anti-racism" and to appease heated emotions.
In Matthew 12:25 (King James Version), Jesus said "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand."
Segregation is the embodiment of this saying. Our nation is dividing itself by race. It's not based on who we are as people, but by what the color of our skin is.
That is racism.
It's not limited to one race. Any race can discriminate against another. Anyone can hate. Anyone can harm one another through words or deeds. No one is immune.
Past racism does NOT excuse present day racism, no matter who is committing it.
My wife and I are the beneficiaries of desegregation and the original Civil Rights Movement. We found love despite being different races, despite me being White and her being Black. We became friends, learned about one another, discovered our similarities and differences. We fell in love, married and started a family.
Our children are the best of both races. They don't have to choose one race over the other. It's not supposed to be a war of who's better. And if we all dug into our DNA, most of us would be surprised to find out how many racial blends already exist within us.
We are all more alike than different. And it's been that way since early in human history. Take a moment to consider that.
In conclusion, ask yourself this:
Who really benefits from creating division?
About the author
Allen Steadham is a nondenominational Christian. Happily interracially married since 1995 and the proud father of two sons and a daughter. He and his wife have been in the same Christian band since 1997. He plays electric bass, she plays strings, they both sing. It's all good.
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