I am, unfortunately, from very rural America. There was a short period in my life (approximately 1/4 of it) that was lived in larger areas where I got to know various people. My most favorite experiences were the multicultural atmosphere of the Modern Languages and Literatures Department of a college I worked at. There people were enthusiastic to celebrate our differences, learn about them and even share them.
I was astonished when I later joined the Navy and was told by someone that, as a person who had very little experience living around people different than me, I would not be able to ever be friends with anyone unlike myself because I was incapable of not being a racist. From a very young age, between songs in Sunday School (“Jesus Loves the Little Children,” anyone? “Everyone Is Beautiful?” “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands?”) and “The Electric Company” and “Sesame Street,” it never occurred to me that the color of someone’s skin or the accent of someone’s language was so insurmountable of a barrier that I would choose to make assumptions about them without knowing who they were. It honestly never occurred to me.
Today we were listening to a religious program on the radio and the man teaching mentioned those with the gift of mercy, at which point my very merciful husband (oh, the irony) patted me on the head with teasing condescension. My heart breaks for any injustice, and I often wish for a magic wand or unlimited funds, because I really believe that the most invisible among us are those who deal with poverty, regardless of where they come from or anything else. It is a terrible trap and probably, in some ways, the continuing stagnation of the world economy is doing more to create racial tension, etc., than anything else, because when you are struggling, resentment seems to grow.
I keep hoping for the day when I, too, may actually not be judged by the color of my skin, the place I grew up, or what my parents’ choices might have been.