Sunday, April 6, 2008

Before & After Experiences with Racism!

And He said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts......" --- Mark 7:20-23

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. --- 2 Corinthians 5:17

As stated in yesterday's post, there are some more things I want to mention relative to the issue of racism, but this one is more of a record of a journey from the very young years to what most would say are the "senior" years! So let's get going!

In my very young years, I never saw a black person. They did not live in the rural area where I was born and raised. My first view of a person of another race was at our church where a mission program was being held and the featured person was a Japanese -- before WW II. I was very curious about that person and noticed immediately that he did not look like white people in his facial features.

Later on I may have seen some blacks, but do not distinctly remember the occasion/s.

My first real exposure and contacts with blacks came when I entered the USMC and boot camp at Parris Island SC. There were some black fellows in our platoon, but nobody expressed any "racist" attitudes or feelings toward them -- we considered ourselves all in the same boat and worked together as a team in all that we did -- this was especially important on field day nights when we had to clean the barracks from top to bottom.

The only kind of "confrontation" during boot camp that might be called a "racist" matter, but really was not -- on November 10 which is the Marine Corps birthday, we were about at the end of boot camp training -- it was a day of partying of a sort -- at one point our DI's got out the boxing gloves -- the senior DI had done some boxing and learned that a black fellow in our platoon had done some also, so he challenged H. to a match. It wasn't long before we realized that H. was getting the best of the DI, but he seemed to hold back from "putting him away!" When asked about it later and why he didn't really put the DI down, H. replied as he rolled his eyes, "No, suh -- that man would remember the next day what I did to him and I would really pay!"

Then came schools at Jacksonville FL and Millington TN with blacks and whites in classes -- everyone got along -- we learned together -- ate together - slept in the same barracks, etc. -- no problems.

Then came assignment to duty at Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station in NC. Jean and I were just married and got an apartment in New Bern which was a few miles from the base. I had a car -- some others didn't. I was approached by a black fellow in my squadron who lived in New Bern and asked if he could ride to base with me. I told him yes and we became very close buddies. There were a couple of other fellows who also rode with me and helped with the driving expense. But H. (not the fellow in boot camp) was the kind of fellow who would do anything for you if he could -- a real friend. But he lamented to me more than once how he wished we could just go out together in the evening to a bar and have some beers together (understand this was in my BC days [Before Christ]). Segregation was the order of the day -- we could not go into a bar together -- all whites in one place and all blacks in the other!

I was much bothered by this -- I saw water fountains in the local 5 & 10 -- one marked "colored" and the other marked "white" -- when I took my dad to the bus station for his trip back home we stared a bit at the way the station was set up -- an area for the "colored" and a much nicer area for the "white" folks.

And that's the way it was in NC for the time we were there and I admit to being very uncomfortable with that "social" system -- that under certain circumstances a very close buddy who happened to be black and I, a white person, could not socialize! It was ok if we were in a foxhole together under fire, but that was about it!

Then came discharge from the USMC -- back in northwestern PA and work in a factory that manufactured mobile homes near Clarion PA. Months passed and then God did a most merciful and miraculous work -- I repented of my many sins, received Jesus Christ into my life as Savior and Lord. Right on the heels of that came the call to the ministry in the former Methodist Church. From the time of receiving Jesus into my life to the time of standing in the pulpits of 2 Methodist Churches in New Castle PA was about 20 months, give or take a few weeks!

I finished college and was on the way to seminary. Contact with black people during this period was rather limited, but occasionally we crossed paths from time to time.

During the time at seminary things were rumbling a bit in Washington DC -- something called Civil Rights legislation was being debated in the Congress and pressure was mounting to correct many injustices and prejudices which had taken place over time. Three of us from the seminary went up to Washington DC to participate in what was called a "vigil" by seminary students -- a visible witness in the capitol in support of the proposed Civil Rights legislation. Some eyebrows were raised a bit at the seminary I was attending since the pending legislation was considered to be a "liberal" effort! While at the site of the vigil there was another "protest" going on just a few yards away from us -- the American Nazi Party under the leadership of George Lincoln Rockwell was vehemently protesting the Civil Rights legislation. They were dressed in their khaki uniforms with swastikas and all, and had their signs and their literature.

At one point a couple of us went over to one of the young men who was on "duty." We asked him some questions about this issue of race and the treatment of the blacks, etc. I can say that I never saw so much hate expressed in words, facial expressions and in the eyes of a person in my entire life. But that moment also was a blunt reminder of that need, as stressed in yesterday's post, that the only remedy for this thing is to experience what Jesus said must happen -- one has to be born again!

The legislation eventually was passed and some changes began to take place. It was by no means perfect, but at least it was a start.

As time passed there came into being something called Affirmative Action -- a further attempt to right the past wrongs and in a sense, go overboard to correct the past wrongs by use of a "quota" system.

I found out that this can be more than a bit rough for white folks under certain conditions. I had a PA State Trooper and his family attending one of my churches when they moved into the area. He was a corporal in rank and was working hard to prepare for the rank of sergeant. Andy was good at his job -- tough but always fair. He was in on a bust of a huge load of marijuana taken off an airplane which landed at the Johnstown Airport and was in charge of destruction of those bales of the weed -- they soaked it down with diesel fuel and then set it on fire. He was highly respected among his peers and by his superiors.

The day came -- he took the test for sergeant and scored higher than anyone else taking the test. Did he get the promotion? Nope -- it was given to a black who scored lower on the test! The reason was that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania had put in place a "quota" system -- so many blacks had to be placed in the higher positions, in spite of not scoring high enough to earn the promotion as had been the custom.

So now we have a kind of racism of another kind rearing its ugly head, do we not? There were a host of explanations and reasoning as to why this was necessary. Is it appropriate to ask, "Do two wrongs make a right?"

What did Andy do? He quit the PA State Police and got a job with a major utility group, heading up its security system. Actually God worked this thing out for him in a wonderful way -- his pay and benefits were much better than if he had continued with the State Police! But the Commonwealth lost an excellent police officer!

Now then, how do you counsel a man such as Andy going through that experience? Do you just simply say, "Well, Andy, that's the way the little white ball bounces sometimes -- you'll just have to consider a bit of sacrifice in this -- just grin and bear it!"

In spite of the accusation of "spouting" off with Bible verses, I will continue to stand with the conviction that racism or any other social, moral or ethical problem can only be effectively remedied as each person meets the demands of Jesus -- and if that isn't done, the problems will continue to eat away at our culture as a fast growing cancer does within the human body!

Come to think of it -- perhaps Jesus should be compelled to attend the training event for racism. He didn't meet the quota system when He picked those 12 to follow Him, did He? At least not according to United Methodist Church standards as they are in place at the present time! There was not one female in that original group -- no other races were represented were they? Someone had better straighten Him out on this thing! Any volunteers?

But then if we don't pay much attention to His demands or to His personal claims regarding Himself (the "I am" statements) why be concerned with much of anything He did or said -- just follow our own ideas about how to level the playing field in our nation and in our world!

"But this is what I commanded them, saying, 'Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.' Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward. Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have even sent to you all My servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them. Yet they did not obey Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers. Therefore you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not obey you. You shall also call to them, but they will not answer you. So you shall say to them, 'This is a nation that does not obey the voice of the LORD their God nor receive correction. Truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth.'" --- Jeremiah 7:23-28

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