As the old Cursillo song goes, “All in color and so must all love be,
in every bright color, to make our hearts shine.”
At the outset, let me state clearly that I refuse to use the terms Polish-American, French-American, African-American, German-American or any other hyphenated-American. We are American or we are not. It’s time to come together in peace and harmony.
A bit of persona history
Back in the 1950s and into the Searing Sixties, I was up to my ears in the fight for civil rights for all U.S. citizens.
That was back in the Lafayette, La. diocese – and the Catholic paper was The Southwest Louisiana Register.
I wrote passionately about the injustices to black Americans. One of my efforts was a 32-week series called “Register Social Studies” in which I outlined the disparity in income, education and general well-being of whites compared with those who, regrettably, are now called African-Americans. The series was used by the Office of Economic Opportunity to help organize the War on Poverty in Louisiana. The Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada gave the series the coveted award for “Best Campaign in the Public Interest.”
In a court case in Lafayette, I testified against the district attorney and for the Southern Consumer’s Cooperative – a movement among black farmers to use “strength in numbers” to achieve fair prices for their produce.
However, not everyone was impressed.
- Some of our states’ rights and segregationist friends dubbed our Catholic paper The Congo Chronicle.
- A number of Old Timers in the priesthood did their best to ostracize the paper and anyone connected with it.
- I received a death threat for my troubles – but, as you can see, I’m still here. (By the way, when I came to The Florida Catholic in 1969, the paper strongly supported farm workers – and, here in Florida I received more threats.)
- I think some of my relatives were about to have me committed.
We’re not brothers
After the Civil Rights bill became law, two or three of us white lay people met with a black priest who was strongly supportive of our efforts on behalf of black Americans. In that session, I mentioned something like, “Well, Father, you and I are brothers.”
He drew back, looked me right in the eye and said evenly and emphatically, “We are not brothers. You’re white and I’m black.”
I was stunned and deeply hurt.
I would again go to bat for the civil rights of black Americans – if it were necessary.
Discrimination has diminished
However, contrary to the strident voices of such “leaders” as Al Sharpton and the somewhat color-blind NAACP, ACLU, and the Congressional Black Caucus, white discrimination against black people has diminished markedly.
- White people helped put Barrack Obama in the White House – twice.
- White people have voted for black governors, state legislators and U.S. congressmen and senators.
- In the Catholic Church, we have black priests, some as pastors, in predominately white parishes.
- Our schools are integrated – and much is left to be done in equality of education across the board.
- I perceive that a growing number of professionals are persons of color.
Do we still have racial discrimination and hatred in our nation? Of course – and not all whites who discriminate against or hate blacks are members of the Klan. And not all blacks who hate or distrust whites are members of quasi-military groups preaching discord and violence.
I grieve over the death of young Trayvon Martin. However, I find it unconscionable that his death has become a springboard for condemnation of our justice system and what appears to be a general distrust of all whites.
I find utterly regrettable and harmful the national angry reaction over the Zimmerman-Martin verdict in Sanford, Fla. and the silence or reaction of so-called black leaders when blacks rape and/or kill white people.
Racism has two colors
Racism? Yes. And many white people are guilty. But if you listen to their rhetoric and study the sometimes subtle bias, the charge falls also to Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, the NAACP, ACLU, and several high level black politicians in Washington, D.C.
The real enemy is hopelessness – a hopelessness born of ignorance and an engrained sense of being victims, the latter promoted by some leaders whose income may well depend on continued strife between cultural and racial differences. The battle has to be fought in the “hood” and the “slums” and the “backwoods” as well as on Main Street U.S.A.
In the troubled areas of our cities, a major problem is lack of personal responsibility. Men get women pregnant and go away. This is totally irresponsible as well as unconscionable. This breakdown of personal, moral discipline is at the core of most of America’s problems.
This is where a lot of our corrective efforts should be targeted. If we do not build up the moral character of people and strengthen family life we are lost.
Conditions are not what they were back in the 1950s and 1960s. We’ve made progress.
Let’s build on that progress – and not tear it down.