|CAN WE RISE ABOVE OUR PREJUDICED NATURE?
By Bob Weaver
While most of the south and much of America is still ridden with prejudice, the nation made a historic choice with the election of a first black president, yet prejudice was a driving force against Barrack Obama, although denied by most.
Now, within the nation's political discourse, we continue to label race and religion with prejudicial declarations, rather than problem solve.
Granted, putting others down to make ourselves feel better and secure,
blaming them, has been around since human civilization began. It has caused wars and destruction, death of whole populations, the killing of millions of Jewish faith in WWII and life-long grief suffered by individuals and marginalized groups.
I have been the blessed man going into the bigger world, during my lifetime having worked, rubbed elbows and been friends with many different nationalities, cultures, creeds and religions, and have tried to follow the admonitions of Christ and Martin Luther King.
Most of those I met and worked with were good and decent human beings.
Rev. Martin Luther King said, "I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a realityâ¦ I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word."
There is little to believe that King's dream is coming true.
Growing up in Calhoun County, my only exposure to "black people" bred little prejudice, with my family giving respect to the Hick's family, who lived in a holler not far from Hur.
Still, I learned early-on there was a deep divide, the holler in which the Hicks' lived was called "Darky Fork," accessed from the Joker Ridge by turning down "Nigger Low Gap."
The county's other black community was called "Raccoon Run."
As a child, I had no awareness why they were racially named.
The Hicks' would travel by our house going to the store at Hur in a horse drawn sled with the adults walking and sled-full of kids riding.
My mother would invite the family to come sit on the porch or come inside to warm, an offer they always declined. She would take water to the road and the older men would recline on the road bank in summer and talk a while.
When I questioned my mother why they would not come to the porch or inside the house like others, she tried to explain prejudice, always ending her comments with "The Hicks' are no better or no worse than the rest of us."
Having yet to start school, one of the older men would tell me about my grandfather Frank Weaver, who was the first teacher to come to the Hick's community to teach their black one-room school in 1910. No other teacher wanted to come.
The numbers of the black community had grown, requiring the establishment of a one-room school. There was no rush of teachers to volunteer for the assignment.
They would speak of my grandfather with great respect, and pat me on the head and say "We hope you grow up to be just like him."
In later years, we would trek down Darky Fork to attend funeral wakes for the old-timers, my mother taking food and paying our respects.
I had little exposure on which to build prejudice, as few do in West Virginia, a state with few minorities.
But many carry the racism of "Not like me."
As a young man, years later, I walked with my black and white friends in civil rights protests in West Virginia. As an aging man, I'm very proud of my feeble efforts.
The seeds of prejudice continue to be sowed against races of people and their creeds and religions, where we do not individually judge people, their flaws and shortcomings, lacking the ability to understand their problems and joy in there redemption.
How difficult it must be for us to place ourselves in the shoes of others, not like us.
In 1968, attending college in Cincinnati, our
little black and white TV announced the assassination of Martin Luther King.
Some members of the black community reacted with outbreaks of destruction and violence in many cities, including Cincinnati.
Despite peace gatherings and prayer services, a black friend warned our classmates, "All hell is going to break out and coffins will be filled, stay off the streets."
The next day black rioters took to the streets, attacking innocent people, looting, burning and killing.
We came back to seek sanctuary in the hills of West Virginia.
While at US Army basic training at Ft. Jackson SC during the Vietnam War, walking on the street with my buddies in Myrtle Beach, we were "mugged" by a few black men and forked-over some cash.
I didn't hold the whole black race accountable.
Thirty years went by and I was driving my open-top sports car down a four-lane street in Wheeling with my son, then 13, when four young black males slowly sauntered across the street, stopping traffic.
One of the males crashed his fist down on the hood of my car, denting it.
I was furious.
Somehow, overcoming a little of my anger, I pulled to the side of the street and told my son Jon, "We must blame only these thugs for their terrible behavior, not the entire black race."
I remembered the admonition of my mother, "The Hicks' are no better or no worse than the rest of us."
A short time later, at the edge of Wheeling's black neighborhood, a small black boy was shot dead. My family went to a community candlelight service in his memory. About 150 walked down the street with their candles where he was killed, with less than a dozen white people.
Harper Lee in "To Kill a Mockingbird," wrote "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it."
Could we rise ourselves above our prejudice this day, considering Charles Dickens' quote, "He had but one eye and the pocket of prejudice runs in favor of two," or consider the teachings of Jesus, who embraced the human condition, walking, talking, teaching and forgiving the least of us.
Or will we be tragically stuck with "Not like us," ignoring the Great American Dream, unable to hold to our higher selves.
My beliefs and actions, although small, are hopefully a legacy I leave to my grandchildren and those to come, while most of Americia's millions of evangelical's are mute.
Now, America is deeply divided, with racism and bigotry raising its ugly head, with the Great American Experiment on its most wobbly legs since the Civil War.