Three of my grandchildren are black. One is male. He’s a good-looking kid, still in single-digits, but you can easily see that in less than a decade he’s going to be a burly black man. I think about that all the time.
I think about that all the time.
In our very small place, these kids aren’t really seen as black, but as Brent and Robin’s grandchildren. At some point, as they get older and go out in the larger world, that is going to change. What a pity.
It’s been over half a century since Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Half a century. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask, the desire to be judged as an individual, not as a representative of your demographic, but as…just you. Why does it feel like we’re headed the wrong direction?
To some extent, it happens to everyone. I’ve been treated like a hick at colleges because it’s hard to hide that, in my heart of hearts, I’m still a farmer. I’ve been treated like a rich American, a walking dollar dispenser, when I traveled to less fortunate parts of the world, and I’ve been treated like a doddering old man because of my grey beard and limp.
That’s not fun, but it’s not the kind of profiling that puts my life in peril.
Think about that. Please, just take a minute to think about that. This is the world we live in. A place where people like my grandchildren can be judged, fatally, by people who know nothing about them except the shade of their skin. It happens, and it happens all the time.
There are hicks who come from where I come from, but perhaps not as many as you might think. There are traveling Americans who serve no useful purpose except to be scammed out of as much money as possible, and there are a lot of people who look like me who can use a helping hand even if I reject it. Do you understand what I’m saying? Just because an example of a stereotype exists doesn’t mean it’s fair or accurate or useful.
Are there thugs who are people of color? You bet. I’ve news for you – there are thugs and bums of every color, every sex, every race, and every level of society. The only actual crime that’s ever affected me was committed by a pleasant looking young woman who, when I turned my back, walked off with $1,200.00 worth of camera equipment. You can’t tell who a bad guy is by appearance alone. There’s something else to consider – even actual criminals are judged by the justice system. Not by the police and certainly not by a vigilante with a 12-gauge in a pickup truck.
I know it’s more bother to treat people as individuals, to judge them by the content of their character. It’s so much easier to just shuffle them together into handy groups, stick them into convenient slots.
I’m asking you to try harder. Because even if they’re not my grandchildren, they are someone’s.
Copyright 2020 Brent Olson