I was born in Nicaragua, Central America. In 1969 I touched for the first time the “Home of the brave”. I was just two months short of my 21st birthday. I am now 73 years old. I have lived my entire adult life in this country.
Back home in Nicaragua where I spent my childhood and teenage years, there was no difference among people of different skin colors. In fact, the Atlantic Coast in Nicaragua, was geographically inhabited by people of dark skin, but to me as I remember, the difference was not in the color of their skin, but the fact that they were from a different geographic part of the country; in the same way other people were from other provinces or departments as we called them. The color of their skin did not define them. Their geographical region did and that had nothing to do with “race”.
I remember when I began to feel something was wrong. It happened when I discovered the sin of discrimination. I had never experienced that feeling and did not like it. It made me feel like something was wrong with me. At times people would look at me different and I did not know why?
I never forget the following. We had just moved to New Jersey and were in a predominant “white” neighborhood. One Saturday afternoon, my family and I went furniture shopping. There were seven of us including my son in law Tito. When we walked into the Ethan Allen store, I noticed the clerk behind the counter made a surprised expression with her face. I saw her reaching underneath the counter for what I can only imagine was a silent alarm. I do not think she pressed the button, but she kept her hand in that place for as long as we were at the store. We didn’t stay long since I quickly realized what was going on and we left. We jokingly said it was because of Tito’s appearance.
What caused this young lady to act so scared? Probably she had never seen that many young Hispanic faces in her sort of “upscale” furniture store. For years I noticed the same reaction at the supermarkets; until gradually over the years the area became more integrated and diverse. How can we erase this un-natural response from people like this young lady? In my opinion, we need to learn how to live together as a community.
I also remember when I started selling Real Estate in Brooklyn, New York to support my Pastoral ministry. The older Italian Broker training me would indicate to me the practice of “breaking the neighborhood.” This happened when a Real Estate agent would sell property to a “black” person in a predominant “white” neighborhood, causing a war like division. People on that neighborhood would begin to sell their homes and would move to a different “whiter” location…until finally in time, they would come to realize and understand they could no longer run anywhere. They had to accept the fact that integration in that borough was inevitable.
Is this unhelpful reaction still alive in America? Unfortunately, it is. Real Estate value of a property goes either up or down with the kind of neighborhood that prevails. It is a crude but true reality. How do we change it? Can it be eliminated for good? I intentionally write this blog because I do believe there is hope for change. I write to hopefully fan the flame of this good hope. So how do we respond to racism? We the people of this great Nation must and can most assuredly learn to live with one another.
It is a decision every person irrespective of color or nationality would have to make. I would submit to you that this decision to learn to live together is one of the ways at our disposal we can build a more perfect union. We are all created equal. The same color of blood runs in our bodies. We all have unalienable rights given to us by the Creator. We all have the right to live in dignity and pursue happiness. We have all been given a measure of faith, that equip us to reach out to embrace the One, who came to set us free from all sins including racism through the Lord Jesus Christ. He continues to be the only Hope for an imperfect humanity and a lost world.