I’ve been in Atlanta for several days with a group of people committed to better grasp the concept of diversity in our organization.
To say it was eye-opening would be a gross understatement.
I grew up in the civil rights era. I was a kid who didn’t think past my little world, so the issue of minority cultures didn’t hit home. I knew how my folks thought–they were quite vocal. I didn’t agree with them. But I had no voice. To show them respect, I didn’t press the issue.
Nothing prepared me, though, for our tour of the Center for Civil and Human Rights.
Entering, you first see pictures of segregationists. People who genuinely felt white people had been given a place of predominance in the world.
A board with Jim Crow laws followed. Different states establishing rules, laws for those of color. Not encouraging character or moral integrity. Laws limiting interaction. Restricting connection.
Laws such as: “Any party to a marriage between a white person and a negro or a mulatto shall be fined not less than $500 nor more than $5,000. If the parties continue after conviction, either or both shall be imprisoned.”
The most challenging exhibit for me was the lunch counter simulation. In the mid 1960’s, blacks non-violently would sit at white-only lunch counters, asking politely to be served. I got to experience some of what they went through by the wonder of technology.
I could feel the kicks to my chair. The loud sirens in the background, coming for those quietly sitting at the counter. I heard the evil voices in my ear. “I’m gonna stick a fork in your throat, boy. Who do you think you are sittin’ there?” Words of hate, shame and disgust poured into my ears as more and more people told me how worthless I was.
Yes, I felt like one of them. For a brief moment.
Eleanor Roosevelt helped create the Bill of Rights for All Humankind. The standard? Human dignity.
Why do we so easily determine who is worthy of dignity?
The Center mentioned six reasons why people stand by and do nothing when others are being persecuted: fear, personal gain, blind obedience, personal prejudice, they don’t know what to do, and they see no one else helping.
Truth? God made us ALL in His image. He chose our gender, color and ethnicity.
Sister Conseulo Morales, a defender of the rights of those who have no voice, made this statement: “I believe that respect for human dignity goes beyond the rule of law and enters the realm of spirituality.”
I’d like to think we’ve made advancements in the area of equality since the mid twentieth centurey
Until I can look at someone who is different than me, value and respect them for who they are, there will still be an issue.
How would you assess your filters?