Back in the late 1970’s, I was a graduate student at LSU.
Every so often while I was there, there’d be an open speaker’s forum on the steps of the student union.
The topics ran the gamut. Why do the fraternities get all of the good seats at football games? When will we get air dryers for our hands in the bathrooms? Who says we can’t fish in the campus lagoon? Politics, religion, what have you.
And then there were the racial wackos who held forth on ideas that pretty much had nothing to do with tolerance.
I’d listen for a few minutes to see if there was any chance that one of them might have an epiphany and come to his senses but when this didn’t happen, “click,” I turned them off and walked away.
If these loons wanted to occupy the outer fringes of racial beliefs, so be it. Neither did I want to waste my time arguing with them. That’s because of an old saying about wrestling with pigs which holds that, in order to do so, one has to get down into the slop with them and the pigs dearly love that slop.
Flash forward now to the current brouhaha over the Reverend Jeremiah Wright - he of the belief that the government invented AIDS in order to do away with the black race and several other equally remarkable ideas.
When I heard some of his comments, “click,” I turned him off. More on the why of that in a few paragraphs but first, let’s get some things out of the way.
Are there racists in the United States?
Yep, but that’s true of just about every country on earth.
Is any racial group pure as the driven snow?
Not by a long shot. If you look and listen closely, you’ll find that racists come in all flavors - black, white, red, yellow, and whatever else might be out there.
Are we making any progress in this area?
Well, it might be helpful to note that just now there’s a black man who has a solid shot at becoming the president of the most powerful nation on earth and that many millions of his supporters come in colors differing from his, including white. Hard to ignore something like that but possible if you wish to be obtuse.
So why do I think Reverend Wright might be about a full bubble off as regards these matters?
I remember a sermon once given by our parish priest while I was in high school and New Orleans was in the process of desegregating.
The gist of the sermon was that when the good Lord told us to “Love thy neighbor as thyself,” he meant it. He didn’t water that statement down with qualifiers, modifiers, winks of the eye, or what have you. He didn’t specify age, ethnicity, background, or religion.
Our priest said that, to his mind, this bit of instruction was also meant to be a one-on-one kind of thing.
You looked at your neighbors - whomever they might be - and you went to work at developing a friendship. You lent them a hand when it was needed. You gave them the benefit of the doubt. You trusted them. You got to know them and, even if they were hard to warm up to, you learned to respect them for whom they were.
The neighbors, by the way, were expected to do the same.
And from this behavior there would come tolerance for Joe or Bill or Mary or whomever (unless they didn’t return tools, at which point all bets were off) and, sooner or later, you’d find yourself - without even thinking about it - extending that same tolerance to others who might look, act, dress, or speak like those neighbors.
If enough people did this, said our priest, there might actually come a day when we’d get a handle on this race thing.
This still seems logical to me and that’s why, whenever I hear anyone (even someone with the title “Reverend” parked in front of his name) going on about “whites this,” “blacks that”, “asians the other,” or “hispanics you wouldn’t believe,” (you can fill in religious backgrounds there, too) then “click,” I stop listening. That’s because the speaker - whatever race, color, or creed he or she might be - has moved into the area of rants, nonsense, and bunk.
Sorry, but given all that’s going on right now, we don’t have time for arguing about that kind of foolishness.