Thursday, August 9, 2012

It wasn't until the 1950s and '60s that African Americans began receiving equal treatment in the United States. Fifty to sixtyish years ago. Before that, discrimination was part of their everyday life. Schools were segregated, black people were treated like slaves or  "help," people assumed they were filthy and disease-ridden. There was a real mindset that black people and white people were inherently different, that black people were inferior. It was easy for people to discriminate - they believed being black meant something bad.  Christians were taught that black people were cursed by God. It was their religious obligation to distance themselves from them.

It's so easy for us to look back on that time and not be able to believe how anyone can look at another human and think they were inferior based on their race. But we don't know what it was like to grow up in that time, to be raised thinking that the color of your skin meant something. My friend Jessica has a new bishop from South Africa. When she asked him what it was like to live during apartheid, he was frank with her and said, "You don't realize something is wrong when you're in the middle of it." I'm sure the people who discriminated against black people felt that they were right in doing so. They didn't see anything wrong with speaking out in favor of this effort to keep black people from being seen as equals.

What about women's rights? To this day, there are people who think women don't belong in the workplace, people who think women are inferior to men, and people who think that women deserve less in life. I mean, hello, women weren't even allowed to vote in the United States until the 20th century. Women were taught that their husband was the leader of their family and their boss and that their needs didn't matter. Once again, people have been victims of the perceptions they grew up with.

It's amazing how easy it is for us as humans to discriminate against other humans. We think we're right because that is what we are taught by our family, friends, community, and church. We think we are right to feel the way that we do, that we have permission to discriminate. I'm sure we all have good reasons for feeling like people who are different from us are somehow inferior or don't deserve the same things we do.

I just can't help but think about how often we've been wrong.

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