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Race and Tolerance – Only God Knows Where We’re Going
Tuesday, February 9, 2021 7:42 AM

Race and Tolerance – Only God Knows Where We’re Going

Tuesday, February 9, 2021 7:42 AM
Tuesday, February 9, 2021 7:42 AM

“If  we could first know where we are and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do and how to do it…  ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand’…” – Adapted from Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided Speech”

It began with a nagging pain and swelling in my left knee. As a jogger and walker, I thought it was a minor matter of overuse – no big deal. I went to my primary care physician who prescribed pain medication and ordered an X-ray.

The X-ray showed swelling, but no structural damage. He recommended I see an orthopedic surgeon as he or she would be better trained and positioned to make a more accurate diagnosis.

The orthopedic surgeon reviewed the X-ray and immediately ordered an MRI. The swelling was a symptom but not the source of the pain. The results of the MRI revealed a torn meniscus.

The surgeon gave me two options – steroid shots that would mask the pain allowing me to tolerate it; or, the more invasive option of arthroscopic surgery to repair the tear. I chose the more invasive option because I wanted to heal the source of my pain, not take temporary measures to tolerate it.

When it comes to race in America, we long ago chose and continue to choose to take the steroid shot option of “tolerance” rather than the more invasive option of repair.

The Tear

As with my knee, in order to heal the pain we must first find the source. The seeming implosion of the traditional Republican Party and the vitriolic but predictable screams of racism reverberating throughout the country are symptoms of a deeper issue.

However, if history is any indication, we will do what we have always done and after the dust settles, take a steroid shot of tolerance which will dull the pain – but only until the next racially-charged dustup.

The genesis of  racial tolerance in America wasn’t the Civil Rights Movement  (which too was a steroid shot – more on that later), but the Three-Fifths Compromise reached between north and south delegates at the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

Delegates from the southern states wanted slaves to count toward the population because the higher the population, the greater the number of seats states would be allotted in the House of Representatives.

Delegates from the south argued for recognizing slaves as part of the population for representation purposes only, but did not want to pay the related taxes because for all practical purposes, they considered slaves as property, chattel, not human beings. But if considering them or not considering them as human beings would get them what they wanted in terms of representation in the House and taxation, they would do whatever it took. Because afterall in their view, they weren't dealing with human beings anyway but chattel.  God bless the USA.

Delegates from the north cried foul. Since the north did not have a slave population they could use to boost their count for representation and taxation purposes, the two sides reached a tolerable agreement – the Three-fifths Compromise. Slaves used by both the North and South as bargaining chips.

Both sides after much debate agreed with southern slaveholders to allow the south to count slaves as three-fifths of their actual number. Please note - folklore and miseducation says this meant slaves were counted as 3/5ths of a person, not so. What it meant was that for every five slaves, southern slaveholders would only count three as not to give them (to which the North agreed) undue advantage in representation and unfair disadvantage in taxation. Heck, why pay taxes on chattel if you didn't have to?

This actually meant leaving two human beings counted not as 3/5ths of a person, but not to be counted at all as a person. They were not even considered. Thus, the 3/5th's Rule.

This agreement though tolerable for the delegates, remains detestable to blacks who point to the compromise as proof that a black life in America is still considered by some, less valuable, if at all – especially the life of young black males. Hence the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Not that white lives or blue lives didn't matter. Throughout the history of the U.S, they always have. Not so for black lives with any degree of equality. And this is the core message of the movement. It runs deep and the wounds even deeper.

When it comes to race in America, we long ago chose and continue to choose to take the steroid shot option of “tolerance” rather than the more invasive option of repair.

This is the inescapable legacy of race in America and one that has been passed on generationally. It is a legacy that still contributes to race relations or lack thereof today.

Some whites still view blacks as “less than” and the history lesson passed down generationally to blacks is not long forgotten. “They used to just count us as three-fifths of a person,” I’ve heard more times than I care to count. This is the raw but real reality of untold numbers of African Americans. We are just somehow "less than."

Together with a  string of horrific police shootings and verbal sometimes physical unprovoked assaults by white private citizens give credence to such. To many it appears as if it is open season again on black America.

And when emotionally, politically and racially-charged issues erupt into a shockingly stunning, violent assault on the sacred grounds of the U.S. Capitol, egged on by a sitting U.S. President, the pain of this long and ugly history for African Americans grows deeper.

Reminding many of how black lives really don't matter because many maintained such an insurgence by a majority of blacks would no doubt have left untold numbers of black bodies strewn throughout the Capitol.

This was not the case as the overwhelming number of insurgents were white and not one was fatally wounded. In fact one white jailed insurgent, caught on video in various acts of insurgency within congressional chambers, requested and was granted by a white Republican judge a transfer to a more accommodating jail that could meet his demands for organic food. Still others have been allowed to walk on bail.

Many whites would argue all of this is ancient history and blacks should just "move on." How? When history continually repeats and African Americans are continually forced to witness new watermarks.

The tides of racism continue to rise and watermarks breached. You can't "move on" when wherever you move, racism follows. It is systemic and as American as apple pie. So much so that when one criticizes racism, many Americans take it as an affront and assault against America. Why? Because they in many respects are one-in-the-same.

Temporary Remedies - Steroid Shots

The Civil Rights Movement  resulted in the gradual dismantling of Jim Crow laws. Various laws, long overdue, were enacted to ensure civil rights, equal rights, fair housing and integrated schools.

The pain was made tolerable by the steroid shots of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, etc.

We learned to tolerate one another in actions, but still not fully accept one another in love.

The Civil Rights Movement accomplished in America what had never before been accomplished. As a result of sacrifices made, lives lost, and legal battles won, African Americans today can live anywhere they can afford, eat in any restaurant they want, earn college and advanced degrees from prestigious colleges and universities once off limits - move steadily up the corporate ladder, run and win elections – even become President. Yet, YET, it still only temporarily and to this day, eased the pain.

But, the societal and presidential dynamics at play now, half a century removed, make it apparent the pain of racism has merely been dulled to be made tolerable while the tear continues to grow deeper and more painful.

Racism is a matter of the heart. And until hearts through genuine love (not tolerance) change, only then will minds and genuine actions change. 

No government programs or any degree of public shaming can do this. It is a matter of the will.

Yes, Mr. Lincoln, we do know where we are, we just have no idea “whither we are tending.”

Only God knows and far too many of our leaders don’t care enough to ask Him for direction.

Black History Month 2021

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