Why can't we all just get along? Don't use race as cover and weapon

Most of what I write comes through inspiration coupled with many years of experience dealing with people from all aspects of life. This subject is no different.


I can assure those who may be suspicious that I have no other motive than adding a voice to the conversation in hopes of bringing the races together through understanding.

The issue of race is very sensitive among blacks, and I am very aware of this. However, I believe voices from the so-called black leadership must be challenged if we are to move from where we are to where we should be at the beginning of the 21st century. Those voices seem to say to us that we are not able to stand up and take responsibility for our own lives.

And guess what: We believe them -- at least many of us do. And that is where I have an issue.

More often than not, I find myself in opposition to the political stands of the so-called black leaders in Richmond County. Not to my surprise, some so-called leaders are the first to sit at "the man's" table looking out for their own personal interests, not the interests of blacks as a whole, as they proclaim.

Race is a cover and a weapon used to get what they want, not necessarily what the city as a whole needs -- including the black community for whom they say they speak.

I am sick and tired of watching this charade and seeing the dream of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. go to waste.

THE ARGUMENT FOR race at one time was a legitimate one. That was when the laws of certain states, including our beloved state of Georgia, forbade blacks from full participation in general society. When brought to the attention of the world, the idea of "separate but equal" was rejected, because we were on the right side of the law and the good conscience of fair-minded people.

We now are running many good people away from our legitimate causes because we make them all-too-often racial. Arguing from a racial point of view, other than in a court of law, stands about as much of a chance of convincing the opposition as keeping a snowball from melting in hell.

I cannot see any more victories that are going to be won using race as a weapon -- not for us, at least. We are not a monolith anymore, and if we were, it would not matter at all because we do not have the wherewithal to win. So why are we going down that path again?

I will tell you why: Integration has scared many of us nearly to death. Metaphorically, we would rather go back to Egypt, when we "sat by the flesh pots and ate bread to the full," than face the challenges of integration.

Let me remind some of us about those days -- the days of segregation. They were filled with indignities lacked opportunities. In my era, we worked hard to integrate. Lives and jobs were lost. But we knew that if the Negro were to make progress in this country, he would have to fight against a system that said "separate but equal." And the Supreme Court agreed with him.

Yet, now many of us are crying for the so-called good old days when we were separated and had our own.

That sounds like self-imposed segregation to me.

In Dr. King's speech "The Dilemma and the Challenge," he talks about understanding 300 years of slavery and 100 years of segregation that the Negro had endured, but he also said that the demands of history say that the Negro is expected to be as productive and as responsible as those who never had those disadvantages and never had to go though those experiences.

HE WENT ON TO say that if the Negro continues to operate exclusively as a Negro, he has already "flunked (his) matriculation exam for entrance into the university of integration."

In an integrated society, different groups work together, or should, to make the whole better, not just one part of it. Some of the language we are using, instead of bringing white allies to the cause, will surely run them away.

If we were to look for ways to work together and not be distracted by superficial and symbolic issues -- which in the whole scheme of things will not make a significant difference in the lives of people anyway -- we could make this city less consumed with racial strife.

But first, we have to acquire a sense of self-respect for voices other than our own. We probably won't agree with them at first, but if we continue to listen we may discover that these other voices want the same things that we want. And if we join hands we can achieve those mutual things working together that neither of us could achieve working alone.

Second, we need to be more dignified in our expressions of disagreement. After all, these are the things we teach our children, aren't they?

When will we ever be able to stand on our own two feet, as a race, if we keep holding one another's hands and not letting go? Our challenge is to move beyond complacency, stop looking for excuses, stop blaming others, take responsibility for our own lives and bring our resources together to make creative contributions to our country.

Yes, I said our country.

(The writer is a former Augusta City Council member and a retired labor relations manager from Bechtel Savannah River Inc.)