We have come a long way as a nation that has struggled with raw segregation and decades of discrimination. We fought a war on our soil to keep the country together as one united nation that would no longer allow the official practice of slavery.
We struggled through years of tension and bloodshed a short 40 years ago during the civil-rights movement. Political and economic empowerment for blacks led to the election of powerful post-civil rights big city mayors like Harold Washington and Marion Barry. Affirmative action and quota systems leveled the playing field in education and business.
We are still a long way from the perfect society that Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned, but we have made tremendous progress. Is it not then time for us to turn our thoughts and our energies away from what separates us and focus our sights on the more positive landscape of what we share? Wasn't it Dr. King who said we should be judged not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character?
Our characters, I believe, are based on the shared goals of safety and prosperity for our families. If we were to begin with that sense of sameness and stay focused on those shared desires, blacks and whites would reach a new level of respect and mutual admiration. Consider the three basic requirements for success in 21st century America: safe streets, access to good education, available and affordable health care.
These fundamental middle-class values are common across race and class. I call them "sameness issues." Rather than concentrate on what we as Americans do not agree on, why not work together to promote the basics? We may not like the same music or the same food. We may not dance the same way or celebrate in the same fashion. These differences, given respect, can make us stronger. Working together on improving the basic quality of life will make us invincible.
Lowell K. Duckett, Evans, Ga.