Was This a Part of the Dream?

In between proofreading and book design I have watched some of the Inauguration festivities on television today. I think it is highly significant that it occurs on the same day we celebrate the birth of Martin Luther King Jr. Several weeks ago Sharon and I watched the movie about Lincoln and since then I have been reading a book about Lincoln’s ability to lead in bringing about the end of slavery in our nation. Needless to say, I have thought a great deal about race relations.

My parents grew up in west Texas and they were exposed to racism to a certain extent, although it was not the Deep South. However, I was raised in Colorado and racism was really not a part of my experience. I attended a High School in north Denver that really was a melting pot of racial and ethnic groups. I had good friends who were Japanese, black, Italian, and Hispanic.Barack Obama and Martin Luther King.

I remember the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in the spring of 1968 as clearly as I recall the assassination of JFK. When I heard the news it was early in the evening and I was preparing to attend the wedding of my friend Steve’s brother.

Radio newsman was my first real job. I worked for a station in downtown Denver that played “Soul Music.” Songs by James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and a group called the Jackson Five, fronted by a little kid named Michael, could be heard all day. I was the news department and another guy known as “Funky Frank” was the only other “white” guy at the station. We actually won an award for our election coverage at inner-city precincts one year.

In college, because of my unique situation of being in a wheelchair, I was usually allowed to have a room by myself. I did have one roommate though; he was a basketball player who stood about a foot and a half taller than me. Height was not our only difference – our skin color was also different. After about three weeks he went home for the weekend and was killed in a bar fight. I’m sad to say, I don’t even remember his name.

At seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, I was introduced to a number of new friends who had a different background. There were many students from the Deep South and their experience with blacks was different than mine.

As he neared graduation, my good friend Fred interviewed with a church in west Georgia about becoming their pastor. It was shortly after President Carter led his hometown church in Georgia to accept blacks for church membership. It was not a popular position among many southerners.

When he returned after the interview, Fred reported that the only question he was asked was what he would do if a black person wanted to join the church. Frankly, I was stunned. This was 1976 and I assumed the racial issue had been decided already. That shows you how dumb I was. Since Fred was from Georgia he knew how to handle the question.

Obviously, the racial issue has not been resolved in this country. We have made good progress during my lifetime but there is still far to go. To be honest, one of the reasons (not the only one) that I voted for President Obama four years ago is because of his race. It was time, perhaps past time, for a person of color to lead our nation.

I think it is especially significant that the Inauguration today was on the same day we honor Martin Luther King Jr. Obviously, King was a prophet. But I wonder if he envisioned this nation with a black President within 40 years of his death. Or, did Abraham Lincoln ever think it was a possibility.

It is certainly a day to celebrate and reflect but we must continue to march toward that time when all Americans will enjoy the same opportunities.



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3 responses to “Was This a Part of the Dream?

  1. Kim Norwood

    Terry, I grew up in the south where our schools were segregated until I got to Junior High School. But I had parents who instilled a very Christian ethic and lived it out. My dad coached little league baseball and took lots of abuse for starting black boys over white ones. But his philosophy was always based on performance not race. White boys didn’t start because they were white and black boys didn’t sit the bench because they were black. Everyone had equal opportunity. I was the coach’s son and didn’t earn a starting position until my third year with him. One of my best friends was black and I vividly remember talking to him and discussing how sad it was that it was not safe for him to come to my side of town or for me to go to his side of town. But that did not stop us from being friends. I have proudly pastored churches that are distinctly multi-racial and have gladly served a multi-racial Army for 20 years. I had a black chaplain’s assistant serve alongside me and protect me in combat. I honestly don’t care about the color of a person’s skin. I agree with MLK that character, not color, is what is important. In spite of this, I have endured the accusations of people who think I did not vote for Obama because he is black…that somehow there must be some latent racism in me. I would have gladly voted for Alan Keyes, J. C. Watts or Condolezza Rice because we share common values, but it has nothing to do with the color of their skin. Likewise, I would reject Biden because I fundamentally disagree with his politics. I grieve for our nation and the class warfare and racial discontent he is fomenting. No, today I did not celebrate, but it has nothing to do with color. Trouble is brewing my friend and I fear for our once great nation. My steadfast hope is that our Sovereign God is up to something good. He is all about THE Kingdom…not our little kingdoms. He did not spare Israel when they turned their back on him. In Hosea he declares, “…in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.” I believe he can use Obama to cause us to finally call out to him for our salvation instead of political parties. And I can celebrate that.

    • Kim, I appreciate your comments. I not sure that I believe it when a person of the majority color says that color doesn’t matter. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a person of color make that remark. It’s kind of like an able-bodied person telling me that my handicap doesn’t make any difference. Even though they may not be aware of their actions, I can tell it does make a difference. Either they try too hard to help me physically or else they stumble with what to say and do. When we hear black people saying that color doesn’t matter then we can feel like we have made good progress in race relations.

  2. Kim Norwood

    I may be of the majority color, but I feel no compulsion to prove my convictions that color does not matter to me by voting for a minority. I vote on policy and principle. I really don’t understand why you have a hard time believing that it is possible for someone to care more about character than color. After all, isn’t that the power of the transforming power of Christ? I do not believe that we owe any person an office because of their color (any color), gender, social status or lack thereof or because it is somehow time. I opposed Bill Clinton for the same reason I oppose Obama…I stand opposed to where they want to take this country.

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