Dear Dr. Archer,
After reading the story posted by my friend Bill Cooper, I was reminded of my own youth, growing up in South Africa during the early 50's. My father was a carpenter, and I was the second youngest of six children -- three boys and three girls.
When I was 5 my family moved to Southdene, a township converted from an old 42nd Air Force base. Our home was a three roomed semi-detached wooden bungalow with no running water; we did have a faucet outside. For bathing, we used the communal wash houses. There were many children in "the camp," as it was called.
I grew up in a country that practiced segregation, and later the word "Apartheid" became well known. However, to us children there was no such thing as segregation. The only segregation we understood was when boys challenged girls to a game.
We heard grownups tell their children to not play with so-and-so, because they were a different color. To us kids, color didn't matter! We were all one color, perhaps green, and there were just different shades of green, but we were all green.
To us, it was much like looking out onto a field of wild flowers -- there were many different colors, sizes and types, but all were nourished from the same source, and all smiling at the sun. One could liken a child's thinking to a tropical fish tank: many different species of fish, all different colors, and all enjoying the same water.
I am reminded of what Jesus Christ said to His disciples in Luke 18:16, "But Jesus called them unto Him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God."
Regrettable we grow up and grow out of that childlike attitude, and imbibe in all sorts of biases. I'm an African, a white South African, and I love Africa and it's wonderful people. Thank you, Bill, for reminding me of what millions have forgotten.
Children are open books, and they do not hold prejudices against anyone or anything.... until they are taught to do so. From the prejudices of the adults in their lives, they learn to judge based on race, gender, dress, neighborhood and job.
I truly like your comparison of race with the field of flowers. A field of red flowers is lovely, yet soon becomes boring and monotonous. Add yellows, greens, purples and pinks and you give that field a chance to shine like never before, a chance to really show off. The color of skin should be admired in the same respect, because we all bring something new and fresh to that field.
You might want to check out the Esquire poll regarding blacks, whites and Hispanics in The State Of Getting Along. We have come far, true, but we still have a long way to go. It should not be so difficult for intelligent people to realize that what we do from birth to grave is completely up to us!
Yes, we are taught as children, but then as adults we must decide what path in life to take. Holding out our hand to our fellow man will benefit us all; living with prejudices will hurt the holder of those views more than the class he despises.
In the end, Michael, we should always treat each other the way we would want to be treated. Just imagine that! Thank you again for writing in on such an important topic.