In my endeavor to understand the civil rights movement as I strive to know how to currently pursue racial harmony and to help my children understand it all as well, our family recently went to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta.
I figured I would cry at some point or at least tear up. However, the Lunch Counter Sit-in experience actually broke me. The Center wisely warned that only 13 year olds and above should take a seat at the four person lunch counter replica where you put on headphones, spread out your hands on the counter, close your eyes, and then get a feel for what it was like for those African Americans who dared to enter white-only southern establishments and participate in sit-ins in 1960 in an effort to change the degrading segregated south. Through the headphones you hear a simulation of the angry white crowds from almost 60 years ago that surround you as you sit at the counter making your non-violent stand against segregation. You feel the stool you sit on jerk slightly as the aggressors begin kicking and pulling on it. How did our nation justify this? How did these college-age African Americans find the courage to willingly go into these potentially very hostile situations?
May we as humans never forget how hateful we can be. May we be warned that we are still capable of such hate if we do not guard our hearts, read the Word of God, and obey it. May we as humans never forget the courage and strength we possess by God’s common grace to overcome horrendous circumstances. May we never doubt that change can come through courageous acts of individuals. People just like you and me.
You and I might never sit at a lunch counter and risk our safety, but we may have to sit with a friend or family member and have a risky conversation about racial matters that could jeopardize the relationship. Racial harmony will most likely only come when individuals step out of their comfort zone and encourage others to do the same. The National Center for Civil and Human Rights highlighted people from all walks of life who emerged from their comfort zone so we can live in a better world today.
While we no longer have Jim Crow laws, in my experience some African Americans often still feel marginalized. I ask you to talk to those in your sphere about these matters and understand what people have experienced. My guess is you might be surprised by what you learn. I sure have been these last few months as this issue has been heavy on my heart and mind and often surfaces in conversations.
I pray God awakens in each of us a deep love for those with different skin tones than we personally have. A love that moves us to action and increased unity especially between African Americans and whites. May we truly be one nation, under God, INDIVISIBLE.