I am a white man who grew up in Alabama in the racially turbulent 60’s and 70’s. My earliest memories include television news stories of race riots, sit-ins, dogs and firehoses unleashed on black citizens of my state, the firebombing of churches, and systemic racism both in my home and in my relationships.
The division according to color was all I knew. When I started my first job sweeping the floors of a car dealership, I was quickly and quietly instructed which bathroom we white folks used and which was designated for the “colored” employees. I was warned to avoid the black men who animatedly washed the cars while listening to an embarrassingly attractive mix of Soul and R&B music.
Lurid tales that denigrated Dr. Matin Luther King, Jr. were whispered by some and shouted by others. Many sought to sully his legacy even before he was cut down by an assassin’s bullet. In my white circle of friends, he was a meddling negro that needed to be taught a lesson. We were even ignorant of our ignorance. Growing up, the only black people I knew mopped the floors and cooked the food in the fellowship hall at my white Baptist church. So it was just like the Lord to years later use a loving and kind black man, who I first insulted, to share Christ with me while I was far from hope and headed to hell.
I remember times when my family would spot what we viewed as shameless and decadent….a mixed race couple. Oh it was a rare sighting indeed, but it was an occasional occurrence and never failed to elicit now horribly regrettable comments. I am thankful for both the forgiveness of Christ, the grace of my black brethren and that the scales that once clouded my vision were trampled on and left behind almost 35 years ago. Yet today, while we admittedly still have a long way to go in the uphill slog to racial equality and a society free of such superficial judgement, we should take a moment to recognize our progress.
What was once looked on with shame has now become beautifully commonplace. Mixed race couples are now so common that only the avowed racists, or the stealthy ones still among us, find it even worthy of noticing. And my how their offspring have become cultural icons, noted stars and incredibly popular without their racial DNA even being a factor. Here is a short list of those who have shaped our culture of late: Country singer Kane Brown, Yankees superstar Derek Jeter, sharpshooter for the Golden State Warriors Steph Curry and his “splash brother” Klay Thompson, golf icon Tiger Woods, President Barak Obama, up and coming star quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs Patrick Mahomes, Oscar winning actress Halle Berry, female singers Alicia Keys, Sade, Mariah Carey and Vanessa Williams, former wrestler and box office titan Dwayne Johnson, Actor Vin Diesel, male singers Lenny Kravitz, Bruno Mars, Bob Marley and Ben Harper, actor Shemar Moore, and Meghan Markle who’s title is now the Duchess of Sussex.
And this is just the (very) short list.
All of these rose to prominence while their racial makeup was rarely mentioned. I believe that Dr. King, who was the forever-optimist, would be proud of this taking place with barely a ripple of recognition. At the ministry where I serve in Houston, we have several mixed-race couples. They were originally sought because of their strong Christian testimonies, the burden they share for hurting boys, and their committed work ethics. Their marriage relationships and their race were not a consideration of employment, and yet they all bring a diversity of thought and valuable perspectives we would lack if they were not called to serve here.
So sometimes we just need to take a moment, while laboring towards a greater goal, and recognize some unrecognized progress. What was once viewed as shameful, and what once caused men to lose their lives, is now not only protected by law, but fully accepted by society. I choose to celebrate this and to allow all of us a moment to find hope in the midst of the struggle that will inevitably go on.
So in this one significant success in the ongoing struggle, good job America.