Over the course of the last few years, I’ve done quite a bit of reading about world history. I’ve read about slavery and the way the slave traders would head out to Africa, barge into villages and snatch people who were just going about their daily routines, throw them on boats, beat and brutalize them, and change their lives and their children’s lives forever. I’ve read about how the Japanese Americans were treated during World War II, and how the Holocaust took millions of Jews from all over Europe while at the same time, people from all over Russia were being thrown into gulags. I’ve read about the fate of the American Indians and how they were generously granted spots of land here and there where they could live in peace – as long as they didn’t wander off. In more recent history, I’ve read about the fighting that devastated Sarajevo, and the civil war that caused the slaughter of countless people in Rwanda.
I could go on for some time, but I’m sure my point is made. All over the world, throughout many eras of history, man has fought against man with one common belief: I’m better than you are. One group of people elevates itself over another and believes it has more rights than the other. This belief leads them to acts of cruelty and violence because they feel they are acting out against someone who is inferior. In the case of the slave traders, many of them believed that the slaves weren’t even human, but were some form of animal. They saw nothing wrong with their actions because they refused to really look at what they were doing and take responsibility for their actions against another man – it was far too convenient to believe that they were simply acting against animals. There was less guilt that way.
We have entered into a historic time. We now have an African American president, something many thought would never happen. It has been stated that this is a time of change. Much has been said about how we as a nation will now experience equal rights with our new president at the helm. Many people, myself included, think that sounds like a wonderful idea. It is time for all people to be treated equally. It is time for persons of every culture to be respected, not for the color of their skin, but for their minds and hearts and dignity and the things of value they bring to the world through their love, kindness, and service to others, for their thoughts and ideas.
However, the pendulum is now swinging the other way. The government has become so sensitive to anything that might possibly be considered racist that much overreaction has taken place. Recently, a black man was arrested outside his home when a neighbor feared a break-in. He had forgotten his keys and he was jiggling the lock. When the police arrived to take stock of the situation, the man cried “racism” and our current administration was outraged at this treatment of a black man outside his own home. This could so easily have happened to a white man. People of every race and every color forget their keys. My husband had to break into our house a few weeks back, and if one of our neighbors had called the police, fearing a break-in, I have no doubt they would have questioned him. But it certainly would not have gotten the attention of the press.
I believe it’s time for equal rights. But to me, equal means the same. I believe that people of all races should have the same opportunities as their brothers and sisters of other races. I don’t want to see whites elevated above blacks and I don’t want to see blacks elevated above whites. Should that happen, we’ve accomplished nothing but a role reversal. Some might claim that it’s about time, but what progress would we have made as a human race if we continue to allow one race to dominate over another? We would merely have switched who was doing the dominating.
I believe I would have enjoyed knowing Rosa Parks. There was a woman with some spunk and I would have ridden a bus with her any day. But I don’t her to be forced to yield her seat to me, and I don’t want to be forced to yield my seat to her. I’d like us to sit side by side, strike up a conversation, share pictures of our children, and talk about our lives, as friends, knowing that our backgrounds are different and yet knowing that fundamentally, we are the same. That is the real definition of equal rights—knowing that each person, each soul, is of tremendous worth regardless of their packaging and giving us all the chance to walk this earth as we see fit without a preconceived set of rules for how we will be treated. That’s the world I want to live in. Anything less cannot be called equal rights.