How capable do we need to be? An idea inspired by a student.

Bird Droppings July 12, 2022

How capable do we need to be? An idea inspired by a student.

What a contrast to only a week or so ago, listening to the Atlantic Ocean, the moon is coming back smiling at me as I went out in the wee hours with a crystal-clear sky. There was a gentle wind blowing, wind chimes ringing peacefully, and a beautiful smiling moon gazing at me between the pines and oak trees. I had to stand in the early morning chill and look at the stars and moon and listen to our chimes from the backyard for a moment as I got up this morning. Life is a beautiful thing, and what we make of it is literally up to us. I do not think I will be getting sunrise photos. Hopefully, our weather will behave the next few mornings; possible storms around most have been at night at our house. It is still a few weeks till daylight savings kicks in.

I stopped at my favorite spot to get sunrise photos this morning, which was gorgeous considering the clouds. I was too early, so I headed back home to take care of a few errands. As I looked out of my rear-view mirror, the sunrise was exploding across the sky. I did a quick U-turn heading to my spot, and a brilliant sunrise. So, I began to think and ponder from my fantastic start to that day. As I thought back to another day and missing a sunrise or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, had I not been in such a hurry, I would have caught another beautiful sunrise. I addressed moments yesterday, and here I am, not listening to my words as usual. I chose to go for the bigger picture and often ignore the moment.

As always, random ideas get me pondering. I was inspired by a former student who had a situation with a close friend. Her friend was refused service due to a Hispanic ID from Costa Rico. She posted on Facebook, “what do I do?” My first response was, go vote, then I went to Gandhi’s thoughts and the quote following.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi

So, when applying for a job, that could be any job; when does capability come into play? When discussing this, I assume that capability is the ability to do that particular job. Several events have occurred over the past few days, including one from several months back. It has been some time since I received a sheet of paper with six questions, a voluntary questionnaire on diversification. I answered honestly and did feel diversification does not get the best person for the job. Are we effectively teaching about cultures when we mandate diversification?

Interestingly, my lineage of Pennsylvania Dutch and Welsh miners’ diversity has never come up. Nor has it with my paternal great, great grandmothers’ tribe, the Leni Lenape, part of the Delaware Nation. Perhaps they are not significant enough, although they may be a unique culture. So, I am with mixed emotions; on the one hand, listening to a student teacher who feels social studies is the place to combat racism in high school, and then my conviction that I still consider rednecks an ethnic group provides for great discussion. How do we challenge racism? My wife came home and said she had a patient who said she would only go to American doctors (meaning white). So, this morning, I sat on my porch, thinking about school coming up. The breeze was cool blowing through the trees; I thought, wondering what is it that drives us. I read a Facebook blog recently indicating racism is genetic. I would argue that point strongly; it is learned, period.

“One day, our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings.” Franklin Thomas

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

I answered my questionnaire and even wrote on the back until we begin hiring the best person, go to the best health care provider, and stop thinking, as this statement so clearly states, stop looking at the amount of melanin in our skin or not. Are we not all homo sapiens? We are not different species.  

“The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it.” Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

“To live anywhere in the world today and be against equality because of race or color is like living in Alaska and being against snow.” William Faulkner, Essays, Speeches, and Public Letters

Over the years, I have read numerous books and articles on Native American culture, and one, in particular, has hit deep, the book Neither wolf nor dog by Kent Nerburn. Nerburn’s story is one of the words of an old Lakota Sioux who feels compelled to express the differences between the Native Americans and whites, hence the title neither wolf nor dog.

“Laundry is the only thing that should be separated by color.” Author Unknown

“Racial superiority is a mere pigment of the imagination.” Author Unknown

How do we entangle our realities to a point where we become so embroiled in differences, and how is it we forget to treat each man as a brother? Where do we get this hatred? Many consider racism a learned behavior, and to date, I have not read anything in research that ascribes racism to a genetic code or DNA. Therefore, it is learned and, if so, can be unlearned and modified.

“I am working for the time when unqualified blacks, browns, and women join the unqualified men in running our government.” Cissy Farenthold

“Be nice to whites; they need you to rediscover their humanity.”  Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Tutu met with the Dalai Lama several years ago, which is something I would have enjoyed hearing and seeing. These two great human beings are at one place and one time speaking and discussing. I missed an opportunity to hear Desmond Tutu when he was in Atlanta as a quest lecturer at Emory University several years back. Having had ties business-wise to South Africa for nearly forty years, we often had inside information on the happenings there. I recall my father coming home and relating happenings at a checkpoint between Zimbabwe and South Africa and how he was coached about what to say when rebels stuck automatic weapons in the car windows. I recall reading an article recently about the rise of aids in South Africa and comment my brother made after a recent trip. He said he was told that left as it currently is, the aids epidemic will wipe out blacks in South Africa in ten years. It makes you wonder about conspiracy theories; however, in the days since, foundations worldwide have turned the tide on Aids, while still a severe threat, slowly getting some control.  

“Racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.” Abraham Joshua Heschel

In 1968 I was in Texas going to college, and at that time, racial hatred was not against blacks but Native Americans. I saw it rampant as comments were made, and people responded. It was a carryover from the old west and the Indian wars. Even as recently as 1992, when traveling in Oklahoma, I witnessed firsthand the racism against those who were here first.  

“Preconceived notions are the locks on the door to wisdom.”  Merry Browne

“The test of courage comes when we are in the minority.  The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.”  Ralph W. Sockman

I recently listened to comments from a student teacher about how we need to do this and show this and that and then thought about my reading of this questionnaire on diversity. You learn racism, and if that is a given, you also learn tolerance. You also learn to accept others; I recall from years gone by a story of a man injured on his journey.

“A certain man went down from Lawrenceville to Atlanta, fell among car jackers, stripped him of his clothes, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance, there came down a certain preacher that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise, a Lawyer, when he was at the place, came and looked on him and passed by on the other side. But a certain man of another color, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on peroxide and gave him some drink, and set him in his own car, and brought him to an emergency room, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two hundred dollars, gave them to the host, and said unto him, take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said He that shewed mercy on him. Then said the teacher unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” I borrowed a slight paraphrase from my seminary days, Frank Bird III Ed.S. D.D.

 A bit of paraphrasing, a bit of whimsy, but not really. How often have headlines shown people standing by as someone is mugged or murdered? We are all neighbors, we are all brothers, we are all equal in this life, and as the sign as you leave the Ocmulgee National Park in Macon, Georgia, states, “we are all connected.” Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and heart and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)


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