Regarding my blog’s tagline, Roberto said, “I certainly don’t believe we are “post” racial by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t think that term will ever be relevant in our lifetime.” I know he’s right, but I don’t want to believe it. And certainly I want to keep such a sad truth quiet. When Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you,” I hope no poor child overheard and misunderstood.
I worry about the children—born curious, energetic, hopeful. Do we warn them about the realities of racism or tell them they can be whoever they want to be? Or both? Do we see a black child as an individual or as a member of his race? When I worked at Trenton High, I heard teachers say “Our kids can’t….” as if they were all alike and as if they needed protection. Here’s an example. A friend from Princeton, who was a graduate of Penn State and an alumni recruiter, had told me that Penn State would welcome applications from Trenton High. After I’d passed the word to the guidance department, I ran into the brother of one of my colleagues in the hall. I’d occasionally driven him to his after-school job at the Princeton Medical Center and enjoyed his easy, bright conversation. The perfect applicant! I was pitching Penn State when a white counselor passed by and overheard. He took me aside and shook his head. “We don’t encourage our students to fail.”
I think of the times I’ve held a baby—white, black, and Asian. I’ve needed to believe that that baby could succeed. The alternative is too painful. We bring babies into a world of war, injustice, and suffering. We pray they’ll be spared.
Are we making progress? I had same-day surgery at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital this week, and I can report that the aide who greeted me, took my clothes, and brought warm blankets, as well as the person who pushed my wheelchair were black men. About ten percent of the nurses who worked in pre-op and post-op were black. A medical student rotating through plastic surgery and my anesthesiologist were both black women.