Black, green, blue, white or orange

“That they might have joy” column by Jacki Wood

Disney’s “Remember the Titans” is based on the true story of the 1971 TC Williams High School football team. The movie, one of my all-time favorites, surrounds the racial integration of two schools at a time when many people did not want it to happen.

It shows the difficulties the black and white football players and coaches had to deal with, both on and off the field.

While many of the events in the movie were embellished by Hollywood, it does follow some things as they really happened, including the scene when Coach Herman Boone integrated his players on the buses before leaving for football camp.

“I don’t care if you’re black, green, blue, white or orange…I want all of my defensive players over here and the players going out for offense over here.”

Commenting on the real event, Coach Boone said, “I forced them on each other. I forced them to learn each other’s culture. I forced them to be a part of each other’s lives.”

And it worked. They learned about each other and grew to love one another.

While I’m not suggesting that we be “forced” on other people and cultures, I think many of us forget that we live in a country that was founded on the principles that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” (Declaration of Independence, 1776).

Unless we are Native Americans, we all came here from other countries, either ourselves personally or through our ancestors immigrating here.

According to the Center for Immigration Studies, approximately one-third of all US citizens today are people of color. We don’t see that so much in our neck of the woods, which is maybe why I feel so passionate about this subject.

I think there needs to be more of an urgency in our desire to learn about other people and cultures, for us to broaden our thinking and be more tolerant, myself included.

While I think many would say we live in great communities here and discrimination doesn’t happen, the reality is that it does happen here. I’ve heard stories of disrespect and hate, I’ve witnessed ignorance in the way people speak, and it makes me sad, and even angry, that we haven’t educated ourselves more than that.

I believe this education begins at home. We not only need to set good examples for our children, we also need to teach our kids to be critical thinkers, to strive to understand issues through examining and questioning. Asking questions does not show ignorance. Not asking does.

My husband and I have tried to provide our children with the opportunities to learn more, by making friends who are different from them, and through books, magazines, dolls, puzzles, painting, music and so on. We listen to music from all over the world, we learn about other holidays and try recipes from other countries.

One of the easiest ways we have done this is through reading. Lists of award-winning multicultural books can be found on the internet or at the library. We read to our kids and then talk about it with them.

One of my very favorite books came through this process when my kids were in preschool and first grade. I wanted to teach them about the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The book, “Freedom on the Menu – the Greensboro Sit-Ins” by Carole Boston Weatherford, tells the story of a young girl’s older brother who participated in the sit-ins.

From this book and others we have read, my children know how I feel about treating other people, especially those who are different from us. We read it, talk about it, ask the kids questions and they ask us questions.

When we take the time to get to know other people, we learn and grow. We may not like everything we learn or everyone we meet, but what is most important is that we learn to respect one another.

Baseball Hall-of-Famer Jackie Robinson said just that – “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me . . . All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”

Whether we’re black, green, blue, white or orange, it doesn’t matter. Race, creed, religion, national origin, these don’t matter either.

Respecting each other as human beings, that does matter.

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