Thursday, June 11, 2015

Shadowlands

I don't often use this blog for "hot button" issues.  This post has been burning in my heart for two months, though.  
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Take a good look at my profile picture (but not too closely!), and you will immediately realize that I am white, and come from European lineage.  There's a bit of English, German, Scottish, Irish--and probably several other nationalities--blended into my DNA.  I have honestly never sat down and mused on what that means for me as a person.  It is just "what it is."

Having said that, my interaction with those of other races was quite limited until after I graduated from high school.  (And honestly, I never really thought of any of my schoolmates as being anything other than that, no matter the color of their skin.)  

One of my first memories of encountering an African American child was quite positive.  While visiting a church, the only girl who spoke to me in Sunday school was a sweet girl, who just happened to have darker skin than I did.  She was so kind.  I will never forget that gesture.

As I grew older and became more aware of racial discrimination, I was appalled.  The history of slavery in our country was beyond my comprehension.  Hitler's stance against Jews, anyone with any mental or physical infirmities, and anyone with darker skin, was a hatred I could not fathom.  In my mind, everyone should love everyone, and that was the end of it.

While in college, I met and became friends with students from all over the country and the world.  I truly enjoyed the interaction, as my worldview began to grow and expand.  I attended a church with a wonderful mixture of races.  After our marriage, we spent many years ministering in Detroit and the surrounding area.  Again, our church life was made more full by the variety of skin colors and heritages, all blended together by our love for Christ.

A couple of months ago, I became aware of a racism that, again, is beyond my understanding.  While I recognize that there are many stereotypes, I can only conclude that there is no sound reasoning or logic behind any of them.  People are people, created in the image of God.  Some choose to live as a child of God; others, as a rebellious son or daughter.  Skin color doesn't determine the choice.  

My latest insight came during a presentation on immigration issues.  If I were to sum up my knowledge of the matter prior to that day, I would say it was very, very limited.  The news media has played the issue as an "us against them" saga, with those being born within our borders being on the positive side.  As I listened to the legal aspects, I was still trying to sort it all out:  why should those born in the United States have open arms to those of other nations, and how does that affect each citizen?  While still mulling this over, a young woman was asked to tell her story.  That's when it all changed for me.

She told of growing up in a Central American country, where gang activity is the norm.  Her childhood was also marred by the violence of her father against herself and her mother.  At the young age of 17, she could no longer bear this environment.  She offered to help her mother leave as well, but was refused.  Through a contact in the United States, she made arrangements to make her way north.  Sadly, the person who was paid to transport her did not have her best interest in mind.  After being locked in a house for 2-3 days, she escaped.

She again contacted her U.S. friend, who handled the details of her move here.  She later married this man.  Unfortunately, his temperament was similar to that of her father.  To protect their two young children, she again made an escape.  Thankfully, she made contact with individuals in the Cleveland area who could assist her.  She is making progress, and is so grateful for all the help she  has received.

Now I realize there are immigration laws, and there are legal ways immigrants can become citizens.  However, I also know that the means of procuring that citizenship is very limited.  In the state of Ohio, the only court for immigration and citizenship is in Cleveland.  Most of the immigrant population is in the Columbus area (a drive of over two hours) and Tuscarawas County (a drive of over 1 1/2 hours).  Keeping in mind that most immigrants do not own motorized vehicles, this presents a major obstacle.  When one also realizes that court appointments are usually mailed only days before the scheduled appearance, another large barrier is obvious.  Tack on the added expenses of bus fare, limited knowledge of English, and confusing, ever-changing laws, the hurdles become higher and higher.


Previous to this meeting, I also did not realize that being in the country without documentation is also a civil matter, not a criminal one.  The only time it becomes criminal is when an individual is committing crimes (murder, slave trade, drug transportation, etc.).  Another fact that many do not realize is the current surge of deportation.  And if those being deported have American-born children, the children are placed in the foster care system.  

I don't know all the answers.  I do know that my ancestors came to this country to live in peace, as did the ancestors of most of European descent.  Obviously, the citizens whose families came due to slavery did not come for that reason, but were afforded that right as changes were made following the Civil War, and, more recently, due to the civil rights movement in the 1960's.  It is a glaring truth that the rights of some are still supersceded by the prejudice of others.  It is also a fact that many do not desire anyone new coming to our country.   Again, I don't know all the answers.

I do know that I met the face of immigration, and a victim racial prejudice...and she is beautiful.


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