This missive borrowed, at least in inspiration, from Brother Boyd Evans of First Baptist Church.
My siblings would likely glance at the first sentence and blink and think Baptist preacher?
I was not exposed to the Baptist church until I resided in Port St. Joe and this past Sunday, with a message folding Biblical passages into the unrest in this country, Brother Boyd made points most of us need to hear.
I am going to risk that he will not be offended by my stealing and turning his thoughts into more secular language, but I will beg his forgiveness.
He acknowledged to his social-distancing congregation Sunday his message might not be popular with all in attendance.
And I will emphasize I am not quoting (again, Brother Boyd forgive the theft).
First, one of his initial points was that nobody who is not African-American has the slightest idea of the experience of those who trace their ancestral roots to a slave ship.
None, zippo, nada, you can’t imagine.
Slavery was the biggest fumble the Founding Fathers made, feeling a compromise that permitted the abhorrent purchasing of other humans primary to establishing a new country.
It was economics, as it would so often be over centuries, but those Founding Fathers could also note that slavery dated to biblical times.
The Civil War was only a tipping point in a long argument.
If we are going to discuss systemic racism, the drafting of a Bill of Rights while leaving slavery legal would be a fine starting point.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s said the civil unrest of that time was the voice of the unheard.
It has continued to be unheard: at least until the next person of color dies under needless circumstances.
Another superb point Evans made was that there are four Gospels telling the story of Jesus Christ in the Bible.
Some gospels leave out or change details included in others, each one is different.
In the same respect, this country’s conversation is being driven in large measure by deeply partisan messengers.
Therefore, the rounded citizen is the one who takes in multiple sources, multiple viewpoints, before making conclusions and decisions.
Evans’ central message, straight out of the Book of James, was about love and that pure love, the love which threads throughout the Bible, particularly in the life of Jesus Christ, can overcome all.
I will leave behind Evans’ message from here.
I am hardly talking out of school in stating that Gulf County has a troubled history with race in the recent past.
We live with systemic racism, in fact, every election cycle when we elect county commissioners or school board members.
Single-member districts and the belief that one seat on both county and school boards should be a minority it a tradition from the 1980s when a federal judge ruled that, indeed, that was required due systemic racism.
The order applied only to the Board of County Commissioners, but the Gulf County School Board, for reasons not entirely clear, decided to embrace the same tradition.
When my wife and I first arrived in Port St. Joe, the railroad tracks that literally divided north from south were still intact and despite their removal little seems to have changed.
There remains a disconnect between the two communities, one both communities foster to varying degrees, and I always choke on writing “North Port St. Joe”, choosing to insert neighborhood because it sounds too much like two cities.
Which it almost is: many folks on the north side to this day believe that when power or water goes out, they are the last to have service restored and for a reason.
This country’s racism knows no boundaries, however.
We can talk all day long about Jim Crow laws, but “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, about the plight of being black and invisible to the rest of society, was set in Chicago.
I am reading a book at this time about the year of the pitcher, 1968, but sports in some ways took a back seat that year, especially in Detroit, home of the world champions, to the kind of protests we are witnessing today.
The “Summer of Love” the year before really existed largely for whites; that summer cities across America were ravaged by riots and racial unrest, stoked by anti-Vietnam War fever.
That was more than 50 years ago.
The federal decree the county operates elections under dates back more than 30 years.
The Bill of Rights was more than 200 years ago.
The Civil War more than century ago.
There is a saying about try and try again, but at some point we’ve all, all of us, got to get this right.
And it seems the time is now.