by Rev. Dr. Tim Moore
My children have been in our public schools for the past 6 years at Cotswold Elementary, a diverse school, where their classmates have been almost even numbers of white and black students with a smaller portion of Hispanic immigrants. My children are richer because they have friends who immigrated from Venezuela and Guatemala, because they’ve had the chance to befriend a Muslim boy from Russia, because they’ve attended parties just across the street from this sanctuary and their own birthday parties have looked like the world King dreamed of from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
This is an example of what can happen when parents and teachers from different racial and ethnic and economic classes come together for the common good of all. Unfortunately, I’ve watched Cotswold become a rare school in [Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools] during these six years as the school system as a whole has virtually resegregated. Most schools in our system now either have high concentrations of white students or black students.
When we did away with busing to integrate our schools we gave up the idea that we should all share the responsibility to educate the at-risk student, the child who lives in poverty, the student with behavioral issues, the pupil whose parents do not help her with homework and leave the TV on all day and let her stay up till midnight. All of us, black, white, Hispanic, rich, poor, we used to share in that responsibility. Now, it’s every school for themselves, every neighborhood out to protect their school boundaries. And more and more white and upper income families are just opting out for private school.
What is even more alarming is how this has happened with hardly a word of protest. The school board is even considering doing away with the citizens council for school equity. One board member simply called it a relic.
If Dr. King were alive today would he drive through our city of beautiful churches and ask, “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God?” Where were they when public school resegregated and relegated thousands of students to a poor education with inexperienced teachers and rowdy classrooms?
Every child deserves a quality education, but that good news must be carried on a cross by all of us. And that’s not going to make everyone happy.
We have to will things to be different. The privileged have to be willing to sacrifice some of their perks. The poor have to be willing learn new ways. If we are not willing to sacrifice some things for each other, then noble ideas and lofty hopes will just be artwork hung in a museum for us to admire.
We have to stop caring just about ourselves and our people – however we define our people – and start working for the betterment of all of us. We have to become less tribal and more open to our neighbor.
This is a task that has confounded humans for centuries. The prejudices that continue to divide our nation and the body of Christ are as wide as the earth is round and as old as human nature. It seems there is an innate tribalism within human beings. We mistrust the outsider, the other. Xenophobia, fear of the foreigner, runs in our veins.
This sin of tribalism is within all of us. I have to confess that I am a recovering racist and a recovering male chauvinist pig, a recovering nationalist and a recovering elitist. I cannot claim a cure, but like the recovering alcoholic, everyday I have a task – to love my neighbor as myself. This is not easy. Everyday we hit moments where we might prejudge people based on their gender, race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or any other matters that group people.
Just the other day I was in line at a lunch counter and I was in a bit of a hurry and right in front of me were two Hispanic women who I soon realized were struggling some with their English. And I thought why did I have to get behind these women on a day when I’m in a hurry?
Well, a moment later another worker came to the counter and started taking my order, so now I was between the these Hispanic women and I could easily hear everything that was going on between them and the workers taking their orders. One of the women was having problems understanding how much her sandwich cost, which I could understand. I have three college degrees and a solid command of the English language and sometimes I can’t understand the menus at this lunch place. But the worker, who was actually the manager, was clearly annoyed with her and began being rude to her.
A couple minutes later after we’d all paid, the women sat down at a table and I prepared to leave with my to-go order. I looked back up at the counter and noticed no one was in line at the moment. So, I went back up, and told the manager that he’d been very rude to that customer. He apologized, but I said, “I’m not the one you should apologize to.”
I could have left the store feeling a little self-righteous, if I hadn’t realized something. I should have also thanked him. Part of my anger at his rudeness was caused by my shame for the impatience I had with the women in the first place and my apathy of minding my own business when I should have offered to help her understand the menu. He reminded me that I’m a recovering racist and recovering elitist and I’m called to everyday to love my neighbor as myself.
Jesus stood before his hometown people and said:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor."
And they loved hearing him say those things until they realized he meant that good news for them and for people not like them and then they turned on him.
Good news doesn’t make everyone happy, because God’s good news must be carried on a cross. AMEN
This is the conclusion of a two-part series that began Tuesday (scroll down to see Part 1). Tim Moore is the pastor of Sardis Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC. This series was adapted from a sermon Rev. Moore delivered on January 31, 2010. This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro and Winston-Salem sit-ins of February 1960, where black and white students sat at Woolworth's lunch counters and refused to move. Let us take this time to renew our commitment to social justice as an outward expression of love for our neighbor.