Food For Thought

The Human Race is Second Place

 

by Dr. John E. Bonfadini, Ed.D. 

Professor Emeritus, George Mason University

John Bonfadini

God made people with the same basic parts — one heart, nose, and stomach; two legs, arms, eyes, and ears. The differences that make each of us truly unique — those embedded within our DNA — are not visible from the outside. But the differences that are visible have caused problems for generations.

Gender has long been a major dividing category. So, too, has skin color. For some reason, the Creator decided to make human skins slightly different. Skin color and other physical characteristics are reflective of the human category that man has labeled “race.”  In addition to the categories of race and gender, humans have subdivided themselves into many other groups. Religion, political affiliation, geographic location, and age are a few more of the many things we use as identity indicators. Each division creates another layer of associated problems. Seeking to identify groups, we have divided the human race into a quagmire of differences when we are, really, basically all the same. We need to become more aware of the similarities and less concerned about differences, which have a tendency to divide and cause societal conflict.

Last month the Super Bowl was played with each team having a Black coach. The ethnicity of the coaches seemed to be more important than the individual qualities of the coaches themselves. They were the first Black coaches to reach the final game of the football season in which a majority of the players were Black. We chose to emphasize the coaches rather than the players. As a society we should ask why? Everything in life has a first. Those we choose to emphasize as significant firsts should be truly significant. Jackie Robinson as the first Black athlete in baseball was significant, as was Martin Luther King’s great contribution to society. Both men were instrumental in removing significant barriers. Let’s not diminish those achievements by placing the same importance on every first that takes place.

To illustrate this point I like to tell the story of a man who came home all proud that he’d been elevated to the position of V.P. His wife seemed unmoved when he informed her of his achievement. He questioned her about her lack of enthusiasm. She said, “They have a V.P. of prunes at the grocery store.” He said, “NO they don’t.” She responded, “Call and ask.” The husband called, asking the grocery store employee to speak to the “V.P. of Prunes.” The employee replied, “Which one, regular or dehydrated?”

I understand that prejudice still exists in all walks of life. Sometimes it’s hidden deep within individuals, like DNA not visible to the human eye. My father was on his death bed when a Black orderly attempted to attend to his needs. My dad refused his help. I was stunned — I never knew my dad had those feelings. Why, I won’t attempt to answer because I don’t know, but I do know my feelings. I recently attended the 60th birthday party of a friend of mine. Upon entering the restaurant, it was easily noticeable that I was of a different ethnicity. We’ve been friends for decades and the color of our skin is the last thing we’d use to evaluate each other. He is a true friend because he truly understands God’s commandment, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” He’s welcome in my world and I in his because we have evaluated each other using the human characteristics that really matter, and race or gender aren’t among them.

Coach John Thompson, on his radio show, made a comment about Black History Month saying, in his special way, “Gee, they’ve given us a whole month.” Society is constantly trying to recognize groups or individuals by assigning them a day or month. In many ways these special days become little more than time off from work. We need to make sure that history properly reflects and credits all human achievement.

Language differences are a major problem in communication between ethnic groups. I believe it will become more of a problem as technology allows different ethnic groups to exist in a society without learning a primary language. The lack of a common language is similar to having numerous operating systems for computers. Too much time must be devoted to building interface networks. All individuals living in this country or the world would be better off if a required common language existed. Many books have been written about men and women having different languages, but I won’t touch that subject.

In the next presidential election we’ll probably have a “diverse” candidate (diverse, in this case, meaning other than a Caucasian male). As a society, we’ve come a long way. I can remember when John Kennedy was running for office, much discussion centered on his religion. It was the first time I had a chance to vote, another first for me to go along with many other firsts like, first word, first step, first day in school … you get the picture. I’ve voted in every election since, which is far more important than my first vote. The president’s religion is less of an issue than it was during the early ’60s election, but it continues to be a topic in some circles. Evolution takes time.

I’m not so naive that I believe human differences won’t always have an effect on society. But we should use our brains, and we must be responsible for our own actions. Maybe God provided us with fellow humans of different races as a test of how we’ll react on a bigger and more important battleground. We could all probably use a little more time in boot camp.

What’s Your View?

Obviously, there are at least two sides to every issue. Do you have a different view? This column is meant to provoke thought, so keep sending comments. Each one is read with the utmost interest. Send e-mail to: bsherrod@odec.com, or send written responses to the editor. Mail will be forwarded to the author.

 

 

 

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