In his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention, then-Senator Barack Obama said, “There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.” His words drew a long and loud round of applause as the audience basked in the rhetoric of unity. Despite the desire for harmony, though, America remains divided.
There are many different Americas. Your social, economic, educational, cultural, and ethnic status puts you in a section of society distinct from others. Perhaps the distinction is no greater than between black and white. The video below entitled, “The South Will Rise Again” records the relationship of a black student and a white student to some of the traditions at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss).
The white student feels pride and warmth when the students chant “The South will rise again!” The African American student feels exclusion and pain. Aware of the distressing connotations of the chant, former Chancellor Dan Jones promised the students he would ask the band to stop playing the song, “I Wish I Was in Dixie”, if the students persisted in their tradition of chanting “The South will rise again!” after the song.
The video below shows how our experiences of America differ widely based on race. Such social and cultural distance breeds misunderstanding and contempt. Only through ongoing, gracious dialogue and sustained relationships can people in varying cultural circles begin to understand and advocate for each other.
The key to the dialogue and relationships we need is intentionality. We do not typically seek the company of those with whom we disagree. We do not naturally gravitate toward the hard work of building understanding. Yet a better status quo in race relations is possible. Perhaps videos like this will help spur us on to love and good works.
Special thanks to my friend and historian, Otis Pickett, for pointing me to this video.