Saturday, June 13, 2020

A Problem of Pigmentation

     In this summer of America's troubled discontent, we should all be urged to view the 1967 film classic, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.  During his impassioned summation of the problem he is facing, newspaper editor Spencer Tracy looks out at his white daughter and the man she intends to marry, a prestigious Black doctor, played by Sidney Poitier and declares simply that "what we have here is a problem of pigmentation."
     Screenwriter William Rose encapsulated the challenges his young lovers would face in a world with little tolerance for interracial marriage.  And our struggle as a nation, then and now, is mirrored in that short phrase.
     If, as Christians, we believe what the Bible instructs us, that all men are created in the image of God, it absolutely amputates the argument by those among us who harbor bigotry in their hearts that a dark complexion makes a fellow American somehow inferior to an American with a lighter complexion.  Biblical teaching underscores the simple truth of Rose's screenplay.
     As I watch the protesters marching through the streets of our major cities, night after night, I wish we could channel some of their energy to secure racial accord and equal treatment, and use it to bring about meaningful change to elevate the poorest among us to a better economic future.
     It begins with education.  I live in a suburb of Indianapolis.  Inner-city schools in Indianapolis are failures.  Children attend but only a fraction leave school at the end of the day with anything gained.  These schools are a poor investment for the children who have the greatest need.  Most are African-American.  Less than a third of these children are reading at grade level by third grade.  It is a sad indictment of every Hoosier, nee, every American that we have allowed this to happen.
     School boards should be petitioned to approve school choice.  Most of our poorest children are born to single mothers who must struggle to support them, often with low paying jobs. The obstructive teachers unions should be shunted aside.  Our children are priority one.  But salaries for inner-city teachers should be raised to attract the brightest teachers. These professional educators could become the biggest catalyst for the implementation and success of education reforms.
     Microsoft, Dell, Apple and other computer makers could step forward and insure that every child in our inner-city schools has a digital device on which to learn.  Stop the tokenism of big tech.  Step up and take responsibility for a country that spawned and fostered your success.
     Institute school uniforms.  Give each child a level learning field.  No child should go to school in clothes that might invite ridicule from other classmates.  Dignity is as important for the smallest among us as it is for adults.
     And finally teach history, unvarnished and accurate.  However disturbing it may be, our history is the base upon which we can build a future that secures the underpinnings of our republic and serves as a guide to not repeating the mistakes of our past. 
     

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