This month is the national observance of the recognition that are people are not all the same in their race, creed, religion, or national origin. It was once said that God created people all different for a reason and since we are all made from the clay of the earth, that perhaps He made people from the color of clay He was standing on at the time – red and yellow – black and white and many variations in between.
I doubt there is any country in the world that is more diversified – more tolerant – more accepting of people( regardless of their differences in any of the above categories) than America. There are some who are prejudice against a person because they are different from themselves; but then there are most who are not. They are like the late Martin Luther King who said we should judge a person by the content of their heart and their character and not the color of their skin or other differences they received at birth.
Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta and Fayette Piedmont Hospital in Fayette County (just south of Atlanta) is a virtual profusion of diversity. Believe me after my stay there this past week, I didn’t care what color those hands were as long as they brought me relief and healing. More about them below.
This week in recognizing what diversity is, we need to look at how things were and are in our nation regarding differences in people of all nations. When looking at diversity in America, everything is not just black or white – pun intended.
Many feel that “foreigners” are taking over America – taking away jobs, social services, and draining the tax dollar when they are not citizens and therefore not entitled to those things. These may be too very different things – one is prejudice – just a dislike for a person or prejudice just because they were brought up to distrust people of other races. Or they have experienced an unpleasant event with another person who is different and they hold it against all people of that particular race – white, black, Hispanic or whatever. And then there are logistics and politics which make others feel that foreigners have not earned the right to freedoms in America. They feel they are entitled since their family roots go all the way back to the Mayflower.
Prejudice (preconception) is a word that means to pre-judge. You are judging a person by their outward appearance rather than their actions. In the book of Samuel, we are taught that while man looks on the outward appearance, God looks on the heart.
But, you might say, you can’t always see a person’s heart; and we fear what we cannot see or know. Another factor is that some people just plainly do not have a heart of love and compassion for their fellowman period. And this kind of person will show evidence of wrong thinking in many other areas as well. And so very sad, many are brought up as children to actually hate people because of their race simply because they never had the chance to get to know anyone else different from themselves. We can’t judge all people by these either.
The South gets a lot of flak for being racist because slavery was a big part of her history; but that is another story. People have always been under bondage of some kind to some other group; and slavery in America has enough blame to go around in many of those areas.
When Columbus sailed the ocean blue, he came from Spain. DeSoto who explored North America was from Spain. Florida was (and still is) a state with a long Spanish History. The Dutch settled up north as did one group of the Irish – the Irish Catholic. The Scot-Irish settled thickly in the mountain regions of the South. They were mostly Presbyterians. Their hatred for one another goes a long way back. Just about every country has a division usually along geographical lines – like the north and the south. They may as well be two different countries.
The Indians of this country are now called Native Americans when they were once called Indians. They were fierce with one another from tribe to tribe as well.
When all these peoples came across that vast ocean to seek a new land and a new way of life – they became Americans and were proud to be away from what had fettered them in the land they left behind.
Then with the advent of Civil Rights in this country – the black folks wanted not only their freedom; but they wanted to take back their heritage, culture, and customs as well. Actually, they never lost them as they kept them alive without the benefit of books or teachers. They kept them alive within their own families.
They wanted to drop the slur “N” word and the more polite “colored” word – and it was for a while that a person who was darker was called – “a person of color.” Then someone (somewhere) decided that they should be called African-Americans.
And you know what mimickers Americans are – during the 1980’s white kids even wore “Afros.” But then there began a new wave across America with prefixes such as Irish-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Mexican-Americans, and so on. Rather than a blending, everyone chose up their little corner of the country to brand as their own. Hopefully we are not falling back into the old ways of division and rather than embracing diversity. But “like has always found like” and most of the time people stayed to themselves in their little clusters.
But race and skin color are not the only things that causes people to draw a line in the sand. Since the dawning of time – and especially in all accounts in the Bible, people have been at war against, killed, raped, and pillaged those who were of a different religion. Tribes killed one other over “stuff.” That was their economy. They would raid and steal for their wares and possessions including the taking of slaves. This was true in many countries not just Africa. The Old Testament is full of such wars between one tribe and another. Such was the history of those throughout Europe,Africa and other places.
So people became prejudiced over race, creed, religion, possessions, and then came politics. And we can see today that there is an ill that is spreading across our nation – hatred for people who think, worship and vote differently than we do. We can dislike what a person does without hating the person or judging a whole race by the misdeeds of the few.
People are also territorial. Once they mark the spot – like Spot does – you had better not cross the line in the sand. Gangs are a prime example of that today. It does not matter so much your color, creed, or national origin – it just matters who is in your gang and who is trespassing on your turf.
We received one of our most beloved landmarks from France – the Statue of Liberty – who stands for all peoples of all sorts who comes to our shores. A sonnet written by Emma Lazarus (1849-1887), written in 1883 and, in 1903 was engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside is called:
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Emma Lazarus, 1883
Perhaps the line that says, “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp,” she means come to this land of the free but don’t bring the same baggage with you that made you want to leave your ancient land.
Today there seems to be a lot of pent up emotions with so many coming to America not only because she is the greatest land in all the world – the land of dreams – and the land of opportunity – but many want to change America into mini-slices of their various countries. There are problems arising because they want the Americans to change to suit their culture rather than them coming to America’s shore willing to adapt to the history and laws of this land.
There are those here who now want to set up Sharia law; rather than abide by American law. There are those who also want to change America from Constitutional Law to European Law. I think a war has already been fought over that one.
But…. America has become so rich in so many ways. And much is because of what foreigners have brought with them – many with only the clothes on their backs have brought knowledge, skills, talents, and abilities. Many of their customs are so now blended with America you cannot tell which is which. The Chinese were imported to this land as laborers to build train tracks, the Irish to work in the coal mines; and some other nationalities that brought both good and bad to this country.
America has been called the melting pot of the world – or the stew pot of the world – and many are now beginning to think of it as the cesspool of the world because of the decline in morality, and the rise of ungodliness.
The Indians taught the Pilgrims how to survive in a virgin land – and the great ships brought with them silversmiths, carpenters, cobblers, farmers, and other trades. Up until the early 1900’s people were mostly farmers. Then the mills began to flourish and factories and foundries began to replace the work on the farm. Most farmers did not own their own land.
Working in factories offered them that opportunity. They left the solitude of the farm and went to live in the larger cities to live very differently with many different kinds of folks; but still they did not mix and mingle very much. New York, the city where so many immigrants landed, still today has many different ethnic neighborhoods.
Wars have come and gone; and with many soldiers came war brides – the country began allowing students from other countries to come here to study in order to take their knowledge back to their homeland; but once you have lived in America rather than a dirt poor village who can blame them that most have stayed. Most have contributed greatly to our nation.
Inner racial marriages one time frown upon (and sometimes against the law) opened up a whole new world of races – mixed races, bi-racial – or even multi-racial children.
The influence of foreign homelands can be seen in the names of cities and towns all across America: Dublin, Georgia, China Town, Little Havana, London Minn., Paris, Illinois, and New Mexico Beach, Florida just to name a few.
But if you live in South Atlanta, you only have to go to Piedmont Fayette Hospital to get a glimpse of a little United Nations within her walls. Recently I spent a few days with these folks and was amazed at the diversity there. Bored in my room for lack of a computer, I began to write this article in long hand – as I met people from different countries.
I had a doctor who was born in Africa but whose parents were Indian, I had a nurse who was from Trinidad, a tech who was born in America but whose parents were from Nigeria. I met other doctors who were from South Africa, West Africa, Romania, Nigeria, and one who was born in Iraq; but whose parents were from Assyria. And it seemed just about everyone else I met was from some place in the US other than Georgia.
But there were others, while I did not ask, I am sure grew up within a stone’s throw of the hospital. I do a disservice to all those I can’t recall their names – morphine will do that to – but some of those who still stay in my mind were: Solomon, Dianne, Debra, Tanya, Kim, Efrem, Cindy, Heather, Lucille, Kim, and so many others. With their various ethnic backgrounds; but combined efforts over the days, I received excellent care.
When I told my regular doctor about my plan to write about the hospital, in observance of National Diversity Month, he asked me if I was going to list him as the “token Georgia redneck” doctor. He is from Stone Mountain, Georgia. Touché http://www.fayettehospital.org/
Not being able to do much more than just lie there and observe the goings on around me, I watched how these people worked together, followed orders, took care of patients, and went about their jobs and you know what – I needed them and it didn’t matter to me what the color of their skin was or what accent they used – just as long as they knew their jobs; and I felt that I could trust them.
As I lay there thinking about this, I wished that all of America could be that way. We are a mixed nation and nothing much is going to change that – however, I feel that people should be here through the right channels and not slipping in here in the middle of the night – but while these people were free to be who they were in their private lives – they did their job in taking care of the sick and injured. It was their training and dedication, patience, and their willingness to listen that was important to me.
America changes all the time; and that can be good or bad. I was born into a Christian nation – one whose primarily faith was in Jesus Christ. I don’t think I ever met a person from another country when I was grown.
I grew up in the South and played with black children and never once did I feel I was better than them or even noticed they were different until I was in high school and I saw the prejudices. Black people of my day stayed to themselves with their own schools, churches, barber shops, funeral homes, and restaurants – I never knew why when I was growing up – really never thought about it. I thought they just wanted it that way, I guess. But when I grew older I saw a difference.
When I was 14 years old, I worked downtown Atlanta at S. H. Kress and Company across from Rich’s. It broke my heart to see black mothers come in tired from shopping with their little ones in tow – and pay the same price for a hot dog or coke and have to go and sit outside on the curb to eat it. For the first time I saw two water fountains marked – White only – Colored only. When I was small we drew water off the back porch of a black family that lived behind us.
I think that was when the activist was born in me. I knew from what I had been taught in Sunday School that was wrong. I knew when they took prayer and Bible reading out of the school that also was wrong.
Our nation was founded on the Judeo-Christian faith and the evidence is all around – and our freedom of religious expression should not be taken away because someone else felt offended. I could sit next to a Muslim on their prayer rug all day long and not feel offended.
I learned just today my dear sweet Jewish friend, Yona, in Israel passed away. And many times he told me, “Pat, there is more than binds us than separates us.” I mourn for the loss of his friendship.
And then again, today we hear where there will not be a National Day of Prayer – which goes all the way back to Colonial Days in one form or another – and that is wrong as well. This scares people to see the lost of freedoms we always had. When people get scared and pushed enough and get their backs up against the wall – they react. I fear sometimes for the country I love. I hate to see so much division.
And while those who come here are free to worship as they please or not worship at all – their presence here does not give them the right to deny me my right to worship, pray, and express my faith openly. But it does not give me the right to dictate their faith either.
And it does not mandate that I have to learn their language, customs, and culture – although I love learning about other cultures. If I went to their land, I would not expect it to be any different to accommodate me. A reporter in a Dutch country said recently – we opened up our doors for people to come here and work and be free as our guests – and now they want to be our rulers. France and England are experiencing the same thing – generations of non-citizens beginning to out grow their national population.
But now there is an evil wind blowing all across the world – right from the Old Testament Days – where people want to force you to bow to their Allah or die. We are all God’s children, created in His image – with Him there is no Greek, no Jew, and no male and no female. Like Miss Liberty welcoming all who come to this shore with purpose and legality – God holds open wide His arms to welcome all His children to His bosom and will judge us according to how we lived our purpose.
I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ – and I will always openly proclaim my faith and share what it has meant to me and how important God and Christ are to me; but I would never force anyone, coerce anyone, to kneel and pray the same way that I do. God does not force Himself on anyone – He is a gentleman and does not come into a person’s life until He is invited.
But when that happens – wow, what a difference – you will know and feel it in your life. When you know of a good restaurant that fills you up for free – you would tell people about it; but you don’t hog tie and them and make them eat there. Christians – real Christians – share their faith because of the joy and blessings it brings – not to force someone to succumb to rules, laws, and regulations. The Gospel is called the “Good News” because it is good – God is always good.
At God’s table in heaven, there will be those who on this earth walked in different lands, spoken with different tongues, and prayed in different ways; and He will in no wise turn anyone aside who believes in Him. That is the task and journey of this life – to find our way back to the relationship with God that we lost in the Garden; through the sacrifice of Christ – that is what I believe. You see I am part of the diversity as well – for on the other side of the coin – I am also different from others.