In the early 1960’s we bought a new Volkswagen convertible and the
very next day there seemed to be dozens more Volkswagens on the road than
had been there before. Most of those funny, little foreign cars were already
out there but we had not connected with them before--not in any personal
way. Nothing at all had changed except for our perception of Volkswagens.
In our struggle to overcome racism, our attention is so riveted on the
half of the proverbial cup that is still empty that we are failing to
see the half that is already full. Perhaps we need to change our perception.
Racism has been dissolving at an ever-increasing rate for at least thirty
years. We have come a long ways since Martin Luther King prophesied the
end of racism in America. His vision was of the future--not the next week
or the next year, but of the future. He perceived it from “the mountain
top" and he perceived it right. It's just not happening as fast as
we would like.
A change in perception does not usually happen overnight. Short of a miracle,
it usually takes a little time and, in the case of racism, it may also
take a conscious willingness on the part of some to relinquish some deep-seated
concepts about differences in peoples. A new perception is more than just
a change of mind; it's a change of heart.
Countless minds are being influenced every day just by television alone.
But racism is not going to go away just because we see more and more faces
of minority races on television, or earning positions of power, or playing
in the major leagues. Certainly these elevated personalities are influencing
us, like kneading prepares the dough for baking bread but are they changing
our perception? Is that face on the screen a person we will ever get to
know or learn to care about? Is this someone we can connect with in any
Most of the progress toward the end of racism happens in one simple way:
someone reaches out to a dissimilar person or is thrown into a situation
with a dissimilar person and those two people come to know one another.
They both discover how much people have in common with other people--regardless
of any apparent differences.
Once we experience this liberating change of heart, we see the differences
between all races in a new light. We can begin to appreciate and enjoy
the differences just because we got to know one person and found or formed
a common bond with them.
We form bonds quite easily with someone of the same faith or philosophy,
or profession, or hobby--even with someone who drives the same kind of
car we drive. Drivers of Volkswagens had never waved and smiled at us
until we became drivers of a Volkswagen.
All we have to do is reach out and get to know a person of a different
race, one with whom we have something significant in common. Anyone who
looks for an avenue of commonality can find one. We can seek out that
person in a bookstore, an antique shop, a computer class, church. We can
make the effort to get to know one other-race person and the old barriers
will break down automatically.
A lot of people are cashing in on that half empty cup, you know. Others
are wringing it dry. But the truth is that millions of us have already
changed our perception of other races. Millions of us are already free
of the delusion that there are justifiable grounds for hating, or fearing,
or avoiding a whole race of people.
That freedom is within everybody’s reach.