Gratifying

I’ve just returned from the mainland and I am able to say that I was gratified. The trip itself was nothing to write home about, but the interactions that I observed between people of differing races and ethnicities were gratifying. My wife and I traveled to Detroit, Atlanta and Charleston for the first three of many stops which later included Phoenix and Tucson. Those first three cities have large populations of what is now necessary to call “African Americans”. With no intention to prove a point one way or the other, I witnessed a reassuring phenomenon: black and white people getting along as though there were no difference in the colors of their skin or the features of their physiognomy. The same was true for the personal interactions of native-born Americans with immigrants whose English is sometimes hard to understand. And, there are a lot of them in our ever-boiling melting pot. A lot of people have come to our shores to seek opportunity.

Black and white hands joined together

From Detroit, we moved on to Atlanta and stayed in a hotel run by a black staff. The guest services were very helpful. Then we hopped on down to the coast and checked into a hotel in Charleston. A foursome was having breakfast at the table next to ours. Three whites and one black were having a good old time together. I talked to the very dark young lady behind the front desk there about the tenor of race relations in the nation. I asked her, “Our president says that America a systemically racist country. Do you agree with him?” She paused and considered the question. Then she said with soft confidence, “No.”

We flew back to Detroit, where my wife had to get a Covid test done in short order before her flight to East Asia. We had no wheels, no knowledge of the city, and it was colder than cold for us tropic dwellers. Our ride share was driven by a guy called Jamel, an “army brat” turned entrepreneur. He and his wife own a transportation company. Without his dedication to good customer service, and his willingness to go the extra mile, we might never have found the right sort of clinic for the Covid test. While in the car, I told Jamel about how pleasantly surprised I was that people of differing races seemed to be getting along so well. He chuckled and said, “Yeah. We get along just fine.”

At the airport in Detroit waiting for the flight to the warm desert, I saw a black woman was busily manning the podium. “Are you all alone today?” I asked as I boarded the plane. She was demonstrably gratified that someone noticed she was by herself and needed help.

Mind you, these are nothing but anecdotal observations of race relations at ground level, where the rubber meets the road. I make no claim to scientific polling that would satisfy whatever objective standards they have in that field. But, I was gratified, and to me that is what counts. So what does this mean on a broader scale? If what I saw is representative of race relations across the board in our great nation, I would contend that the races really do get along. Am I naïve?

Bosom buddies

That raises the suspicion that the destructive forces from the dark side are constantly trying to disturb the relative tranquility between the races and stoke isolated incidents of racial tension into a raging fire of race hatred. And they do their best to magnify reportage of conflicts by getting coverage on the air, in the papers, and in the halls of government. If the focus comes in close on an incident of racial strife, then it can be blown out of proportion. They will even take a story like the Rittenhouse saga and twist it into a story about race if it will serve the purposes of their agenda. That is precisely what the charlatans need for expanded viewership, higher ratings and more advertising dollars.

What if their coverage is mostly illusion? Not all, perhaps, but mostly? What if it is true that, for the most part, people just approach each other as other people like themselves and treat them with the modicum of thoughtfulness that is called for in the moment? And, like Jamel, they go the extra mile to help a total stranger in a pickle. Then, the dark cynicism that ignores the decency and constantly tries to stir the pot is truly disturbing. Best to ignore it, and to oppose it when necessary.

John Calvin was an old curmudgeon whose first mistaken doctrine was the total depravity of man. Well, Calvin is long dead and the notion remains true that, while people are dogged by ancestral sin, they are mostly decent most of the time. And, for the sake of interpersonal relations on a day-to-day basis, that should be quite enough.

Author: Lawrence B. Wheeler

B.A., M.Div. Former Anglican priest, convert to Orthodoxy.

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