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  • Writer's pictureJohn Whitehead

Character or Color?

Growing up in the seventies, racial tensions were real. Most of the problems that existed were built on hate which was a learned behavior. The lack of exposure to different people added to this tension and, as with everything, fear of the unknow led to anger and frustration.

Though this is true, this was also a point in time when we grew as a people and as a nation. This growth began to take place, as we were reminded of and motivated by Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech during the Civil Rights movement of the sixties.

In what arguably may be the greatest speech in our nation’s history, Dr. King said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

These words were a catalyst for a great healing that was taking place in our nation. After being divided by race for far too long, we began to apply these words to our lives and to see each other through the lens of who we were, not what we looked like.

Today, we are being told once again, what we look like is what matters and must be acknowledged. The question is, why would we want to return to a time where judging people was solely based on the color of their skin?

As we strive to answer this question, we must ask ourselves, is it “character or color” that matters most to us?

If it is color, then Dr. King’s dream was short lived. Instead, it is becoming a nightmare as we begin to move back into a divided society where hate, fear and anger are our motivations once again.

How tragic it is we have allowed ourselves to become the very thing we tried to rise above. The idea, one group is privileged, while another is being referred to as victims is sad, as we are being told, it is our color, not our character that defines us.

The truth is, once more we are unsure whether, it is “character or color” that matters the most.

My hope going forward is, we will look back and realize, what we are being told is not true. Once more, we must decide to see each other with a dream in our hearts. A dream where all people can be treated as equals.

Is this possible? I believe we have already proven it is. The question is are we willing to understand the difference between equal opportunity and equal outcome. If we are, perhaps we can begin to accept it is our character that matters, not the color of our skin.

I will close by saying, to see a person based on their “character or color “, is a choice we all make and the results of that choice will determine where we go from here.

If we choose to answer the call Dr. King’s speech placed on our nation, we will choose character. When we do, we will be able to echo his closing words, “free at last, free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Matthew 7:2, "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

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