Sunday, June 19, 2011
Dad and Racial Integration
My Dad had a passion for treating black people right.
He grew up in the southeast corner of Kansas. As a boy, he saw at least one Ku Klux Klan parade. When he was in high school, he became a Christian. His school principal was one of his heroes, and that principal was a racist. Yet by God's grace, Dad knew racism was wrong.
The year was about 1935. The school was newly integrated, since the town thought it was too expensive to run a separate school for a tiny number of black students. Dad was class president, and was in charge of planning the junior-senior banquet. The lady teacher who was class sponsor said of the four black students, "They won't come, of course."
Dad said, "Yes, they will come."
I don't know whether it was the same day, but she finally said, "Well, if they come, they'll sit at a separate table of four."
Dad said, "Then we'll all sit at tables of four."
It wasn't a perfect solution, but for the 1930's, it was very progressive.
In the 1940's, Dad joined the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).
Then, about 1952, his oldest son, John, went to Kindergarten. John came home excitedly talking about another boy that he had fun with. This went on for a day or two, with John telling all about him. Then Dad met the boy as kindergarten let out. Dad was surprised that the other boy was black, and was delighted that John had not thought to mention that fact.
In the mid-1950's, as pastor of a large all-white church, Dad arranged for his church and a black church to have an exchange of choirs for one Sunday. Then there was a community Good Friday service at the black church. Then an exchange of preachers for one Sunday. Then they had a joint Vacation Bible School. One of the white ladies who always taught Vacation Bible School told people,"I'm not having any of those N...'s in my class." Dad's associate pastor told Dad, who said, "Well, I guess she's not teaching this year."
In the 1960's, at a different church where Dad was then pastor, a black man named General T. Reed started coming to the church. Dad welcomed him as a member. By the end of the 1960's, the church had another black man--a university student named Willie J. Harris, who was a blessing to all he met.
In all of these things, Dad simply did what he knew was right, even though society's pressures often ran the opposite direction.