Kennington Avenue

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

People are people

When I went away to college I did not have a very favorable impression of many white people. And that’s probably putting it mildly. Having grown up in the state of Mississippi during the 1950’s as an African-American in the volatility of Jim Crow segregation I had good reasons for the feelings that I carried. But college took me out of my comfort zone, I mean way out of my comfort zone. I had decided on attending Concordia College in Austin, Texas. At the time Concordia, Austin was a 2 year institution. It was affiliated with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod which was the church I had practically grown up in. I had no idea that there were any other colleges that bore the name, Concordia but I would soon learn that there were about 16 schools with that name, all of them LCMS with the exception of one which was affiliated with the American Lutheran Church(ELCA). And as luck or fate or God would have it I ended up at the ALC school which was way up in northern Minnesota. I would learn later that my application to the school in Austin probably never made it and got sent to Concordia, Moorhead and they simply processed it. Early on I came to believe that my ending up at the wrong college was no accident. In the 4 years that I spent there my world was expanded immensely. I would travel extensively throughout the plain states as a result of having been a part of a Gospel singing group that was sponsored by the college. I would meet whites who were nothing like the whites I had experienced growing up. Some of them would become life long friends and it was because of this accidental happening that I had to come to terms with this hatred and anger towards whites that I was carrying around on the inside and that I thought I had every right to carry. The Bible tells us that God created one humanity and that is true. We may be born into different circumstances, shaped and influenced by those circumstances but at the core of it all we share a common humanity. We all love, we all want for the goodness in life. We all desire to be treated with dignity and to live as free human beings. If our skin is pricked we bleed and the blood whether it comes from black skin or white skin is red. I spent 4 years in a place that I did not choose that first year, but came back to every year until I graduated. They were 4 good years. I learned a great deal in those 4 years academically but more importantly, I learned a lot about others and about myself. No one can live filled with hatred-no one and live as a human being. I was able to find some healing because I was able to let go of some of the pain of being discriminated against and I was able to forgive some of the people who were the perpetrators. Hatred wounds us deeply and if you choose to carry that hatred you will never be able to live and thrive as a human being.

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About the author

Ken Wheeler is a retired pastor. He most recently served at Cross Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Milwaukee, where he is now the director of the Bread of Healing Empowerment Ministry. For 18 years he was as an assistant to the bishop of the Greater Milwaukee Synod of the ELCA.

  • TLars

    The key to peace and the possibility for justice comes by deepen relationships with one another and building respect and trust. It is in relationships that the Holy Spirit works as our advocate.