The Only One In The Room

Growing up in Worthington, Ohio, from the second grade until my 1980 graduation, I often found myself the only one in the room. You may ask what do you mean; were there no other children in the room? As an Island of color in a sea of whiteness, I was left alone to defend every exaggerated talking point and debate concerning black and brown people. As the antithetical black sheep amongst the others, I personified the only one in the room.

The physical manifestation was coupled with a mentality of isolation, knowing that no one was concerned about my aloneness. Stop right there if you think of this as a woe is me, chip on the shoulder moment. I am opening a window into a world for which many in the dominant culture of white Americans have no point of reference. This is a traditionally reserved space for marginalized communities of color. A world that allows parishioners of large predominantly white churches with pinpoint accuracy to call any African American, Latino, etc., by name when they see them outside of the church setting. Why? Because they are the only ones in the room.

These feelings are not ones faced by most white Americans therefore, a certain level of apprehension and anxiety comes along with these kinds of encounters when they experience them. Most of this is harmless unfamiliarity and is to be totally expected. However, when this anxiety is exaggerated by tribalism, cultural bias, stereotypes, and racism, it can become dangerous.

Through fear, some have resurrected an ancient worldview named the replacement theory (The so-called conspiracy promoting minority communities of color, Jewish people, and immigrants to replace/end the white race.) Another even more outlandish part of this fear is that miscegenation (mixing of the races) and their multiethnic offspring will breed out the white people in this country. Even the words of a recent speech by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán “This is why we have always fought: we are willing to mix with one another, but we do not want to become peoples of mixed-race.,”  Did not disqualify him from speaking at The 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). The practice of Xenophobia is a worldview to justify hateful actions. These actions span the spectrum, from voter suppression and outright subversion of democracy to the systematic radicalization of groups and individuals. The radicalization manifested by gunning down and killing 23 Latinos in El Paso, Texas, 3 yrs ago. This kind of hate displayed by 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron would march into a grocery store located in a predominately black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, and shoot and kill ten innocent African Americans.

Contrast that march with the march that took place 59 years ago on the 28th of this month in Washington DC. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was a peaceful multiethnic display of Americans believing in the elusive American Dream. The march was concluded by thousands of people covering the Washington Mall and crescendoed with Dr. Martin Luther King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. Juxtaposition 2017’s Unite the Right March in Charlottesville, Virginia, displayed marchers with tiki torches chanting replacement theory tropes.

This brings us to one key phrase at the end of the seventh stanza of this iconic speech. It calls to the attention of many the “Urgency of the Moment.” These words are just as important today as they were 59 years ago, even more so because America is experiencing a moment. This moment may be unlike any experience before. The moment is more than the argument between political parties that some are willing to end our precious democracy as if this were some nuance for America. For many Black and Brown people, it has never been a democracy.

It goes to the core of the human spirit, values that bind humanity together and separate us from the animal kingdom. This Urgency of the Moment begs us to keep civilization civil.

In Genesis 2:18, Scripture says, “ Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.””

“Not man alone, nor the man and woman together, but only the whole of humanity is the fully developed image of God, his children, his offspring. The image of God is much too rich for it to be fully realized in a single human being, however richly gifted that human being might be. It can only be somewhat unfolded in its depth and riches in a humanity counting billions of members” Theologian Herman Bavinck (Reformed Dogmatics, Vol 2., 577).

As soon as 2042, whites will no longer be the majority of Americans. Could the 2020 census count, which showed the first decline of the white population in history, have frightened so many in the dominant culture? It is not about the replacement theory. Europeans already did that to the Indigenous. Can the states and people of America remain united as America approaches simply taking on the complexion of the rest of the world, even if left to be the only one in the room?

By  Kevin Robinson Founder/Editor-Publisher of Three-Fifths Magazine

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