By: Ora Wills
“A new commandment I give you, that you love one another.” Thus spoke Jesus of Nazareth. Whether one is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or some other faith, it might behoove us all to adhere to Christ’s words.
We are so divided now, apparently forgetting the fact that we are “One nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.” (Is this not what we vow in our Pledge of Allegiance?)
African-Americans have been here since 1619. One, Estevanico, arrived in Pensacola in 1528, shortly before Don Tristan DeLuna landed in 1559. Blacks were later brought to what became America as slaves, beginning in 1619, finally gaining freedom over three hundred years later in the 1960’s through civil rights laws.
Today, many Americans are consumed by hatred—conservatives and liberals ‘duke it out’; alt-right groups appear; columnists decry what they perceive as attitudes differing from their own; many disgruntled citizens pen nasty letters to the editors of their local papers about those they oppose, and on and on. We go on social media and rant and rave.
In the words of Rodney King, “Can’t we just all get along?”
Born in 1935, in the middle of the Great Depression, I lived my first twenty-seven years under Jim Crow, attending and teaching in the segregated schools of Escambia County, sitting in the back of the bus, drinking ‘colored water’ in the five and dimes, going to the back entrance of the Saenger Theatre, sitting in the balcony reserved for colored folks. Other theatres and businesses in downtown Pensacola refused to serve blacks at all. We were not allowed to eat at lunch counters, and so it was.
Fifty-plus years later, it would seem that we might have resolved the animosities that existed under Jim Crow. Should we still expect white supremacy to reign? We have had a bi-racial president, voted into office by folks from both groups. The statue in the harbor says “send us your dispossessed, longing to be free.” Over the years, the races and groups from around the globe have mixed, so why can’t we all just love one another and live in harmony?
After schools were integrated in Pensacola in 1969, the year of my daughter’s birth, youngsters of that generation, Generation X, seemed more inclined to get along, though there were still some clashes in the schools between blacks and whites. The youngsters who came to our home as friends of my daughter were diverse and they have remained steadfast friends over the years. Millennials are more diverse than other generations have been. Since 1969, schools have re-segregated, especially at the elementary level, here and in other areas across the country. It seems that these cycles happen over time with many whites moving into districts that become predominantly white, and with many blacks living in what becomes low-income occupied areas.
Our just-inaugurated president, Donald J. Trump, is bringing into his administration some who have ties to groups that do not have the interests of all Americans. Having lived under thirteen presidents before Mr. Trump, I am willing to accept him, a Republican, if he and his administration address the needs of all Americans. Doing such things as eliminating such entities as Planned Parenthood and the public schools in the country, among other things, is not acceptable. Let us hope Mr. Trump can keep all of our needs in mind as he goes about governing.