- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 22, 2003

“There’s a very strong tendency in the Middle East for every party to look at what the other party is not doing and to say ‘if only he would do that, then I could do this.’ Not acceptable.”

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice

An Arab American woman in Westchester County, N.Y., in court to contest parking tickets, is asked by the judge if she’s a terrorist? A white family moves into a middle-class neighborhood in Washington, D.C., and blacks tell them they’re not wanted.

Northwest Airlines agrees to pay a Pakistani man an undisclosed sum of money after kicking him off a flight because of his “Middle Eastern appearance.”

Students at an integrated high school in Georgia hold an all-white prom.

American Christians and Jews fear Israel will no longer be Israel if too many Palestinians are allowed to live there.

When did we become so fearful and hateful? Or have I been walking around for weeks with blinders?

How un-American. How despicable. Yet, this is where we are. After centuries of wars and bloodshed, and more recent wars and more recent bloodshed, this is where we are?

We quote Martin Luther King, and as Memorial Day approaches we’ll resurrect the words of MacArthur and Churchill — long-dead warriors in search of peace and freedom.

Yet, this America — leader of the free world that we ask God to shed his grace upon — still can’t get her act together.

Interesting, this melting pot. Whites afraid they will become a “minority.” Blacks afraid whites are “taking over” their neighborhoods. Republicans and Democrats pushing and pulling blacks, Hispanics and Asians every which way but loose, trying to bolster their ranks for the 2004 elections. Even the puns are rooted in racism. Republicans want Democrat Al Sharpton to detract votes from Jewish Democrat Joe Lieberman. Democrats want black Carol Moseley Braun to run to draw money from black Al Sharpton.

This is where we are in 2003, mere weeks after liberating Iraqis and offering a road map toward peace for Israelis and Palestinians.

Are Iraqis, many still ask, truly liberated, or was it the oil we liberated? Do Israelis want peace, many ask, or do we want Palestinians slaughtered?

Those questions aren’t wholly asinine. Too many Christians and Jews are toiling, talking and writing too hard trying to shoot them down.

Trying to overcome fear is not easy. After a thief stuck a gun in my face years ago, I was distrusting of strangers for what seemed an eternity. Strange man walks on the same side of the street as I was, whether day or night, I’d cross the street. That’s paranoia.

Prejudice left my head spinning, too — though not because of what you might think.

A prospective employer once asked me at a breakfast meeting, as he ate bagels and lox and I spooned in grits and biscuits, if I would have trouble “communicating” with his wealthy, white constituents. I answered by flipping my dreadlocks, patting my lips with a fine linen napkin and merely saying, “Pardon me.”

Bigotry and prejudice are moral wrongs, and it’s heartwarming to see and hear about instances when people are blind to color.

A recent NBA playoff game is a perfect example. A girl name Natalie Gilbert, 13, stands at midcourt to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at an April 25 game between Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers. There are 20,000 folks in the Rose Garden, and millions watching on television. Natalie starts out quite well, then stops cold, rubbing her head and shaking. It’s not the Kodak moment her family and friends envisioned — until Portland Coach Maurice Cheeks comes to her aid. Coach places his arm around Natalie, and begins singing where Natalie left off — “twilight’s last gleaming.” The Rose Garden joins in, and at song’s end the duo are given a standing ovation.

When God lays his graceful hands, he doesn’t distinguish between Christians and Jews, black NBA coaches and little white girls, or Wilberforce University grads and George Washington University grads. That one touching moment, when the spirit joined Maurice Cheeks and Natalie Gilbert proves as much.

The road map developed for the Israelis and the Palestinians is a living document, a spirited guide toward peace. What we and they breathe into it will decide whether there is peace between these two hateful groups of human beings, or whether they will remain fearful and bitter enemies.

As Condoleezza Rice said, pointing out what one party is doing wrong when both are at fault is “not acceptable.”

You cannot receive the olive branch if you do not open your hand.

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