By Sam Madden
I was born and raised in Milwaukee, WI. one of the most segregated cities in the country and still is today. When I visit family, I never see an African American in their part of town, (it’s lower middle class to middle class).
. I was raised in a devout Catholic community, and had private Catholic Schooling all the way through High School. We were raised not to be prejudiced towards anyone, whether by race, religion, or any other differences.
My first sign that there was even a racist problem was around 1969. I had to have an appendectomy. My roommate was an African American that was about my age. We became good friends in the short time I was there. When it was time for me to go home, I said to my friend, “We should get together and play.” His response was a shock to me, he stated, “You would never be accepted in my neighborhood.”
I didn’t understand why, so I turned to my parents and that is when I got my first lesson on what was happening in this country.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee in 1983, I moved to Dallas, TX for a job
Upon moving to Dallas, even though I came from a strictly white neighborhood. I was never shocked that I was seeing more African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, etc. (which was obviously due to my upbringing).
I am a single Father whose had custody of his daughter since she was 2 1/2. We were living in a poor neighborhood, because we were poor. She went to an elementary school that was only 6% white. But the ethnicity differences never entered my mind, (or my child’s because I didn’t raise her to see people by the color of their skin, but to see everyone as equals). The first time it entered my mind was when someone asked me how many white children were in my daughters class. And I said I think ten. When I came home I looked at her class picture, there were only 5. I was a bit shocked, but did it bother me? No.
With the recent happenings with the George Floyd incident, my family in the Milwaukee, WI vicinity is living in a whole different world. The city is still highly segregated and remains one of the most segregated cities in the United States.
In Dallas and its surrounding cities, there isn’t one place that I can think of where you can go and it is a strictly white neighborhood, (that doesn’t mean you won’t find one, but if they do exist, they are the exception and not the rule).
I have been living in Garland, TX now since 1999. Garland is highly diverse both by ethnicity and religion. I experience more prejudice regarding other religions from the Christian Right, than I do from racial differences.
My family from talking with them, and debating with them on Facebook, see the opposite where they live.
My eyes are beginning to open wider than they have recently. And I can thank my brother Don for that. We had a private discussion through messenger, and it made me realize that I am in a different world with different experiences and perspectives.
Obviously we need to bring each other together, all through-out the United States. We need to call out racism when we see and hear it, but at the same time we can’t immediately come to the conclusion that a tragedy was driven by racism. Because we don’t know if it was race driven or not and of course when we do that it just creates further division.
So in summary. We need to open our eyes wider, not just through our own lenses or what statistics say. How people feel is a lot more important than numbers. We need to respect each others feelings, because that is what is driving their emotions and opinions whether factually based or not. If we don’t we will never solve this crises that has been going on for so many years.
Sam Madden is a board member and consultant for the Center For Pluralism. He can be reached at centerforpluralism.com