The luckiest thing that ever happened to me (besides marrying Bern and having two remarkable children and 4 equally remarkable granddaughters) was to begin my career as an Episcopal priest as the Vicar of an African-American church.
St, James in Charleston, West Virginia was only a few miles from Institute, West Virginia, the home of West Virginia State College, a historically Black school. So many of the members of St. James were faculty and staff at WVSC. The rest were from the Black neighborhood in Charleston.
I had grown up in a county that was roughly 50/50 Black and White. However, the schools were segregated until I was a senior in High School. Then Gary District High School sent over 6 Black students (three really smart girls and three really good boy athletes) to begin the process that would happen the next year when the schools were merged.
I heard a nephew of Martin Luther King say today, trying to save his president from being a racist, "the President is not a racist, he's racially ignorant."
That's what I was when I went to St. James: 'racially ignorant', which, where I come from, makes you a 'racist'.
Until St. James I didn't really know any Black people as friends. A friend I made in college who went to Gary District would introduce me as 'the guy I went to different schools together with.'
I did boycott my Senior Prom because the 6 Black students in my class of 99 couldn't come to the segregated country club. But that was liberal guilt, not any commitment on my part.
What I learned from my 5 years at St. James made me a different person--one with commitment, not guilt. And my teachers were so patient and kind and understanding and compassionate with me that I still am in wonder at them.
The two churches I served after St. James had large Black membership. St. James had made me worthy to serve them and minister with them.
A president who is 'racially ignorant' needs some teachers like I had. Until he gets them, I believe 'racially ignorant' = 'racist'.
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