My Turn, Renee C. Scheidt: Racism is alive and well in Rowan County

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 21, 2021

By Renee C. Scheidt

Back in 1992, Rodney King asked a simple question following six days of rioting in Los Angeles. “Can’t we all just get along?” From the looks of things, apparently not.

Since the beginning of time, when Cain killed his brother Abel, humanity has seen one group lash out against another, especially in regard to the amount of pigment in the skin. And it’s not just out there, somewhere else. It’s right here in Rowan County. Racism has reared its ugly head again and is alive and well where we live in North Carolina.

I’ve personally been called a racist two times in recent days. Quite frankly, being called a white supremacist just because I’m white doesn’t sit too well with me. An African-American couple in Walmart said to me as we stood in the checkout lane, “You think you’re better than us because you’re white.” I was shocked and hardly knew what to say. Even when talking with a black neighbor about another resident, he asked, “What color is he?” I replied, “That’s irrelevant. I’m colorblind. I don’t care if he’s black, white, blue or polka dot!”

Because of the color of my skin and my neighbor’s, we were considered racists by African-Americans who knew nothing about us. Is that not being prejudice? Someone whom I’ve never met, who doesn’t know me from Adam, has no right to assume I hate people of other ethnicities. Judging someone by the color of their skin, whether done by whites, blacks, Asians, Hispanics or any mix is totally wrong.

I lived through segregation, integration, and the 1960s Civil Rights Era. I remember L.B. Johnson’s Civil Rights Act of 1964, the most progressive civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. This new law prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin, which made good sense to me. As I saw it, this gave everyone equal opportunities.

Just because of the color of my skin, or where (or if) I attended church, no one was allowed to hold me back. The fact that I was female couldn’t keep me from the doing the same things as the boys (though daddy never would let me drive the tractor or go hunting because I was a girl). Now, equal rights were given to everyone.

Yet today, almost 60 years since civil rights equality were granted, we’re more divided than ever. The progress made in the last 50 years has been seemingly abolished. No longer is the nonviolent, peaceful protest espoused by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated. Instead, today’s mobs burn down cities and kill fellow citizens. Such destructive methods only breed more violence.

Is there an answer to such hatred, bitterness and conflict between the races? Yes, there is. Dr. King was absolutely right when he said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Finding a person with character today, no matter what color their skin might be, can be challenging. That’s why attorneys make money and never run out of work. Long gone are the days when a man’s word was his bond. No more hand shakes in deal-making. Committing adultery on the one you pledged to be faithful to is a common occurrence. Cheating, stealing, lying, rudeness and taking advantage of others are all manifestations of lack of character and integrity.

The real issue is not what’s seen on the outside. It’s what’s on the inside, the unseen heart, that makes us who we are. Jesus told us to “love one another.” Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” We are all of one blood. When it comes down the bottom line, we all bleed the same.

Racism will only end when we actively apply the words of Christ. If we do to others like we want them to do to us, skin color will be of no matter. I challenge you to start today, start here at home keeping the golden rule. Simple acts of love followed by another single act of love will begin to change our community.

Let Rowan County be a shining light to all around us of what happens when we show good character and love to one another.

Renee C. Scheidt lives in Salisbury.