WEâ€™VE COME A LONG WAY BABY IN RACE RELATIONS
My father was a sharecropper all the days of my life until I graduated High School and a few years beyond. When I was six years old we lived in a simple four-room bungalow, complete with a storm house and an out-house, nestled next to a beautiful lake. Except for the lake our farm house was surrounded by woods. It was an idyllic setting for a bare-foot boy with a fishing pole.
One cold Fall evening in 1934 our peaceful place was disturbed by a crowd of angry white men. They brought a black man and hung him from a tree in the woods behind our house. At first my parents were fearful and carried my brother and me to a nearby neighborâ€™s house. We learned that the black man had tried to rob the bank and in the process had killed the president of the bank and attempted to kill his wife. A posse was formed which found the suspected killer a few miles from the scene of the murder. The bankerâ€™s watch and wallet were found on the person of the suspect. The downtown hardware store became a courtroom and the hastily formed jury found the man guilty.
My father, thankfully, did not participate in the posse, the trial, or the hanging. However he did want me to see the results of racial anger for a heavy lesson in life. With the breaking of dawn he and I walked through the woods to a horrific scene. It was most sobering to see a man dangling from a rope. All the men gathered near the man they had hung seemed to be talking at the same time. My father was most uncomfortable and abruptly led me away.
Black folks and white folks in our small home town lived peacefully. Black families were intact. Children had fathers. The environment, stable. There was no unusual response from the black community to the hanging. The man who was tried and found guilty was a stranger from the big city of Shreveport.
Our little community had traditions common to the south at the time. Blacks went to one school, whites to another. They went to separate churches. Blacks watched the Picture Show in the local theatre from the balcony. They moved from the sidewalk when a white person came by. It seems so bizarre now, but then it was who we were. My father was always kind to blacks. Being sharecroppers we were not much different on the economic scale. Blacks helped us pick cotton and in the field we all drank from the same water bucket. We ate from the same dining table prepared scrumptiously by my mother.
My, how things have changed since I was a boy. The town is about the same size, but there is only one school. Blacks and whites learn in the same classrooms and play together on athletic fields. Upon meeting, blacks and whites receive each other warmly. Friendly hugs are not uncommon.
My home town is an example of the way the black community has progressed throughout the South. In Shreveport where I pastor we have a newly elected mayor who is black, and the President of the City Council is black. It has been my privilege to help elect many blacks to the Parish Commission, the City Council, to Judgeships, and School Boards. I have served on Shreveportâ€™s Human Relations Commission, the Black History Committee, the Martin Luther King Birthday Committee, and chaired the Human Rights Conference for two years. I have progressed also.
I have spoken at many black pastorâ€™s conferences and taught in a black seminary. All my experiences have been positive. It is disheartening to find some preachers like Jeremiah Wright in Chicago fomenting strife and hatred.
I was Headmaster of University Christian Prep, serving students from pre-school through the twelfth grade. The church I pastor gave our church school to an all black church. The campus includes 25 acres, 40 classrooms, library, three gyms, cafeteria, football field and stadium, baseball and softball fields, and administrative offices. This school began when racial integration was ordered in the south. Talk about progress!!
Now to entertain the possibility of a black man becoming President of the United States testifies to the fact that WE HAVE COME A LONG WAY BABY! Enough of this victimization.
The writer, Billy McCormack has served as pastor of the University Worship Center, a Southern Baptist Church for 27 years, and serves as Vice President of the Christian Coalition of America and on its National Board of Directors which he is a founding member.