in response to Kevin Jackson’s essay “Blending in and standing out”
Hi Kevin, I just read your opinion piece "Blending in and standing out" in The Review (09/23/20), and I'm writing to let you know how much I enjoyed it. It's impressive, to me, that your writing can be so clear and direct, though you are writing about topics that, as I think you say, are so personally complex. It's refreshing to hear someone write, and think, so perceptively about the cultural situation of our campus, especially about the limitations of that situation that, it seems to me, you accurately describe. I honestly hope that many people will read your reflections.
I agree with you that "ignorance is no longer an excuse." Treating one another according to tired, old stereotypes is simply below our Christian vocation and profession. Still, I feel at a loss as to what to do to contribute to the change I want to see.
Hearing about your experiences, though, makes me want to share one of mine.
I grew up in an Irish-Italian family in a white suburb of Worcester, Massachusetts, and took the city bus with my younger sister into Worcester for several years to attend the parochial grammar school. This was in the 1960s. My only contact with Blacks was on the city bus, particularly with one Black bus driver who, for a few years, was a benevolent authority figure who looked out for us. I'm embarrassed to say that I frequently teased my sister on the bus—so much so that this bus driver, regularly and always in a friendly way, would scold me, and tell me that I shouldn't be teasing my sister like that. Once I teased her so much that she started crying, and the driver—seeing in his rear-view mirror what was going on—actually stopped the bus and made me get off. I had to walk the two or three miles home. I don't remember, but I'm sure my parents found out and agreed that the punishment was deserved—they'd heard us talk about this gentleman. My sister still likes to remind me about that day—always publicly.
Kevin, this is just a simple little story—but with everything that's going on now in our country, with the situations you describe in your op-ed, the story seems more pertinent to me. Back then, it was just normal. I don't understand what's changed, or why. I hope we can learn to understand one another better. I'm certain we need to understand ourselves better. I look forward to your next essay in The Review.
Fr. Stephen Concordia, O.S.B.
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