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If we can't get along, should we play alone? - Shannon Jenkins

Since we all can't seem to play nicely together, maybe we should be separated.

We could split up the country by race, religion and sexual orientation. Of course, since conflict apparently is part of our nature, we'd have to start dividing ourselves into subgroups. Better yet, maybe each of us should build individual compounds and live life as recluses. We could have personal contact only when absolutely necessary.

Those ideas are about as ridiculous as the fact that we have been living in societies together for a countless number of years and we still can't manage to respect one another. Our problem is that some of us don't understand what it's like to face discrimination.

My roommate told me a story about a lesson he learned in 1973. His third-grade teacher conducted a two-day experiment dealing with segregation.

On the first day, she made all the kids with brown eyes sit on the preferred side of the class near the windows. On the other sat the blue-eyed and green-eyed children. That day the children with brown eyes left for lunch five minutes early, while the others left at the regular time. The brown-eyes played outside for recess; the others did not. When story time arrived, the children with dark eyes sat around the teacher while the others stayed in their seats. Brown-eyes even got possession of the class gerbil.

For my roommate, that first day was a good one. The next day, however, was not so pleasant.

It was his turn to sit on the far side of the room and stay inside for recess.

"Why should I be treated differently just because I have brown eyes?" he thought to himself.

What would the world be like today if we all had the opportunity to experience each others' lives firsthand? After walking in someone else's shoes, would we still be inclined to hate one another?

If we all knew what it was like to ride at the back of the bus, would there be a need for the NAACP?

If each of us had to spend 50 years with the person we loved without the right to marry that person, would we still be fighting over the definition of marriage?

If everyone had to fight for their religion, would we still have war?

More than likely, we'll never know the answer to these questions because so many of us are too comfortable feeling superior to others.

Why should we care that a black woman was spit upon when she was a little girl? Why should we console the Jewish man whose family was killed in the holocaust? Why should we cry for the young man who was beaten because he loves another man?

Some of us don't care, because no one ever spit on us. Some of us don't console, because our families were safe from persecution. Some of us don't cry, because we don't have to hide our love.

Maybe if we all had to sit on the far side of the classroom, we might just understand what it feels like to be different. And if we all understand, maybe we could all play nicely at recess together.

Shannon Jenkins is the education reporter for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or at sjenkins@henryherald.com .