Editor, The Cheshire Herald:
I was very interested to read about the Urban Encounter program in 1970 that brought Cheshire students to an African American community in New Haven for a day. In describing what he saw on the tour, Mr. Sherlock, a leader from the First Congregational Church of Cheshire, expressed an attitude of pity for the young people he met in that neighborhood. This got me to thinking that perhaps solving the centuries-long problem of white racism could start with a change in attitude: A shift from a mindset of pity to one of gratitude.
Gratitude for the labor provided, free of charge, by the millions of Africans brought to this country beginning in 1619 that allowed a handful of colonies to grow into a prosperous independent nation. Gratitude for those who, for no compensation, planted the cotton, the tobacco, and other crops, tended the fields, brought in the harvest, cooked the meals, cleaned the houses, and catered to every whim and fancy an owner could think of. Gratitude for those who suffered unspeakable suffering in the form of forced medical experimentation so that doctors today can take better care of their patients.
Gratitude for the moral and political leadership of African Americans throughout the time of slavery and up to the present moment. Gratitude for the cultural contributions of African Americans in dance, music, fine arts, and literature that make our nation unique. Gratitude for the perseverance of African Americans in helping to build this nation, even when their efforts are met with hostility and violence.
As Independence Day approached, I reflected on how our nation came into existence and the gratitude we owe to everyone who made this possible. When I look at African Americans today, I resolve to stop looking down on them in pity, and instead to raise them up in my estimation by acknowledging their role as co-creators of the United States of America. This is a small step and will not solve the problem of racism. My hope is that by changing our mindset to one of gratitude, white Americans can begin to lay the foundation of better relations with African Americans.