My junior year of high school, someone walked up to my principal and asked, “Mrs. Dockery, how many black kids are in our school?”

Mrs. Dockery thought for a second and replied, “There’s Aduwa and Nakeysha and Paris and…” before naming all the black students at West Stokes High School in 2003.

There were ten.

A whopping 1% of my high school population was black. 

It made sense. The story went that there were areas in my town that wouldn’t sell houses to a black family up into the 70s or 80s. One rumor in town was that there was a sign that read “N—– better not get caught here after dark” at one time. Another rumor was that the Ku Klux Klan was still meeting in our county and the Grand Wizard of the state had family in our town.

This was the culture I grew up in. There were people who honestly thought it wasn’t natural for a white person and a black person to be in a romantic relationship together. They claimed to not have a problem with non-white people but wanted to keep them at arm’s length just in case.

This was small town Southern America in a nutshell. You could replace “King, North Carlolina” with one of hundreds of rural towns and the stories would all be fairly similar.

I was lucky though. My dad grew up in a high school much different than mine, one where there were just as many black students as white. He told me stories of going to his black friends’ houses and how their families would be so friendly. I remember laughing as he described his experience with some of the stereotypical personalities within a culture so different than my own.

And I remember being jealous as he described the food his black friends’ moms and grandmas would make for him.

The stories he told seemed so real, but they felt like they were from a world away. 

One thing my dad made sure I knew is that everyone deserves my respect no matter what color their skin happened to be. This was a totally different mindset than what many of the people around me believed.

Everyone deserves my respect no matter what color their skin happened to be. Share on X

As I grew up and left town, that idea stuck with me. I wish I could say I always lived by it but that would be a lie. There have been times where I slipped into the mindset that I was better than other people because I came from a white middle class home with both parents still together. I’m not proud to say it, but I was no better than many of the people who’s opinions embarrassed me growing up.

I wish I could sit here in 2016 and say the culture of small town Southern America has changed. I wish I could write paragraphs about how much better our country is racially now than it was when I was in high school.

But I can’t.

All I can say is that I will do whatever I can so that when my daughter writes a blog post on Martin Luther King Jr Day 29 years from now, her world looks a lot different than ours today.

I don’t claim to understand all the issues standing in front of us. To be honest with you, many of them are so complex that I can’t even begin to wrap my head around them.

Here’s what I do know:

Everyone deserves my respect regardless of what color their skin is.

If I can act on that truth, and if I can instill it into my daughter, we will be one step closer to a world that sees each other as they were meant to be seen: direct reflections of our Creator.

My hope for you and for me is that we can begin to be the change our souls long to see. None of us can do it all, but together we can make an impact larger than we can imagine.

Love and respect regardless of skin color. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Love and respect regardless of skin color. That's not too much to ask, is it? Share on X

Say your prayers and take your vitamins.

Have a nice day.

-Jonathan

PS – I’d love for you to take two seconds to rate this post below. It’s totally anonymous but it helps me improve as a writer and let’s me know what’s connecting with you the reader. Thanks a bunch!