This being an election week (I hope you all voted), I have been thinking about my time in college. I attended CSU Dominguez Hills. I graduated in 1973 with a double major, Political Science and Behavioral Science. I was in the third or fourth graduating class at that university. I grew up near there, in a little community called Dominguez, which is now a part of the city of Carson. Why I’ve been thinking about my college days in light of the recent elections are the similarities in some very divisive issues facing our country then and now. People were passionately divided on issues like the war in Viet Nam, and the Watergate Investigation in the 70’s much like the divisions over human sexuality, abortion, and patriotism today.
Like most college campuses we, too, held elections for student body officers. Two classmates of mine and I decided to form a political party that reflected our campus diversity. We called ourselves the “Doing What We Can” party. The goal was to engage in civil conversation about issues, recognizing that we could accomplish more together than we could by remaining apart.
We went about the task of talking with the various campus groups to get their support. I was asked to talk with the leader of the Black Student Union.
When I met with him I wasn’t sure how he would respond. The BSU was quite active, but kept mostly to itself. I told him what we were trying to do and asked for his support. He looked at me and said, “All forms of prejudice break down in a one to one encounter.” That was it. And I never forgot that.
The BSU decided to support our efforts. The “Doing What We Can Party” swept the elections that year.
Fast forward to last Tuesday, election day. Our church was actually hosting a group of 20 bicyclists who were beginning their journey across America in an effort to raise awareness, and money, to end poverty and its resulting homelessness. They showered at Southwest High School, slept in our Olive Street Center, and enjoyed a Taco Cart dinner! Most of them had never had a really good taco until Tuesday dinner. The Taco Cart guy actually ran out of food!
I was saying my goodbyes for the evening and getting ready to head home when one of the riders, a black man from Atlanta, Georgia, came up to me and asked if he could have a word. He said, “We went to Calexico today, and I saw the fence. I’m from Atlanta and I never realized what that fence was like. Now I want to know what I can do to help you and your immigration ministry.”
All forms of prejudice break down in one to one encounters.
We all have them. Prejudices. Some are necessary, and important. I have a prejudice toward being humane as opposed to inhuman, compassionate as opposed to judgmental. Inclusive as opposed to exclusive. And some, as you know, are divisive, hurtful and dehumanizing. Racism. Sexism. Misogyny.
If you take a good look at the Good Book you’ll find God has a prejudice toward helping the poor. God’s call to care for the poor is mentioned more times in the Bible than any other concern, over 2000 times. It’s called economic justice.
So, what does this have to do with the elections? Well, think about it. I heard a lot of hurtful things said by, and about, candidates. The discourse over our contentious issues is mostly demonizing, all sides claiming the high moral ground, condemning everyone else. And nothing is solved. Aren’t we better than that?
Jesus gave us one mandate, to love one another. It’s been 2000 years. Come on.