According to Me: The Dreaded ‘R’ Word

Can we all stop lying to ourselves now? Are we ready to move from the politically correct haze that has enshrouded any and all race-related discussion over the last several decades and readily admit that there is a significant problem in our country?

Somewhere along the way, healthy dialogue about the cultural differences that accompany race was abnegated in favor of harmonizing with the trend that has been our PC society. The unwelcome byproduct of this uncomfortable silence is the most tenuous, chaotic, volatile racial climate since the Civil Rights Era.

Ferguson. New York. Baltimore. As if the totality of those incidents were not enough, our country was shocked by the murder of nine members of a Charleston, S. Car. Church this week.

For me, that news came amid a week in which I got a front row seat to some four dozen local young people participating in Vacation Bible School at Canal Heights church of Christ. And not one time over the course of the week did any one of those children seem to care about the skin color of any of the other children. Which begs the question, at what point do these children start to care about such things? And at what point will they be allowed to discuss perceived differences and ask questions about them openly?

The goal of such dialogue is not to bring offence, but rather to cultivate understanding. What we have societally at this juncture is not understanding, but rather routine.

When we have sections of towns or cities we think of as “black sections,” then we don’t have the harmony we like to pretend we have. When we have five public schools in a county and three of them have nearly 100 percent black enrollment, we don’t have harmony. And when the most integrated school system in a given county feels the need to alternate between black and white Homecoming Queens on an annual basis, we clearly don’t have that comfortable peace we like to pretend we have.

So, what do we do about changing our situation? I don’t assume to have all the answers. And all of the answers I do have begin and end with principled living under the direction of God’s Word. But we must be willing to dialogue. We must be willing to admit that there are cultural differences often associated with race that can be discussed in a way that is more enlightening than offensive. And we must all be willing to understand that differences defined across racial lines don’t have to create divisions defined across racial lines.

Jeremy D. Smith is managing partner of The West Alabama Watchman. He has covered news and sports in Demopolis since 2008. His column, According to Me, appears weekly on