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Thursday, June 25, 2009 03:33 pm

Forging a future beyond race

The following is an excerpt from the keynote address delivered at the June 7 Race Unity Rally at the Capitol. See page 16 for winners of the Race Unity Art and Poetry Contest.

In the beginning existed Mankind. There was no such thing as race, except for the human race. With that, the spirit of mankind exuded a certain unity. There was a common bond of the human spirit — connecting us to a common goal. Our goal was simply to love our neighbor as ourselves.

How do we as humankind forge a future beyond race — where our identities aren’t predicated upon our anthropological background?

Forget about what has been and focus on what can be. Racism in America has dealt us some vicious blows down through the years. So many who have come before us have been divided on the issue of race, causing major bloodshed and death. It has not been an easy road to travel. The good news is we are still here. I believe that every moment that we remain in this world, it is another opportunity to make things right. We cannot undo the past but we sure can shape our future. Each one of us today has the power to decide that racism stops here.

Free your mind and the rest will follow. The popular female group from the ’90s, En Vogue, once reminded us in one of their hit songs, “free your mind and the rest will follow, be colorblind, don’t be so shallow, (before you read me you gotta learn how to see me).”

Freeing our minds allows us to be open to learning about the other person. We can never get to the core of who someone else is unless we move beyond what they look like, and where they come from. One of the most powerful things in the world is the ability to change our mind.

Find love. Love transcends racism. Love is tenderly caring for another person. You love by treating all people with the same dignity and respect you desire. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Picture us as mankind, stranded in the middle of nowhere. One day we journey to a destination that could give us freedom but we have to build a bridge to the other side. As we gather the resources and tools to build this bridge, my first thought is not that of your ethnic origin or skin color. I want to know what valuable resource you possess that will contribute to the overall success of this project. I can’t build the bridge by myself. Unless I realize that it will take a collective effort to build the bridge and walk towards freedom, I remain in a desolate place. I forget about race and I build to live another day.

Dr. Walter Milton, Jr., is superintendent of Springfield Public School District 186.
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