By far the greatest paradigm shift in American culture in the last half century, we suggest, is in racial relations.
It is a work in progress.
If you are drawing Social Security, the chances are that when you discuss the racial segregation of your youth with your children and grandchildren, they will wonder if you were a cave dweller.
In truth, those of us raised in the 1940s and 1950s didn’t hate people of other races; we didn’t even know each other.
There are exceptions, of course.
There will always be, at least for the foreseeable future, people of all races and cultures who don’t like people of other races or cultures for no reason other than the color of their skins.
The definition of “racist” crosses all color lines.
We suspect that concept will fade with the passage of time.
But there are a growing number of people of all races and cultures who are not willing to wait for time to erode historical prejudices. They want to see the transition move forward more quickly.
Among them are a group of nearly 100 Bartow area residents who attended a two-hour program called “Culture, Cuisine and Conversation” at the Bartow Public Library on Tuesday night.
Four panelists — two black, one Jamaican, and a white former grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan — led the discussion.
It was not the first, and we hope not the last, gathering of folks with a genuine desire to advance the concept that all persons share a commonality as members of one race: the human race.
No miracles were accomplished, nor was that the objective. But another step was taken toward open communication between people who differ in appearance and cultural backgrounds.
Dr. Kenneth Stephens, a Bartow High School graduate who now is a faculty member at Southeastern University in Lakeland, was the discussion leader.
“We fear what we do not know,” he told the audience. “We gravitate to where we’re comfortable.”
He is correct, and that is human nature, not prejudice.
The path to change, he suggested, must begin in homes, schools, and churches.
We agree with that observation, and would add that the journey can be facilitated when members of all races and cultures develop a level of comfort in sitting down with each other and developing an understanding of each other’s views.
It may not be easy, but it can be done, and young people of today will be the ultimate winners.