In December 1969 I was in the middle of my last year in seminary. I was married with one child and another on the way. Louie Farmer, who had been my Baptist Student Union director in college, invited me to go with him and a group of college students to Mission 70, a missions and ministry conference for college students and young adults scheduled to be held in Atlanta between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Since I was networking (although I did not know that term in those days) and looking for a job in collegiate ministries, I gladly accepted his invitation.
A day or two after Christmas, Bro. Louie and I found ourselves in his car on the way to Atlanta with two young African-American women in the back seat. I don’t remember how long that trip from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to Atlanta, Georgia, took but I do remember that the two college students did not get out of the car to eat when we stopped (and I am not sure they ever went to the bathroom) as we crossed Alabama and made our way to Georgia.
I am still amazed at that experience. Since I graduated from college in 1965, I had worked with African-Americans in the military (in fact my first company commander was an African-American). I had gone to seminary with at least a few African-Americans. I was going to a conference in Atlanta that held out hope for a future in which Christians of all races and nationalities could work together to fulfill the Great Commission (interpret that as you wish). But these two young women were afraid to get out of the car as we crossed my home state.
This memory came back as I considered the Presidential race this year. For the first time, Americans have the opportunity to vote for an African-American for the highest office in the land. We have come a long way in almost four decades . . . or have we? I have noted that many of the e-mails I receive soliciting my presidential vote still want to play up the racial angle. Certainly many of these contacts are not racial in perspective and are carefully reasoned and presented, but there are too many who seek to play the “race card” in this election.
We have two good candidates for President this year. Both are Americans with unique records of service to our country. Both are gifted persons. One is black and one is white. Wouldn’t it be great if that last descriptor made no difference in our decision?