Dee's Blog
Sun 01/20/2008
Beyond Mere Tolerance
Topic: Aliens

Recently I had opportunity to see a documentary "The Street of Dreams" about race relations in Omaha, NE.  First in a museum, later on PBS.  It was especially interesting since I live in the Omaha metro and have worked 24th Street (the one highlighted), as a psychiatric nurse.  It is a street that once thrived and prospered as a culturally and economically strong area.  That was 50 years ago.  Before major social upheaval occurred because of a variety of poor choices on the part of the city's leaders, as well as some of the citizens in the 24th Street area.  It was a study that should send all viewers into serious introspection about the complex social and moral issues.

The film was especially interesting since I am in this process of writing about both the international Jewish community and the slave problem in the early days of this nation, long before either Jews or African-Americans came in mass to this metro area.  What the two groups had in common, as they flooded this area about a century ago, was that they were fleeing in mass numbers from oppression.  What they found here was a community that intially received them.  A place of refuge. 

There was limited discrimination and unrest here locally until they became a perceived threat to the well-being of Caucasians who'd always taken for granted their "right" to not compete vigorously for jobs.  It was only when the two groups--Jews and "niggers"--were considered a threat to the status quo that prejudiced really started to grow. 

Most interesting and enlightening was the fact that, in our nation, the problems seem to multiply on the domestic front following each war.  It happens when the job market is squeezed with returning soldiers, and each time (roughly every two decades on the average) the prejudices and oppression is increased in favor of the dominant group. 

This is not unlike what happened to women after World War II.  Having learned skills that were "no longer needed, thank you," the women suddenly found jobs hard to find.  Out of that was born the women's movement that has created many positive changes, as well as challenges, in our society. 

This may seem far afield from the issues that brought you to this site.  Truth is, it's very related.  Discrimination, for whatever reason, increases only when the dominant group or the group in power perceives people with increased courage to be a threat.  When the group or individual is considered to be only a small threat, tolerance is usually the best that can be hoped for.  Tolerance alone does not produce change, however. 

When the perceived threat increases to a panic (often occurring when the oppressed have managed to become sufficiently frustrated so that they find ways to be heard or noticed, whether functional or not)....then the shunning and open spite hits record levels, with increased attempts to even legalize discriminatory practices or block laws that would decrease discrimination. 

If you have had the courage to speak out, challenging the way people understand violence or the myriad of it's related issues, then this likely makes a lot of sense to you.  If not, someday it may.   The trick is to learn to embrace the struggles as a part of being spiritually alive.

Posted by Dee Ann Miller at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Tue 01/15/2008 1:46 PM CST

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