By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
I wish I looked closer
Placeholder Image
    Recently, a gentleman wrote me about an experience he had as a teenager in the ‘60s. I thought it appropriate to share the story, especially on this weekend before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
    I almost took my thumb down when I saw who was behind the wheel of the car coming across the bridge; but then I saw the man notice me, and it felt rude to drop it.
    The car pulled over and the man stepped out.
    “Where are you going?”
    “Wilmington Island.”
    “How far is it?” said the man.
    “Turn off's about ten miles,” said the teen.
    “Can I offer you a ride?”
    “Thanks, Mister.”
    “Maybe you can help me. I am trying to find Thunderbolt.”
    “You passed Thunderbolt, Mister. It’s right back there.” I pointed across the bridge.  “Just turn around here.”
    “No, I have time. I'll take you home first.”
    The man wore a white shirt and dark tie so I figured he was a preacher. That’s the first impression came to mind. I couldn’t think of any other reason a black man would be dressed that way. He was well groomed and courteous. He had a different air about him. But if he didn't know where Thunderbolt was, he wasn't from around here.
    “Where you from, Mister?”
    “My home is Atlanta,” said the man.
    “I was born in Atlanta.”
    “So was I.”
    "You know people in Savannah?"
    "Yes, I'm here to speak at a church."
    He noticed I was carrying books and asked if I missed the school bus. For some reason I told him the truth.
    “I got suspended from the school bus for arguin' with the driver when he told me to sit up front.”
    The man laughed.
    “What’s funny?"
    “You: protesting being forced to sit at the front of the bus.”
    He took me to the turn off to my road.
    "Is this it?"
    "Yes, you can drop me here. It's only a short walk." As I stepped out, the man extended his hand. I only looked him full in the face that one time. There was nothing remarkable about his features, he was just a black man. I took his hand, shook it, thanked him and said good bye.
    When I heard about the assassination, I was watching TV. I remembered the man who picked me up and went twenty miles out of his way for me. I don't know why, he was just a black man. I wish I looked closer.
    The man who shared this story said he didn’t know for certain if it was actually Dr. King. But he did notice that he didn’t act like other people he had met. The driver didn’t congratulate himself for driving out of his way, instead acting like it was a normal responsibility, like he was the boy’s uncle or neighbor. This always stuck the author as odd. “This man was from out of town. Why should he care?”
    When the author saw King’s picture after the assassination, he was reminded of the man who picked him up.
    “I realized for the first time my own prejudice toward African Americans. I had not looked at that man any closer than to note that he was a ‘colored man,’” said the author. “Whether or not he was Dr King wasn't really the point. He could have been. It was that I never looked close enough at him to ever really recognize him again. Sitting in his car that day, I recognized there was something different about the man; but I passed over it quickly. That is what I meant by ‘I wish I looked closer.’”
    On a side note, I’ve been accused of being a pacifist because I believe conflict can be better resolved through discussion than fighting.
    But on a weekend where we celebrate the greatest American civil rights leader, we also celebrate the methods by which he achieved his goals - non-violent civil disobedience. He met these goals without strong-handed techniques, instead appealing to the humanity in each of us. Ultimately, this method proved much more powerful and effective than the thugs whose methods included putting Dr. King in jail, threatening his supporters or even beating his fellow protesters.
    Thuggery was overcome by peaceful methods then, and thuggery can be overcome by peaceful methods today.
    This is why I support a Ron Paul presidency. He believes in the same non-violent means of conflict resolution as well as the ideal of treating invdividuals as individuals.
    “Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans strictly as members of groups rather than as individuals. Racists believe that all individuals who share superficial physical characteristics are alike: as collectivists, racists think only in terms of groups," said Paul. "By encouraging Americans to adopt a group mentality, the advocates of so-called ‘diversity’ actually perpetuate racism.”
    While I in no way pretend to know the mind of Dr. King, I think he would agree.

<I>    Phil Boyum would like to thank John Yarber, a merchant marine from Savannah, for sharing his story. In these sensitive times, it take a strong man to admit his prejudice - even if was in the past.
Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter