My parents were born in a small town in southern Arizona close to the border of Mexico. And I believe that both of my grandfathers were miners in the local copper pit mine. My grandparents on both sides were born in Mexico, and immigrated to this small town to live and work.
So the town was primarily white with an underclass of Mexican mine workers. Now they lived and grew up and went to school in this small town, and raised their children here.
I remember my Dad telling me a story about how when he was a teenager, he was not allowed to go into the local YMCA to play pool. And why? Because he was Mexican and he wasn’t allowed.
What was interesting at the time to me about this story – was that I had never experienced that kind of discrimination. My parents raised me to be fairly acculturated to the mainstream of society, so I never felt different or self-identified as “Mexican”. I was NOT taught Spanish at home, although my grandmothers only spoke Spanish so communication when visiting them was limited. I sometimes think the reason they didn’t teach me Spanish when I was young was so that the adults (my parents and other relatives) could communicate amongst themselves without having to worry about “the kid” (me) understanding what they were saying!
But in going through my aunt’s memorabilia, old letters and such, I came across some of her high school yearbooks from the ‘30s and 40’s. In leafing through them, I discovered something that brought my father’s experience back to the forefront. It was in that section of the yearbook where all the pictures are usually laid out in alphabetical order. So in looking at this section, I noticed that my aunt’s senior picture was NOT in alpha order, but rather was placed at the end of all the other Caucasian student’s pictures, along with some other persons of color, as if they were an afterthought.
This confirmed to me that what my father had told me was true, as it was evident by the placement of my aunt’s picture in her yearbook. Discrimination was real, as was my dad’s experience.
In the end, we know that God does not discriminate. It gives me great comfort to hear each week that we are “being reconciled to God, and to one another”. There is no “other”, as we are all worthy in God’s eyes, regardless of our background, or ethnicity, or whatever else may seem to divide us. God loves each one of us, and God’s love is for all of us.