This 1973 photograph gives me hope. In fact, children have always been our best hope to turn the tide of anger and division resulting from years of negative acts and thoughts about people who happen to be different from us.
The innocence conveyed in this photograph is a powerful reminder that prejudice is a learned behavior. No one is born with hate in their hearts. A child’s first teachers are parents. They determine their child’s attitudes until they are old enough to form their own opinions.
I first experienced prejudice at the age of 5, when children at the Catholic school I attended hurled the N-word in my direction on a daily basis. I didn’t even know what the word meant, but I knew by the looks on their faces and the way they spit out the word that it wasn’t good.
An 81-year-old woman I met recently put the hurt of the N-word in context for me. If someone doesn’t call me by name, she explained, it’s as if I am invisible or don’t exist.
I’d never thought of it that way. For people of her generation, it will never be okay for anyone to use that word.
Back in 1973, Joseph Crachiola was a photographer for the Macomb (Mich.) Daily. As he was driving around Mount Clemens, a suburb of Detroit, he saw these children playing together in an alley without a care in the world, according to an article on npr.org.
In the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict, Crachiola reposted the photograph on his Facebook page. “For me, it still stands as one of my most meaningful pictures. It makes me wonder… At what point do we begin to mistrust one another?,” he wrote. “When do we begin to judge one another based on gender or race? I have always wondered what happened to these children. I wonder if they are still friends.”
We’ve been talking about race relations quite a bit lately. I’d like to see us spend more time talking about how we get past the hurt and resentment that has dogged our great country for years.
For me, the answer is simple. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Respect and honor people’s differences. Don’t prejudge an entire race of people based on the actions of a few. Let go of the past and move forward together.
It’s time, ya’ll. It’s time.
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in a 1964 speech in St. Louis.
“Can we all get along?” Rodney King, a Los Angeles construction worker whose 1991 beating by the police was captured on videotape. The officers struck King more than 50 times with their batons after a traffic stop. The officers’ acquittal in 1992 sparked three days of rioting. Fifty-five people were killed and 2,000 were injured. King said these words at a press conference during the riots.