Content, Not Color

 “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.).”

The above was an iconic passage from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech made at the Lincoln Memorial, on August 28, 1963. I used this to share something that happened in the first few weeks of my teaching career.

As I got settled in my new career as public schoolteacher in January 1988, word started to spread around campus that we had too many teachers for the number of students enrolled. As I caught wind of this, I mentally prepared myself for a transfer to another school, since I was the “new kid on the block.”

I don’t recall how the principal officially announced the news, whether it was at a faculty meeting or through a memo. Needless to say, I was awaiting my transfer, wondering which school I was going to land at and which grade level I was to be assigned.

Several days passed, and news got around that another teacher was selected to transfer. She had begun her teaching career the previous school year. She protested to the other teachers that it was not fair because there was another teacher on campus with less seniority and experience than she. Needless to say, she was not happy about the transfer. I didn’t think it was right, either.

As she left, the other teachers expressed their disapproval about the transfer to me, saying that the reason why I wasn’t transferred was because I was Asian and was a male. The majority of the teachers at Gompers at that time were white and female.

Because of this, I am not a fan of grouping people according to their respective skin colors and ethnicities. For the last few years, the District has been trying to lessen the achievement gap between African-American and Hispanic students and the rest of the student population (non African-American and non-Hispanic students). I cringed each time I heard this at a faculty meeting or at a professional development workshop. It’s not about the outside of a person, but what’s inside of his/her mind and heart.

In 1 Samuel 16:7, it says, “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’ ” When we start looking at people the way God looks at people, perhaps we can start the healing that our nation needs at the present time.

We, as a nation, haven’t made much progress since Dr. King made his speech at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. If we desire healing and unity in our nation, we need start looking at each other the way God looks at us.

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