Sunday, February 28, 1999
It doesn't seem possible to hear someone today say they "picked up a hitchhiker" does it? Well I certainly would not, in most cases, do that today, but in the 60s we did it all the time. Everyone did not, at that time, own a car, so you got somewhere however you could. Usually you had a way, but if you didn't, you could just stick out your thumb and someone would eventually pick you up.
In the 60s, I was just pulling out of the Atlanta Airport when I saw a distinguished looking African-American man standing alongside the road. He had his suitcase and overcoat with him so I pulled over to give him a ride. He was a very fine man who was visiting a relative here in Atlanta, but he lived somewhere up North around Ohio. I was going to college and had to go to class but I could take him about half way to his destination. We entered into small talk and he shared with me that since he was not from "down here," that he would appreciate me telling him which taxicab to take when I dropped him off because he didn't want to get into any trouble while he was "down here." At first I said "well take any taxicab you find available." He then smiled and said "no sir I can't do that, I can only take the taxicab for Negroes, but I don't know which one to take." I then again realized the depths and fundamental wrongs of Segregation. I told him I would help him find out which one to take and that I was very sorry that it was that way. I then went to a phone booth and called the white operator and said "I am trying to help out my Negro friend who is not from here find the "correct" taxi to get into, but I don't know which one to tell him to use. She then quoted me the party line that "she could not recommend any particular taxi company to me." I then asked to speak to her supervisor and after about seven more minutes of going back and forth, she finally reluctantly "let me guess" which one he could use.
In Nazi Germany, after Hitler had consolidated his strangle hold on the German people, he met with several of his high ranking Nazi officials on the banks of the beautiful lake in Berlin called the "Wansee." At this meeting they drew up the Wansee Protocol which dealt with the "Jewish Question" which was the beginning of the "final solution" for the Jews. Our history books tell us that this meeting became the blueprint for the extermination of 90 percent of the Jews in Europe. In this Wansee Protocol the anti-Jewish laws were formed which did not allow Jews to do the following:
Use public transportation, use public park benches, receive public education, marry anyone non-Jewish, or live in non-Jewish neighborhoods. They were not allowed to assemble in large groups and were required to wear yellow stars on all outer clothing. Their businesses were to be identified as Jewish establishments and non-Jewish Germans were told not to trade with them. Eventually they were ordered to the railway stations to be transported to concentration camps for final extermination.
As I studied European history and the treatment of the Jews under Hitler, I realized it had very similar roots to segregation in this country. Blacks were certainly not exterminated as were the Jews, but if a lynching occurred, it was the practice of the day to "look the other way and not investigate the incident." Blacks were allowed more freedoms than the Jews but only a step higher. As Jews couldn't use public transportation, blacks could use public trasnportation"but in the back of the bus." During segregation blacks were not allowed to live in any neighborhood except black neighborhoods and on and on.
Since many of our white and black youths of today were born in the 80s they never saw the "white only" signs that I remember from the 60s. I can even remember conversations about people thinking that heaven was going to be segregated. Guess what? I don't think the people who died thinking that ever got the chance to find out.
Many churches never spoke out on the issue in the 60s and of the few white pastors that did, they received quickly-called secret meetings held in their honor. They were simply asked to "serve God somewhere else." The Scriptures state, "if a man says, he loves God and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" If you have harbored some of these feelings, confess it before God in heaven and go away free. Our church will celebrate "Black History Month" by loving everybody until Jesus returns!
(Dr. Knox Herndon is the pastor of "His House Community Church" and a substitute school teacher in the Fayette County school system and a former Army chaplain. The church is located at 193 Johnson Ave Fayetteville, Ga., right behind the Mask Tire Co. off Jeff Davis Dr. Prayer line: 770-719-2365; e-mail: Khern2365@aol.com)