Last month marked 50 years since the United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled that segregation in public schools and in every phase of public life was unconstitutional. The next year, in a case that came to be known as Brown II, the Supreme Court ruled further that public schools must desegregate "with all deliberate speed."
Yet, 50 years later, the trend in public schools in some communities is toward segregation. It would appear at times as though the US has given up trying to integrate the public schools. Nevertheless, some schools, such as one in Lexington, Mass., have pioneered programs that promote voluntary integration, and these programs have thrived. (See The Christian Science Monitor, May 11.)
Three years ago, our family decided to leave the suburbs and move to a racially diverse area of our city. We knew we were missing something. We knew that we would be blessed by the opportunity to live and work in an environment of greater diversity. Our oldest daughter had led the way by moving into the city, and we were watching our grandson reap the blessings of an integrated daycare setting.
He was playing with children from a host of different races and learning to respect and appreciate the rich cultural differences while enjoying the naturalness of being with them without concern or fears about these differences.
As I watched our grandson developing in this way, I became convinced that integration wasn't optional. It wasn't just a nice thing for people to do; it was mandatory. I began to see that I could never really understand God until I understood that we are all His beloved children, and that as His children, His spiritual ideas, each of us is precious and perfect. I began to see that as long as there was fear or ignorance in my thought about my brother man, I had more to learn about God and His allness and goodness.
To ignore this need for love of all humanity would be like trying to use the principle of mathematics while thinking that it would be OK if I left out or ignored some group of the numbers and their place in the principle.
The Bible puts it this way: "If a man say, I love God, and hateth 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? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also" (I John 4:20, 21).
So, loving and appreciating one another is vital to understanding God, and understanding God aligns our thinking with all that is Godlike and good - health, harmony, peace, wisdom, and grace. Loving others has a healing effect, and it's the proof of our understanding God. We know God is the Creator, the Source of all being, and therefore everyone manifests God's goodness.
The blessings of voluntary integration aren't attained just by living in a diverse neighborhood. The genuine desire for integration happens in the heart before it can happen in our lives. Obviously, it's not everybody's answer to move into the city. But real integration cannot be achieved through academic, abstract, or intellectual lip service any more than an understanding of God can be gained by merely reciting words or practicing rituals. As we cherish the desire to better appreciate all of God's children, we'll find opportunities for making contact with people of diverse races, religions, and backgrounds. Within each one of God's children is the natural desire to know all of God and to value all of His children because God values and loves all of us.
I can't begin to count the blessings that have come to our family as we've taken steps to be more integrated with our community. Meanwhile, our grandson, Collin, plays in a neighborhood of kids named Jabou, Auggie, Kahlil, Nile, Shayla, and Mirabi. I pray for the day when the word "integrate" will be obsolete - when we will live in such natural unity that no one will have to legislate integration.
Until that day, I'm grateful for every healing interchange, every moment of love between the races, every bit of overcoming fear and prejudice, and the fact that God sees His children unified and related in harmony now.