On Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008, history was made. America elected its first black president. We all watched it happen, and regardless whether one agrees with the outcome of the election or not, we all must agree this is a momentous turning point in the history of our country.
However, the way America reacts also can shape how this formative event will play out. Although most reactions have ranged from ecstatic to gracious, there always will exist those too blind to see outside their own prejudice and selfishness.
On Nov. 4, 2008, a hangman’s noose was found dangling from a tree in the middle of Baylor University’s campus. Reports of burning Obama campaign signs and a racially charged shouting match also surfaced. According to the Associated Press, police have taken no students into custody.
Baylor’s interim president David E. Garland said, “These events are deeply disturbing to us and are antithetical to the mission of Baylor University. We categorically denounce and will not tolerate racist acts of any kind on our campus.”
As a community that has dealt with a similar event on our own campus, we know the collective shame and guilt that accompanies such actions, although such actions were individually committed. While most of us would agree these acts cannot be tolerated and should be treated as threats, we also know how hard it is to investigate such an event when no decisive evidence or witnesses can be found.
Baylor University officials hopefully will do all they can to apprehend and punish the culprits appropriately, and we should remind ourselves that while it is easy to point fingers and judge from the outside looking in, we too have been objects of such scrutiny and should remember even religious communities are not safe from the presence of prejudicial thoughts.
Although acts of racism and intolerance are not necessarily a reflection of an entire community, campus or culture, events like these can and should be used as a personal watermark to gauge how much progress we have made and how much we still need to make. It is apparent with an elected black president that the majority of Americans are able to put aside racial differences. However, the acts that occurred on our and Baylor’s campuses, as well as events like the uncovered massacre plot in Tennessee and the racist remarks many people hear or make everyday, should remind us it is still an uphill battle to continue to deconstruct the ideology of prejudice that America fostered in its earlier days.
Christians should remember Jesus’ command in Matthew to “render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s.” Like it or not, Barack Hussein Obama will be our next president, and those who did not vote for him for religious reasons should now give him respect as our country’s future leader in accordance with that same religion.
We have heard many voices, on the national and local levels, both public and personal, which have expressed hope that this turning point can be a step toward healing the legacy of pain and division our country began so many years ago. If all of us, no matter who we voted for president, can choose to look outside ourselves and try to see the bigger picture, we can make this country great. And in the end, that is what everyone wants.