The Marks Post: Nailing racism to Calvary’s Cross
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 reads: There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces. A time to rend, and time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
We Catholics entered one of these times yesterday on Ash Wednesday as we had ashes put on our foreheads to signify the beginning of Lent.
One of the things I am going to try to work on this Lent is to become a better editor. I have ruffled some feathers over the last nine months out of zeal, but I need to temper that zealousness through prayer and patience.
Lent is not just a time for individuals to work on becoming forms of themselves; it is also a time for organizations and groups of people to heal old wounds.
One of these old wounds has left Ville Platte in the condition it is in today with crime and violence running rampant in the streets. This old wound is racism.
As far as I know, racism has never been a blatant problem here as in other parts of the state. But, racism here is more under the surface.
Racism here, like in many other towns across the South, has led to white flight. Whites in these towns have fled out of city limits into the suburbs thereby leaving the cities to be mostly inhabited by people of other races.
Last year, I went up to north Louisiana to cover Oakdale in the first round playoff game. While there, I saw a glimpse of Ville Platte’s future. And it was not bright. Because of white flight, there are just a handful of small businesses in town leading to a shriveling of the tax base and the rolling up of its sidewalks.
Countless other towns across north Louisiana are in the same condition, and Ville Platte is on that path.
Over the past year or so, I have sat in meetings to discuss Project Engage which is designed to revitalize Ville Platte. I remember thinking to myself, after one meeting in particular, that there is a problem with all of these ideas. That problem again is race.
Racism cuts both sides, too, as it runs through the black community against the whites.
Until we address the racial divide in the city, all the revitalization efforts will be fruitless.
This divide is nothing new. I grew up here and remember hearing white people say “We can’t go there because the blacks will be there,” and “The blacks will take it over.”
The revitalization plans include building a town park to feature the city’s musical heritage. I can hear the white’s now saying what they said decades ago “We can’t go there because the blacks will be there,” and “The blacks will take it over.”
That closed-mindedness still persists. Don’t believe me?
Just a few months ago, a street dance was held on Main Street with Steve Riley where local artists also spotlighted their work. One of the city’s organizations was asked to sponsor the event. In return, they would have worked the beer booth and kept the proceeds from the booth. It was an offer they could not refuse, but they did because of race.
All of Ville Platte, the whites and the blacks, need to come together and heal these old wounds soon in order for us to move forward. It better be really soon before the National Guard comes take over.
This Lent is a good time to do that. Let us get together, put on the proverbial sackcloth, and collectively nail our past racial divisions to Calvary’ Cross on Good Friday. Then we will rise as a new creation with new life on Easter Sunday. Oh, what an Easter that will be!
The past weeks during our Come! Lord Jesus meetings at Sacred Heart High School, we have been focusing on the Sermon of the Mount and the similes of salt and light. Ville Platte has lost its salt and has its light dwindling. Let us put an end to that so we can again be that “city seated on a mountaintop” (Matthew 5:14).