I know people of color and people of poverty are disproportionality represented in our prisons, and disproportionality effected by a poor economy and budget cuts.
I try to understand and work on solutions.
But I wonder if I can really help.
I am not unique.
I am a 60 year old white man who grew up with little exposure to people of color.
I was raised during the civil rights movement and taught that all men and women are my brother and sister, regardless of race or religion.
I live by that principle.
I now have several friends of color, I have friends of different religions, I have gay friends, and like all my friends, I am closer to some than others, but our differences do not define that closeness.
As Dr. King had dreamed, we judge each our by the content of our character.
One of my closest friends shared something with me not too long ago. She shared that if she met me in a particular town near us after dark, that she would be pulled over by the police because of the darkness of her skin.
I was horrified.
Although I believed her sincerity, I could not comprehend what that was like and I was upset that my close friend would be treated that way.
I could not comprehend because I cannot walk in her shoes.
This week I attended a symposium that promoted Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
One of the topics discussed was the difficulty of recruiting and retaining young black teachers, especially males, into Connecticut.
It was pointed out that their are few role models for students of color standing at the front of the classroom.
We have examples for young people of color in sports and entertainment, but how many grow up seeing that in teaching or nursing?
How can we expect them to consider these professions if they are not seen as possibilities?
And so the cycle continues.
It's bad enough that teachers and nurses of any color are disrespected on a regular basis.
It's also a problem that within education and healthcare, teachers and registered nurses do not always show the respect they should to the paraprofessionals, the LPNs, the Techs, and the other healthcare workers.
I had never seen these issues as prejudice, but they are.
So what can we do?
I think that's were we start.
Those of us who are not of color and those of us who are of color cannot fully understand what it is to walk in each other shoes. We may love our bothers and sisters without reservation, but that is not enough.
We must strive to understand them as best we can.
We must take the opportunities to come to know each other.
Maybe then, the issues that may be a result more of an unconscious prejudice than a conscious one, will begin to be solved.