I recently attended the funeral services for a 25 year-old marine (I’ll call him Bryan) killed in a non-military related accident while at home. His father and I are friends. This was a young man who left behind a wife and two small children. At the funeral home on the evening of the visitation, I noticed a group of young men approximately the same age as Bryan. Through conversations with others, I learned what I had already suspected, that these young men had served in the marines with Bryan. I have attended more than my share of funeral services, and this was perhaps the most attended visitation I have yet experienced. Out of what was a very large crowd, what caught my eye about this small group of young men was the manner in which they conducted themselves.
At the military graveside service the following morning, it was this same group of young men who drew my attention. Once again, I was impressed with the manner in which they carried themselves. I do not mean to imply that they were simply well-behaved, nice, or not causing a scene. No, it was much more than that. These young men had a perceptible presence about them…confident, capable, respectful, exuding strength and honor, humility, yet hurting over the loss of their fallen friend and soldier.
What I have not yet mentioned is that Bryan was “white”, while some of these other young men were not. During the graveside service, I noticed one of the young black soldiers with tears running down his face. I also noticed that his tears were the same color as mine. Beneath his darker skin, his hurt and grief was just as real as any of the other family and friends in attendance
After the service, I made my way to this young black man, tears still drying on his cheeks, and thanked him for his service to our country. I also told him that I noticed how he had carried and conducted himself over the past two days, and that it was young men like him who gave me hope for the future of our country. And when a young black man can make a lasting impression on a 49 year-old white man from East Tennessee, I believe it is a sign that we are making progress.
Do not be deceived by a media who continues to portray the actions of a few misguided fools as though it were the norm in America. Allow your personal experience to outweigh what is continually displayed to you via news outlets and social media. I have lived and traveled all across this country, and I do not believe racism is the norm. We are better than that. We are smarter than that. We have more examples of black people and white people loving one another than the media can possibly counter, even with their endless propaganda to the contrary. I watched this young black soldier honoring and saying goodbye, not to his fallen “white” brother, but simply, his brother. And that is the flip side of the racism coin that has been mass produced and handed to you.