"Are you black?” This was the first question I was asked by a Lutheran faculty member as I made queries about an academic position at Newberry [S.C.] College. The individual subsequently apologized. It was 1968—and the country was on fire, literally and figuratively, after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Now 40 years later race is an issue once again in our current political climate.
I’d been working in the inner city of Akron, Ohio. The tension in South Carolina as my family and I trekked south was almost palpable. In February of that year the Orangeburg Massacre had occurred where black students were killed and wounded. The legacy of fear, suspicion and false stereotypes was once again introduced to my life. I’d known that as a second-generation German American who had family members on both sides in World War II.
A 1942 order by President Franklin D. Roosevelt had exiled thousands of Japanese, Italians and German Americans to camps in Texas and other Western states. Subsequent study commissions under the Carter and Ford administrations labeled these wartime actions as unjust.
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