Can’t we all just get along?

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist

Last week I received a call from a local resident saying they would like to see an editorial in The Times-Gazette about the disproportionate percentage of crimes committed by minorities.

Now, I do not know if the caller was talking about crimes committed locally or on the state or national level. But, my first thought was that the vast majority of the people I see in the local court system are white. And secondly, why would we want to do that? Why would we want to throw more fuel on a fire that’s already raging?

What we really need, I thought, is just the opposite – a column encouraging people to put their put differences aside and learn how to get along.

“Can we… can we all get along? Can we stop making it horrible for the older people and the kids?” the late Rodney King once asked.

I would like to say that I don’t have a prejudiced bone in my body, but that’s not completely true. “If you aren’t,” one of my brothers has often asked while we watched basketball games and converse, “why do you always root for the little white guys?”

Most of us are prejudiced to some degree. It’s why Americans generally root for the United States when they watch the Olympics, or why people from Hillsboro usually root for the Indians rather than some other team.

That’s not always the case, but more often than not, it is.

I guess what I should say – maybe what we all should say – is that I don’t want to be prejudiced, and I’m trying every day to be less that way.

Because really, are we all that different?

Just over a year ago my boss and I were working on a story about the “Marching Mothers of Hillsboro,” who in the 1950s fought for their children’s rights to attend school with white students in Hillsboro. For those who are unaware, last year marked the 60th anniversary since Hillsboro became the last school district in Ohio to integrate its elementary school in 1956, and only after being ordered to do so by the nation’s highest court.

Part of my assignment for the story was to talk to Jim “Dandy” and Eleanor (Curtis) Cumberland. Eleanor’s mother, Imogene (Burns) Curtis, was one of the “Marching Mothers.” So one morning I visited the Cumberlands’ home.

We discussed the subject at hand for a while, but the more we talked, the more the conversation drifted. We talked about Jim playing ball with my dad in their younger days, about our common passion for athletics, about our shared dislike of our children and grandchildren’s overuse of cell phones, and about our families.

Before long I looked at a clock and realized we’d been talking for almost two hours. If I had not had to get back to work, I’m pretty sure we could have talked the day away. We had that much in common, and the Cumberlands made me feel more than welcome and comfortable.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, the Cumberlands are black, and I am white. Yes, the color of our skin is different, but most of the differences end there. What I found out that day at the Cumberlands’ home is that the basic values inside us, those things we hold most dear, are pretty much the same.

I have struggled with exactly what I want to say in this column. But basically it is this – I am not interested in writing a column about some minority committing more crimes than someone else. I am not interested in driving the wedge that divides races any deeper than it already is.

I am interested in learning to understand the other side and finding ways to overcome those issues that drive us apart.

Or, more accurately, can’t we all just get along?

Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.

Jeff Gilliland Staff columnist Gilliland Staff columnist