As the editor, and one of 25 authors for Speaking Out: Gifts of Ministering Undeterred by Disabilities, I feel called to reply to Lynda R. Byrd’s recent Letter to the Editor (Reporter, Jan. 18). It saddens me that she thought I said being black is an African-American person’s disability.
In January 1970, as part of a group of all-white, all-male ministers attending a Saint Paul School of Theology renewal seminar, I had the fine opportunity to meet with the Kansas City Black Panthers. Their leader told us that being black was not a choice, but a reality by conception, and for them that was not a problem. Instead, he rightly declared, the white culture in our nation had made it a white cultural problem through prejudice leading to discrimination, and that we white people must erase it. Inescapably, the “problem” is not with those against whom there is prejudice and discrimination; the problem is with those who do the discriminating.
As told in Speaking Out, that key witness to prejudice and discrimination was the “light bulb moment” in that I realized that the prejudices and discriminations against me from childhood into adulthood due to my deafness and blindness were not my problem; however, they were a problem for those public school teachers, classmates, district superintendents, bishops and others who judged me not by my abilities, but by my deafness and blindness.
In the names of Jesus and John Wesley, I call on all of us to heed the light bulb moment, and eliminate every prejudice leading to discrimination against anyone’s race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age or disability, because all of us as God’s children are each other’s brother or sister, undeterred by our many differences.
Rev. Robert L. Walker, D.Min.
Retired minister, Pacific Northwest Conference
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