The issue of race in this nation will always be a source of conflict and controversy. The simple fact is we are divided by race more so than by religion, geography, economics or any other single issue. Granted, progress has been made and is being made daily. But the dream that Dr. Martin Luther King outlined 40 years ago remains a goal and not yet a reality.
Here, however, is one instance that disturbs me greatly. It centers on remarks that New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin spoke Monday in celebration of the King holiday. Were Nagin white and making these comments, he would be held to great public scorn and removed from office. Instead, not one single word has been spoken or written concerning his King address.
Nagin said: "This city (New Orleans) will be a majority African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be. You can't have New Orleans no other way. It wouldn't be New Orleans."
God wants New Orleans to be a majority black city?
Now just for a minute, picture with me if you will those comments coming from the mouth of a white mayor of a major predominately white urban center in our country. Had a white mayor said God wants his city to be predominately white, can you imagine the uproar? That mayor would be out of office today and blasted for his bigoted and racist comments.
But Nagin and other African-American leaders get a free pass. Why is that?
There is abundant discussion among social scientists over the concentration of population by race and economic status. Without exception, all of those experts - both black and white - condemn the policy of grouping people by race or economics. Yet Nagin and other black leaders speak just the opposite. They are segregationists by definition.
Perhaps Nagin misspoke on Monday. What he may have meant is that he yearns for the return of New Orleans to the pre-Katrina days. That city has long had a majority black population and, in many ways, has thrived and prospered. But that's not what Nagin said and it makes you wonder if that's what he felt.
There is clearly a double-standard on the issue of race in our nation. But be careful how you view that double-standard. There are leaders on both sides of the racial debate who want to expand the divide that exists. The national news media is quick to point out identical comments by white leaders but strangely silent when the words come out of the mouth of a black leader.
Sikeston has always been a majority white community. Does God want it that way? Maybe we need to ask New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. He seems to hear voices that the rest of us don't.