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We need to come together as one to have the strength need to overcome our challenges

7-Eleven customer goes on racist rant against Hispanic clerk

Cellphone footage shows the moment when a woman goes on a racist rant against a Hispanic clerk inside a 7-Eleven in South Beach.
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Cellphone footage shows the moment when a woman goes on a racist rant against a Hispanic clerk inside a 7-Eleven in South Beach.

I recently visited Smiley’s Flea Market in south Bibb County for the first time in a very long time, and the experience was quite different than what I remember from previous visits there years ago. If you’ve never been there, Smiley’s is a very large indoor/outdoor flea market with small- to medium-sized vendors selling just about everything under the sun.

The place looked about the same as it did the last time I was there and there were large crowds of people shopping, plenty of noise, and lots of kids underfoot just like I remembered. The big difference I noticed was that most of the buyers and sellers there had darker skin than mine and most of them were speaking Spanish. The demographic shift we keep hearing about that is making America more ethnically diverse (less white, in other words) is plain to see on a typical Saturday afternoon at a place like Smiley’s.

I know that a lot of people in my demographic find that shift to be disturbing, and I know the unease that some white people feel over our increasingly swift journey to minority status is a big reason why Donald Trump won the last Presidential election. We’ve been a solid majority and in firm control of the levers of power in this country since it was founded, but change is clearly in the air.

For some reason I don’t find that change to be upsetting. Maybe it’s because I see change as being inevitable and not something to be feared, or maybe it’s because experience has showed me that no race is in any meaningful sense superior to any other race.

Whatever the reason, I realize that my viewpoint is not widely shared because for most people their sense of identity is closely tied to their membership in some kind of social group. And that sense of belonging tends to color how they view the world and the other people who inhabit it. Those who study human behavior call this aspect of human behavior “tribalism,” and it has played an important role in our survival as a species.

Early humans who banded together in tight units had a better chance to survive attacks from other animals and other groups of humans, and they were able to compete more effectively for the scarce resources needed to survive.

The problem is that our circumstances have changed dramatically from the days when we wandered around wearing animal skins, trying to take down mammoths to feed our tribe. We have subjugated the planet and everything that lives on it, and now we have become the greatest threat to our own survival.

We desperately need to work together as a species to confront things like climate change, pollution of our air and water, and overpopulation. We clearly are not doing a great job of that right now, and it seems to be getting worse instead of better.

If my argument isn’t persuasive enough for you, maybe a parable told by a Jewish carpenter a few thousand years ago will prove more compelling. Every Christian knows the story of the good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37) but so many fail to apply the lesson being taught – that we should consider everyone to be our “neighbor” and worthy of compassion – to how they live their lives and interact with people who are different than them.

It should be obvious by now that we have to share this world and our survival depends on whether or not we can overcome the instincts that drive us into conflict with people who don’t look like us or speak our language or go to the same church we do.

To steal a sentiment from the movie “Black Panther,” all of humanity needs to start thinking of itself as one big tribe. Our fates are all intertwined, and building walls around our country won’t protect us from the consequences of turning our shared home into overcrowded, badly-polluted, carbon-saturated planet.

Bill Ferguson is a resident of Warner Robins. Readers can write him at fergcolumn@hotmail.com.