I read a fascinating article this week, “How to Recognize Evil.” While the key to recognizing evil took only four words, the rest of the article was riveting reading. Basically, “Love unites. Evil divides.” It’s that simple. I spent most of the day mulling that over, and I realized it is right. Evil divides.* Ghettoes. Apartheid. “Separate but equal.” Colored waiting rooms, drinking fountains, restrooms, etc., etc., etc. The back of the bus. Special education. Wheelchair seating areas.
When I was nine, I was identified as gifted and put into what was called the “HAP” program, High Academic Potential. Once a week we were called out of our classroom and placed with a special teacher for enrichment activities. All I knew was that somehow I was different, and I didn’t like being different. I didn’t like being being noticed, pulled out of class, having the other kids wonder what was wrong with me.
Now I tutor first and second graders who need extra help with reading and math, but I do it in the classroom. All the children know me, and I actually work with all of them at times, when the aide is absent, or a parent volunteer doesn’t show up, so there isn’t much of a stigma attached to it. Everyone seems to like spending time with Miss Diane. But some of my students are also pulled out to the Learning Lab. They don’t seem to like leaving class.
I don’t want to suggest that the special education process is inherently evil, but how we separate students into “special” groups might be. The school where I volunteer has a group of students with severe developmental delays. They are kept separate from the rest of the student body, never interacting with the other children. Is this considered mainstreaming? I don’t pretend to have any answers, but how will our children begin to know each other if they are kept apart in school?
Overt segregation by race is now considered unthinkable by most people, at least in public. There is no more “back of the bus.” But wheelchair seating is a ghetto of its own in most public facilities, a single area hollowed out of an auditorium, or the back row of a church, or the very front of a bus. I realize this is probably cost-effective, or requires the least amount of work, but does it really integrate the wheelchair or walker user into the rest of society?
It’s funny, because I really don’t think of myself as disabled, or a wheelchair user, until something reminds me of that fact. I’m just me. I forget to mention that fact to people, and sometimes they’re surprised when I show up, and sometimes I can’t get in a building, or find a place to sit, or I have to provide my own transportation to go somewhere with a group. But I guess I just think the world should be open and accessible to everyone. God unites.
“But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” 1 Corinthians 6:17
Dear Lord, Help us remember that in your kingdom it is not “us” against “them,” it is only “we.” Help us to be inclusive, not exclusive, in all we think, say, and do. Let us work to build a world that welcomes everyone, for we are all made in your image. Amen.