Living and Giving

The Best Way to Reverse Hatred- Learn from Civil Rights Leader Bettie B. Thompson

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\”I have put aside the concept that people are not all in one accord. We have to learn how to reverse hatred by focusing on Love itself.\” What a beautiful quote by Bettie B. Thompson.  Read on about how to love your way through seeming discrimination, and triumph! We can all apply this today. \"Ralph When I discovered that Christian Science practitioner and teacher Bettie Thompson is a black woman who witnessed the civil rights movement, immediately I knew I had to interview her for the Journal. When I first called and told her I wanted to speak with her about civil rights, she gave a vivacious, spirited reply: “My friend, I’ve been around a long time. I can tell you all about civil rights.” A few weeks later, I met with Bettie in her home in the southeast neighborhood of Washington, DC. I quickly learned that she is iconic in the history of African Americans…her honest observations about that history intrigued, inspired, and, in some cases, amazed me. Bettie, you’ve lived through some turbulent times in the United States. I’d like to start our conversation by asking how you think about the civil rights era today. Yes, I’ve been on this planet for more than nine decades. It’s interesting, when you’ve grown up in a situation and watched the movements and events over the years, you are able to look back and see the difference of how things are now compared with the way they were then. A lot of people—because I’ve been here so long—look at me and say they’re looking at history. I’ll tell you one story. My husband and I were two of four blacks who helped integrate the University of Oklahoma in the early 1950s. We also helped integrate some of the local facilities, restaurants, and theaters. We had bonded with a Jewish couple, and one night this couple went to the movie theater and purchased tickets for us four blacks. We went into the theater, and we went all the way down and sat two rows from the front. About half an hour later, the ticket seller must have remembered that he’d seen four blacks go down there, because he came with his flashlight and found where we were sitting. He said, “I’m sorry, but you’re not supposed to be here. You’ll have to leave.” My husband replied, “We’re enjoying the movie, and all is well.” This colloquy went on for a little while, but rather than create a disturbance, we left. But we continued to negotiate with the owners of the facility over a period of several months, and finally we did get the agreement that integration could take place. Now, I think about those days compared to today. Today, we have some of the greatest football stars who look like me, who are or were at the University of Oklahoma. Those guys, they don’t know me—they don’t even know I exist—but you see, I know the then compared to the now. \"imgres\" It must have taken great courage to integrate that school and theater and live through that time. What spiritual lessons did you learn to help you deal with racism? Over the years I learned to embrace what the Bible says, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39). That’s one of the two commandments Christ Jesus encouraged us to live by. He taught us to love, and Mary Baker Eddy tells us we have no enemies (see Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, pp. 8–13). I have learned to put aside the concept that sometimes people are not all in one accord. We have to learn how to reverse hatred by focusing our thoughts on God, who is Love itself. And we must love not only in thought, but also in our lives. We have to go out of our way to show love, to do things for people, smile, go to the store for someone—to demonstrate our affection, brotherhood, and love of one another. We all belong to the same brotherhood and sisterhood. We might look different, we might talk different, but we all come from the one God. Today, I think we’re getting to a place in humanity’s history where we’re understanding more—that we are all one people, regardless of the color of our skin…. I’m sure a lot of people have heard the expression originally spoken by Martin Luther King, Jr., “It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is 11 o’clock on Sunday morning.” If we truly embraced love, wouldn’t we invite people of other races to our churches? The only way we’re going to have a greater brotherhood and sisterhood is if we truly come together, and not be separated. \"imgres\" As long as you are over there, and I’m over here, then you don’t know me, and I don’t know you. We may talk a good game about love, but can we come together and really interact? Can I go to your house, and can we eat dinner together? Can I cook for you, and you cook for me? You know, all of those little things we do for one another are really facets of divine Love. If we can’t do those things, if we can’t truly accept everyone else, then we are limiting ourselves. There is so much to be learned by interacting with people of different races and backgrounds. As we concentrate on spiritual truths, we discover we no longer have a conflict. We finally realize we have moved from a stage of limitation to one of unlimited, boundless goodness… Therefore, as time goes on, the fact is, we are delivered—we are no longer in bondage. We have become emancipated. \"imgres\" Getting beyond segregated Sundays Bettie B. Thompson interviewed by the Journal’s Roger Gordon From the August 2013 issue of The Christian Science Journal