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Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald syndicated columnist whose opinions I highly value, has raised again the specter of America’s racial divide in his column titled Much more than miles separate us. Postulating that the reason for President Obama’s failure to sell his healthcare reform to the 50 million Americans who didn’t cast their vote his way last November (plus a percentage of the other 50 million who did) is based solely on the fact of whites versus blacks, simply raises the question of how other countries have faced this same dilemma in the past.

As one who was raised in England during the postwar years of unprecedented immigration into the British Isles from former colonies, I can categorically state that though not without its attendant problems, the assimilation of not only blacks into a predominantly WASP’ish society, but Pakistani, Indian, various Caribbean nationalities, Turks, Greeks, Italians, Polish, Russians, Germans, (the proverbial Uncle Tom Cobley and all) plus having to “get on” with the always rambunctious Celts, Welsh, Scots and Irish, was no mean feat during the years from 1950-68. All you need to know is that it happened, and when you visit the British Isles today some 50-plus years after these events, you experience all these different-hued peoples coming together as “Brits” speaking dialectically in the language of not only their adopted country, but also of their county and region of choice.

One of the benefits to me personally of growing up during this particular period was befriending a ton of neighborhood kids from all corners of the globe, which eventually led to me living in Jamaica in the mid-60s as a teacher at Kingston Tech. The first member of staff who welcomed me and became my immediate friend and mentor was Marcus Garvey Jr., and if you don’t know who Marcus Sr. was, then just Google and educate yourself. Sitting for hours with Junior and listening to stories about his father and what he did to further the cause of black people was really an education to me. But it also taught me that there are always people around you who desire more to further their own agendas than those of the populace. Marcus Sr. had a lot of enemies, mostly from within his own ranks.

I learned early on in my young life why these very diverse people had assimilated themselves into the British lifestyle so quickly and almost seamlessly. There was no National Association for the Advancement of Colored Pakistanis; no NAACI (colored Indians); nor a NAACWI (colored West Indians); nor an association for Turks, Greeks, Italians, Polish, Russians or Germans; quite frankly, we already had enough going on relationally with our very own countrymen that had been raging for some 500-plus years, and we’re only talking Ireland and Scotland here!

On another front, one of Britain’s greatest unsung heroes is a gentleman by the name of William Wilberforce. Again, if you don’t know who he is then Google and find out or better yet, rent the movie Amazing Grace and weep your heart out. John Newton who wrote the hymn of the same title, was a former slave trader who repented, became a pastor and helped Wilberforce eliminate the slave trade by the passage of the Slave Trade Act of 1807, and the Slavery Abolition Act of 1837. It took Wilberforce 45 YEARS to eliminate the slave trade. It’s about time (going on 180 years later) for the current edition of NAACP/ACORN and their ilk to just go home and become AMERICANS. And that’s zero miles (last time I checked anyway.)