We’re all in this together
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day and in anticipation of Black History Month, I drove to Gustavus Adolphus College to attend a 90-minute conversation between Professor of Black English and African Studies, Phil Bryant, and our first Black Supreme Court Justice of Minnesota to attend. alan page. Christ Chapel on campus was packed with students, faculty and staff and campus visitors like me numbering in the thousands. Please trust my guess – I was Interim College Chaplain in this room at Gustavus from 2011-2013.
Of course, Page didn’t need to be introduced to most of the attendees. When I heard he was inducted into both the collegiate and pro football Halls of Fame, played in nine football pro bowls, and was elected to the Minnesota Supreme Court four times — once, the highest ever in an election voice received in Minnesota – raised everyone’s attention.
Raised in a predominantly white rural Kansas community, his parents instilled in him the idea that everyone is valuable, affirmed the importance of the Golden Rule, and treated everyone as you would like to be treated. His family was Baptist until his sisters converted to Catholicism, which he later did so that each could attend a parish school. Ultimately, that’s how he ended up on the football team at Notre Dame.
For many, a passion for sports is a way of bonding. He discovered his gift for playing the game much later and being aware of his skin color was just a part of his life, but it didn’t control his life. Live life the best you can and remember that racism rears its ugly head everywhere and things could be worse. For example, in his town there were no signs that said, “You must not drink from this fountain or use the restroom.”
He realized early on that getting involved or fulfilling his potential wasn’t about being “better than” to make the team, it was about learning how to do your “personal best”. Inequality is a part of the human condition that gets in the way of understanding that my worth is no less or no more than yours, creating tension between people for no apparent reason.
Page quoted Nelson Mandela who said, “Sport has the power to change the world.” He said this is because of the potential impact of the number of relationships that sport creates.
When Professor Bryant asked about the origin of the Minnesota Supreme Court Justice’s interest in law, he chuckled and confessed that it was because he had watched so many Perry Mason TV shows as a youth and realized that lawyers made big money and “big cars” drove.
Switched sides to discuss the decision between Brown and the Topeka board of education to end segregation of schools in his own state. The law’s power to solve problems appealed to him because practical problem-solving brought hope. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “People who have hope build society around them, but without hope they tend to tear it down.”
Judge Page received applause when he said with strong conviction, “There must be no subjectification of the other. As a people, we must learn not to separate ourselves from others in schools etc. We must find out!” He quoted Augustine and added: “An unjust law is no law at all.”
“Martin Luther King Jr. stood for nonviolent disobedience to bring about change. There is wonder and power in that, and everyone has that power,” Page said. “We have the ability to bring about change. We have made great strides since 1967, but we are in a period of regression. More feel free to express their prejudices with pride in their bigotry. That concerns me a lot.”
Quoting Sen. Paul Wellstone, Page said, “We’re all better when we’re all better!” He continued, “Are we willing to accept the fact that we are a part of each other? My being here makes me a part of each of you, and you are a part of me. Accept that we are all sitting in it together and that if I get up, you get up, and if you get up, I get up! Until we all have justice, none of us will have justice!”
Editor’s note: EPLN staff Pastor Rod Anderson is a member of the EPLN Board of Directors. Anderson is the former senior pastor of St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie. If you would like to contribute a faith-based column to EPLN, email [email protected]
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