Hope in the Midst of Prejudice This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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About ten years ago my dad was pastor in a church near Charleston. Two centuries ago,this was a prominent area in the slave industry, and after the Civil War, many harbored hateful attitudes toward blacks. Families passed down this legacy of prejudice, some into the 1990s.

After my father had been at this church for six months, one of the deacons asked him for a favor. Every year the town,mainly the church, held a youth baseball league and the deacon wanted my dad to announce the beginning of the season to the congregation and have my older brother play on a team. My father initially accepted the invitation but wanted to know more. He asked the deacon how the church had advertised the league and was told that the church did nothing else to publicize the program. Dad thought this a bit strange. Didn't the congregation want as many kids as possible to show up?

When my dad investigated this puzzling question, he didn't like what he found. They weren't advertising because they didn't want the whole town to participate, especially the black families. This made my dad reconsider making the announcement to the church. He talked to my mom and prayed very hard for many days. Finally my father decided he would make the announcement and allow my brother to play. Although he didn't want to do this, my father knew that if he didn't, someone else would, and they'd twist it so he would look like a bad guy.There was one condition, though: If my father found out any black family who signed up their child to play was rejected, my brother would not play. Although he never found any proof of this, my father had a feeling it had happened.

Daddy knew he couldn't change the league, so he decided instead to start a soccer team and advertise it clearly as a "for-everyone"event. He invited many families, black and white, to sign up their kids, and his hard work paid off. About 80 kids showed up for the first practice, half black and half white. Our entire family rejoiced at the large turnout, but soon something strange began to happen. Week by week the number of players declined.By the fourth practice, not enough showed up to even resemble a team. My dad,upset and determined, searched for answers. Then he remembered the first week seeing someone park near the field to watch the practice. The man looked like the cousin of the deacon, and did not appear very happy about the new interracial soccer team.

My dad discovered that the parents of some of the soccer players had been strongly "encouraged" by their supervisors at work to remove their children from the team, or suffer major consequences. It just so happened that the two cousins - and many of their relatives - were prominent members in the community and supervisors at a major employer in the area.

Although the men essentially destroyed my father's soccer team, they did not stop there. At a business meeting one Sunday night, one stood up and suggested to the church that they ask my father to resign. Fortunately the congregation kept their heads; they had no reason to fire my father. But after a series of debates and question-and-answer sessions, the congregation became split almost in half. Hateful feuds and debates broke out. The arguments became so violent that finally the deacons regretfully asked my father to resign. He told them he would not; he had done nothing wrong or ungodly. If they could find any evidence that he had, he would leave. Finding no evidence, of course, the feuds within the church continued.

Eventually, though, they obtained just enough votes to fire my dad. Fortunately my mom got a teaching offer elsewhere at the same time, so we packed our bags and left.

Our family still looks back with pain at what happened ten years ago. We wince when we remember friendships broken by hate. But we have hope that somehow, in some way, our family has begun the breakdown of prejudice that governs the lives of so many people.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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