How could anybody know what it is like to be anybody else, let alone what it might be like for an entire race of people living in America today. There has been prejudice since the beginning of time, whether it is against the skin color of people, an attitude toward women, an unfair predisposition shown against those that are taller, or shorter, or fatter, or skinnier than we are, homely people (defined against what standard?) or even against people with tattoos. In fact, the Jewish nation has been persecuted by much of the world from the beginning of time.
People that are handicapped physically live in a world that I cannot comprehend, and those who have a mental disorder of any kind scare so many of us. There is cruelty shown toward autistic kids and their families, and avoidance of down syndrome (by the way, some of the most loving of all of God’s creations) people occurs on a daily basis.
It seems that so many humans want to have superiority over someone else, and if we are not smarter, or better looking, or more successful as the next guy or gal, we tend to go through life thinking we at least have the edge because we are a certain color or race…as though we had anything to do with our color or our circumstances of birth. Having been to a number of other countries in my life, I do believe that I was blessed to be born in the United States. I was born in poverty, but I didn’t know it. I was too busy “doing”. I had basketballs to swish through ragged netted rims, broken bats with taped handles hitting worn out baseballs, and played tackle football with no padding. I did not know from whites to blacks to Asians to Mexicans. I knew runs scored, touchdowns, the swish of a basketball through a net at 15 feet, and the great feeling of running and winning the mile event on my high school track team.
As a kid growing up in a small town that was “blackless”, how could I know anything about a culture other than my own? There was the one transfer negro while in high school, but he seemed like anyone else to us as kids, so no, I did not know then what it was like to be black in America. I did meet, and live with, and sweat to the point of exhaustion with people of every race and creed when I joined the Army. For me, there was no time to discover prejudice or bias as a young recruit. From being a new recruit to 21 months in Vietnam after training, I learned that color did not matter to me. We all had blood running through our veins, and until our wounds caused the blood to flow, it was soon discovered that we all had red blood. We all faced the same heat, the rain, the mosquitoes, the enemy, the loneliness, the uniform. We all lost best buddies…some white, some black, some Vietnamese and on and on. We all believed in the same God; at least those who believed in something greater than man.
A question was presented to me the other day that sort of set me back a step. I was told by one of our counselors that more than one African American visitor to the cemetery over Memorial Weekend wondered why there were no black people in our newsletter which made them question if black people are welcome at Calumet Park Cemetery. I had to take off my rose-colored glasses and face a reality that I had not considered. Are black people welcome at Calumet Park? Yes, a hundred times seventy. Why would they not be?
Calumet Park does not see color. There was a time, many, many years ago that the most of the nation experienced segregation. It was not just in the south, and it was not just up to the time of the Civil War. It would be but mere speculation as to how people were treated way back in 1928 when this cemetery was founded. I cannot answer to any of the bigotry and bias and prejudice that went before. What I can speak to is today…the here and now. Calumet Park welcomes every race, creed, color, and whatever word used to compartmentalize individuals and meant to perpetuate hatred and superiority of one group over another. We are all children of God, and regardless of how our fellow man has looked at us or treated us throughout our lifetime, Calumet Park believes that all have the right to take solace in a beautiful final resting place as our spirits leave this earth.
Calumet Park would like to communicate a clear message to all of the residents of Indiana and beyond of our concept of true equality. We see the common denominator every day when a child or parent, brother or sister, aunt, uncle or friend dies. The pain is overwhelming and the despair that overtakes us when we have such a loss knows no color, no religion, no prejudice. The pain is universal, and the goal of the staff of Calumet Park Cemetery, Calumet Park Funeral Chapel and Rendina Funeral Home is to offer whatever little relief that we can while ministering to broken hearts. If we can ease just a little of a person’s troubled heart by helping with respectful cemetery and funeral arrangements, if we can guide you at the caring hands of our funeral directors and staff, if we can give you a beautiful and safe final resting place…white, black, yellow or green…
Calumet Park’s purpose today is the same as it was 87 years ago. That purpose: give every person, regardless of economic, social or ethnic background, a safe, tranquil and beautiful place to place a flower on those special days…or to simply remember and be remembered.