Without going into how vehemently she disagreed with my simple use of a chamber of commerce award ("minority business of the year") to point toward a larger issue, she wanted two things — to tell me how off-base I was chastising the chamber of commerce, which wasn't the point in the first place, but my points often get lost in the woods of my writing, and to challenge me to address inequalities that shut out "majority" people.

A friend whose opinion I value cornered me the other day to take exception to a recent column.

Without going into how vehemently she disagreed with my simple use of a chamber of commerce award (“minority business of the year”) to point toward a larger issue, she wanted two things — to tell me how off-base I was chastising the chamber of commerce, which wasn’t the point in the first place, but my points often get lost in the woods of my writing, and to challenge me to address inequalities that shut out “majority” people.

I’ll leave the first point alone and address the second, which has more than a bit of truth to it.

Before getting into this subject — it’s not gonna be comfortable, and there are many on both sides who will disagree with the premise. But we’re living in the 21st century, we should be able to talk about these things without pointing fingers and resurrecting old wounds, injustices and imperfections in our wonderful yet tainted history.

So, here goes: If we’re gonna say that we are past the time to single out a “minority business of the year,” then we are past the time when there is a need for a “black” beauty pageant or a college fund that only supplies scholarships to students of a certain skin color or any other exclusionary organization or event.

In other words, have we antiquated the NAACP?

Don’t read into those words the notion that all Americans have an equal shot at The Dream. We don’t. Increasingly, though, that has less to do with skin color and more to do with socioeconomics. We desperately need to work on the latter. The former is and will continue to take care of itself.

What we can control is whether we continue to segregate ourselves into groups, rather than aggregating into the larger association that we’ve been working on for two centuries, America.

This segregation isn’t a new concept. At times, it has been one of necessity, or at least choice. The Irish workers stuck together. The Italians kept to themselves (and their sauces). More than a few cities have a “Little China” section.

Today, we see the Hispanic community pretty much keeping to itself. In part, that is because some “white” Americans have not welcomed them with open arms. Of course, illegal immigration plays a part in this conversation, and that’s an issue our federal lawmakers will eventually deal with. Maybe.

Obviously, even today we have various “ethnic” and “minority” groups outside the mainstream of “American” society and “culture,” whatever the American culture is.

How will that ever change?

Outreach from all sides.

If we want one nation, instead of a polyglot of sub-groups, we must all come together to form that single, more perfect union. Union. Such a simple and profound word.

We are a long way from there, and an example from my hometown brings home the point.

Growing up in a small town in northeast Arkansas, the vast majority of residents were “white.” The “black community” almost exclusively lived in one neighborhood on one side of the railroad tracks. It’s that way today, two decades later.

In this instance, the socioeconomics of the region are the largest determining factor of this de-facto segregation. But I wonder: Were these living arrangements a choice long ago? Were they the result of societal pressures?

I didn’t ask while I was growing up.

I should do more than ask now. If I don’t, I’m failing to do my part to not only bring us together but to put an end to this us vs. them mentality that continues to permeate and stifle America.

• • •

Rick Fahr is publisher of the Log Cabin Democrat in Conway. His e-mail is rick.fahr@thecabin.net.