The Race Project: Jim Buchy and Carl Ruby
The Race Project shares a conversation between two white men, Jim Buchy and Carl Ruby, who talk about their experiences surrounding race and their opinions on immigration.
(Editors Note: The views expressed in The Race Project do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the staff, management and employees of 91.3 WYSO FM and Miami Vally Public Media, Inc.)
Jim Buchy: I'm Jim Buchy. I'm a native of Greenville, Ohio. I'm white. I served 12 terms total in the Ohio House of Representatives. I was assistant director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture. And I eat, sleep and drink agriculture. I'm so passionate about agriculture. My big passion right now is agriculture education, 4-H and FFA. And I've working with Central State University. I'm working in cities establishing 4-H and FFA in schools and creating clubs and working with good local people to see what we can do to educate our children so they can become productive and successful in their lives. And AG education is a big vehicle to get there.
'You're into immigration. I'm into immigration, too. I'm into legal immigration. They're not forcing people to come in here.'
Carl Ruby: My name is Carl Ruby and I'm the pastor at the Central Christian Church up in Springfield, Ohio. Before I became a pastor, I had a 30 year career in higher education, and my wife and I live not too far away, just the other side of Clifton, Ohio. I've been white my whole life. Jim, when you started your career as a politician were things as racially polarized as they are now?
Jim: They might have been, but they weren't as publicized as much as they are now. I mean, it was an unspoken thing we have in the last five years or whatever where we're using race as. A justification for keeping the pot stirred. America is a good country. There's no better country in the world, and if you don't think so. Why have we had two million illegal aliens run into this country?
Carl: As a pastor, it's interesting because when you speak to this topic, it shapes your congregation. Some people will believe when you address this topic, and I've had people leave the church that I pastor because I talk about immigration too much.
Jim: You're into immigration. I'm into immigration, too. I'm into legal immigration. They're not forcing people to come in here. People are coming here because they want to live in this country because it is a good country.
Carl: I think what a lot of people don't understand is like, like an Ellis Island, like 95 percent of the people who showed up were approved. They were asked, I think it was 29 questions and the whole process unfolded in three or four hours. Now, like with folks from Mexico who want to come up, there's as much as a 15 or a 25 year waiting list to get through the legal process. I became involved in advocating for immigration reform as a result of a program that I was involved with at Seton Hall University. We used to put 40 students on a bus and tour the life of Martin Luther King, and we had ridden this bus with the students. We ended up at the 16th Street, 16th Avenue Baptist Church, where four young girls were killed in a bombing and talk to one of their Sunday school teachers who had been in the church that day. And right after that, we went across the street to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and made my way through the museum. And I found myself in front of a mockup of the jail cell that King was in when he wrote a letter from Birmingham Jail.
That was a life changing experience for me as it relates to race because I had a Ph.D. in higher education at the time. I don't think I had ever attentively read King's letter from Birmingham Jail. Probably assigned a time or two, but I don't, I didn't recall ever reading it. I thought it was going to be like a political manifesto. I was shocked to find out that it was just a passionate letter to pastors like me saying, "Why aren't you? Why aren't you standing with us?" And that's part of why I got involved in immigration reform is I ask myself, Are there other issues of race where I'm not? I'm like those pastors in Birmingham, where I'm not using the influence I have, and that that really changed the course of my life in thinking about race and in thinking about immigration.
Jim: Do you feel your relationship with God makes you better equipped to handle all that is going on within society concerning race?
Carl: I'm facing that as a pastor, reckoning with the history of the church and the history of Christianity. They would actually they would actually plant a lynchings in the south around the train schedule so that people could get to the lynching when the church service ended. I feel like, it's important to people of color we acknowledge the harm that has been done and recognize their experience as Americans is different than ours. I'm curious, what do you recall your first interaction, your earliest interaction with a person of a different race?
Jim: Probably when I was manager of the high school basketball team when we played Dayton Dunbar at Dunbar. It was friendly, it was fun. I mean, we got we got our tails kicked. Dunbar just beat the tar out of us. But the kids were so much fun and I really enjoyed that visit. And so, you know, while we're debating the subject and while we have a big race discussion where everybody's focused on race, the fact is, by and large, America is a good country. People are good here. They're good everywhere. So let's take that goodness and expand it so that we're better. I look at diversity. Look, when I meet somebody that's different than I am, first thing I want to do is, "What can I do to get some common ground so we can become friends?"
'They dressed up as members of KKK and took him to a remote part of campus and and just left him there.'
Carl: I grew up on a farm in Michigan and my parents were low income farm managers. We ran a farm for a wealthy family and they would send their kids out to the farm for the summer and they would send their maid and her family. And she was a Black woman named Mattie, became like a family member, is like a second mom to me. That's where my my earliest experiences with race were on the farm, with the maid of a family that employed my parents. And I can't think of anyone of a different skin color in my high school or certainly wasn't in my church. And then I got to Cedarville [University] and my freshman roommate was a Black guy from Philadelphia.
So that was kind of my next. That was my next kind of defining experience with race, and a lot of it was was seeing it through his eyes. You know, he had a group of guys come in. One time, a group of students thought they would would play a prank on him. They dressed up as members of KKK and took him to a remote part of campus and and just left him there. They thought it was funny. It's just to me, shocking that things like that could happen on a Christian campus. There are so many, you know, horrible stories that have come out in the media of black people suffering at the hands of police. Do you think like the situation with George Floyd? Could that have happened in a community like Greenville?
Jim: Could it? Yes. Would it? No. Police or police in Greenville, the toughest people. Police are tough on our drug dealers and they don't care. You know, police don't care who the drug dealer is. They're going to go after you. Something like what George Floyd encountered, I can't ever see anything like that happening in Darke County. I'm always hopeful because I believe that goodness will reign. But there's a lot of people who don't want what you and I want. Don't kid yourself when you have freedom and it's taken away from you. It's tough.
The culture we have in this country right now is in a war, and the war is, "Are we going to become the Church of the Government or the Church of Jesus?" Now we didn't get to where we are today. Because of a natural progression. This is an upheaval where racism is being used as the justification for changing this country.
Carl: Jim, it's been great getting to know you and I can appreciate all you've done to make Ohio a better place.
Jim: You have a faith in our Lord and Savior. I have faith in Lord and Savior. And then in the end, we win. That's right. It's my privilege to know you passed. Likewise.
The Race Project is produced by Basim Blunt at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices. This conversation was edited by Community Voices producer David Seitz.