“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
For the first time in a long time I actually went into a church service this morning. You see, I regularly attend a local church but rarely go in because I’m in a period of deconstruction/reconstruction and hearing more sermons simply adds to what I am deconstructing and I can only take so much at a time. Something called me in and I caught the last half of music, then was able to hear what my pastor had to say. My Pastor, Pastor Ryan, talked about the current state of our world in relation to Love. It was appropriate and very well crafted. He presented a different take on the “Love Chapter” in 1 Corinthians. Ryan spoke of great things and made some very good points about Christians but one thing struck me in deep within my spirit.
- He said “Love Endures”.
I want to take a moment and address a few things that my heart has been battling since he said “Love Endures.” this morning.
It’s hard to talk about LOVE when there is an Elephant standing on your chest. So, let’s address the elephant in the room, if you will.
I would venture to guess that you, like myself, were taught that these people are black, and these people are white and these people are this or that. Or perhaps it was that you are black or you are white. As you read this post, please keep in mind that our character is deeper than the color of our skin. You see, I was taught race. And I was fortunate enough to have solid parents that were welcoming and loving of people of all skin colors. I also had relatives that were completely racist, so I saw the range of possible perspectives. There were also times that people in my life claimed to not be racist but said those things that kids probably don’t understand is racist but once you get older and you think back about it, you realize… Holy shit that was pretty terrible. You know what I’m talking about?
Whether you live in a different world than I do, and I hate this as I type it but I hope you are realizing that racism is alive and well. For most of the white people I know, there is a denial of this. There is a denial of racism because it doesn’t reach them. So, why is this the case? Why do my white brothers and sisters not realize this?
Well to be honest, because it’s too damn convenient to deny it. I mean let’s be honest white people, denying the fact that our system is set up improperly is a quick and easy out. If you don’t inspect the system when you’re on top, you don’t have any danger of going to the bottom.
There was a study done a few years ago in which 6% of white people thought racial discrimination was a national problem. There was a separate study done and 12% of white people in that poll think that Elvis might still be alive.
Think about this. White americans are twice as likely to think that Elvis is still alive than they are to believe the stories people of color have lived through involving racial discrimination. They have experienced discrimination first hand and yet we don’t believe them. Perhaps you don’t buy in to polls or studies but listen to the stories. They are real. These stories are made of flesh and blood. We have to stop this denial.
The more I’ve read and studied and observed our America, the America I love and I’m raising my children in, I’m realizing that many of us are taking part in a system in which racism flourishes.
Let’s get a few things straight and stop using the exhausted excuse that I’m personally tired of hearing, “It was 200 years ago. I shouldn’t have to apologize for what happened in history”. That’s a piss poor excuse and you’re being a dick.
We live in a pretty amazing time and country but make no mistake, our nation was built on racism. It was built on genocide – ask your Native American friends about their history not written in textbooks. It was built on slavery. Racism is woven in the fabric of this nation but it’s easy to forget because just we supposedly live in a post racial society. The law had to be changed because in the beginning Black people were only seen as 3/5 human. By the way, who the hell did that math?! “Well I guess these people are about 60% human. Let’s make it sound better by writing 3/5.” Don’t forget this recent history. I know this isn’t a popular thing to bring up but this is the reality.
We often confuse Racism with Prejudice. Racism is a structural problem that controls the lives of others. We all have prejudices. Prejudice is the fact that I don’t like Gin. I prefer Bourbon. Gin is not something I like. That is a prejudice. Racism is structural. It can control people. Now if I have a position of power and I enact my prejudices upon someone, this is racism. Our nation is set up to put white people in a position of power. Look around. Observe.
White people have more due to the system. Study how we received land in the history of our nation. Black people and white people don’t start at the same point. If the statistics are correct, there are 2 to 3 million people of color targeted for race based housing discrimination, then that means there are 2 to 3 million more places I can live than black people. If there are people being profiled because of the color of their skin, that means I have an advantage because of the color of mine. If there are children deemed “underprivileged” then by definition there are children that are “overpriviledged”. This is the hardest pill to swallow for us white folks because if we process this, and it settles, we have to realize that this system we’ve been birthed into is flawed. It’s hard to deny the need for change when you begin to understand the system
What scares me is that we don’t understand because we are choosing not to understand. We want to remain ignorant.
We don’t listen because if we actually listen we might have to know the reality of those people who have lived a very different experience than most white americans.
For my white friends, do a few things for me, listen to people and absorb without comment. As you learn more perspectives, take on the burden of explaining the idea of White Privilege to other white people because let’s be honest, they will be more comfortable hearing it from another white person. If you have kids, talk to your kids about it.
For the longest time I’ve put off telling my kids about “skin color”. I have a 9 year old and a 7 year old. They still call people “brown” or “dark brown” or “tan” or “light tan” and most of the time they don’t even give people descriptors. Haygen, my 7 year old daughter, said that one of our dear friends was “copper”. Copper is a beautiful damn color! In some ways I absolutely love this because my kids innocence is still intact and they haven’t been corrupted. We’ve been raising them to be colorblind. This attitude of colorblindness is one that can be dangerous because systemic racism can flourish in it.
In March My daughter and I were driving home from Lubbock, about a 25 minute drive to my house, and my daughter asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up. Brilliant question to ask a 35 year old. I told her, “I’m not sure. Why do you ask?”
She says, “Well because I want to change the world. I want to help people. Do you think I can do that?”
My eyes starting to well up with salty tears. “Of course you can sweetie. How are you going to do this?”
“Well, I’m going to have a business that makes a lot of money and has one of those big tall buildings, but I’m going to give my money to people who need it. You know like homeless people and poor people.”
Full on crying at this point. She has never said anything like this before! So I thought to ask, “Now Haygen why did you decide to help people?”
“Because I want to help people like ‘Harry’ Tubman. He was a good person. He helped people escape from evil people. He was a hero because he helped people and he changed the world. I want to change the world like Harry Tubman.”
Firstly, please note that she thought Harriet was a man, which was funny and I left uncorrected at this moment – don’t worry it was later corrected because she needs to know about the powerful women of history. Secondly, her Librarian talked to them about Black heroes during the month of February. It was this that inspired her. Her spirit is driven toward helping people but it was the efforts of a her librarian that helped her realize the good in all people and placed a spark to want to ignite change.
My daughter makes me incredibly proud and happy when I think about that story. It makes me hopeful for the future and then I open Facebook to read people picking sides with great verbosity. We always need to be on a side. I’m guilty of this too, don’t worry. But more than the verbosity, what I’m seeing on television and the internet, what I’m reading through people’s angry posts and seeing responses to my own posts is leading me to have the conversation I’ve dreaded.
There will come a point this summer when my wife and I will sit my son and daughter down and explain race and what really happened to people of color in history. We talk about the things as they grow older that aren’t taught in school. The dark times of our nation’s history, both the distant and not so distant past. We will have to explain that there are racists in this country. We will need to explain that our friends of color are often treated differently than we are treated. I realize my kids won’t fully understand any of this. We will teach them there are racist around us, but we must live a life that fights this injustice. We must be advocates for changing the world so all people can live well.
We, as their parents, must live a radical life which rejects the system and lives a life that loves everyone equally. Our kids learn how to live and therefore how to love from us.
Pastor Ryan today reminded me that Love Endures. This is what we need to remember. With all of the shit in the world. With all of the terrible happenings of recent weeks. It doesn’t matter what side you are on of you are balancing on the fence, we must realize and notice that violence solves nothing. Victims are victims. The dead are dead. Violence is not the answer. It never has been and it never will be.
As americans, we have a stronghold on this ideal that guns solve things. But they don’t. Violence ends lives. When a soul is snuffed out, that’s it. There’s no coming back. Whether you’re an atheist, a christian, black, white, gay, straight, death does not care and death due to violence is a horrendous tragedy.
As someone who loves the life of Christ and I desire to live as He did, I can’t deny His life of non-violence. Christians that justify violence to their “enemies” can’t support it with the life of Christ. He was a man who received horribly violent acts upon his body and never once repaid it with a violent act or asked his followers to retaliate. He even healed a mans ear that was cut off by one of his Disciples. He takes something ripped apart by violence and heals it with compassion. But we are so quick to take up arms and want to shoot anyone who threatens our “freedoms”. Really? This is what following Jesus in America looks like?
Wishing violence upon someone or carrying out a violent act looks NOTHING like Christ – NOTHING.
We are called to be men and women who stand up for the oppressed.
We are urged to be a people unified in their love for those who don’t look like us, think like us, vote like us or believe like us.
The Jesus I read of in the ancient texts is one who would mourn with those families of loved ones lost through all of the violent acts we’ve seen so publicly in the last week. He would be in Dallas, and Baton Rouge, and Falcon Heights.
I believe His heart is broken because we would rather argue about who is right and live in denial of oppression than really look at the system and walk with those suffering in hopes that we could bring more hope, grace, and peace through sacrificial love.
I’ll leave you with the words of great wisdom…
… most Americans think of Rosa Parks as a demur, pleasant-enough seamstress who backed into history by being too tired to get out of her seat on a bus one day, in reality she had been trained in nonviolence spirit and tactics at a famous institution, Highlander Folk School. It seems to be a difficult concept for most of us that peace is a skill that can be learned. We know war can be learned, but we seem to think that one becomes a peacemaker by a mere change of heart. – Mahatma Gandhi
We do not need guns and bombs to bring peace, we need love and compassion. -Mother Teresa
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. -Rumi