Bursting the bubble of the ‘post racial society’ illusion: An open letter to my white brothers and sisters in Christ Part 1
AN OPEN LETTER TO MY WHITE BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST
“The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.” Genesis 9:18-19
The 1st people group that I ever identified with was that of African Americans. Years later, after growing up in America and experiencing the joy and pride of my 1st community as well as a mixture of love, acceptance, prejudice and racism from those of the majority culture, I became a follower of Christ, and I was now identified with another people group. Both my original identifier and my newfound one were groups of people who had experienced extreme persecution and oppression historically, and had been victimized by others worldwide. My now identifying with Christ and all of his followers, as well as praying for them and grieving with them as believers faced persecution in my life time, did not cancel out my being a part of the people group that I was born into. My joining in the fight for equal treatment under the law for African Americans, and bringing to light injustice in this country does not cancel out my being a follower of Christ. But I have found that in the eyes and hearts of many, that’s exactly what it does.
I have shared news recently that greatly impacts the body of Christ and I have also shared news that greatly impacts the African American community, and I am realizing more and more that these two can be treated as if they are totally unrelated. They are not, as we are not. Where my white brothers and sisters in Christ, for the most part, can sympathize with the persecution of other believers and even empathize and grieve with/for them, many either cannot, or choose not to empathize or grieve with their African America Christian counterparts when given the opportunity. And if any grief is momentarily shared, it has a time limit attached to it. That being said, I am a believer who is black. Go figure.
(almost totally unrelated sidebar; the historic account of the Ethiopian Eunuch found in Acts 8 points out that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was not unknown to the people of Africa. We will come back to this later.) “And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah.” Pagans and savages did not do that.)
As such, I share a lot about news stories that stand out to me in the hopes of making people think, and to challenge world views that are held that do not line up with what Christ taught. I share posts voicing my opposition to abortion and the fact that Margaret Sanger designed Planned Parenthood to get rid of black people….to kill them before they were ever born… but I do not hate those who are pro-choice. I share posts standing for the Biblical definition of marriage, but I do not hate homosexuals. I share posts exposing racism and hatred based on skin color and exposing the evil of the justice system in this country, and the systemic criminalization of Black people, but I do not hate white people. As a result of my many posts exposing and challenging views about racism (and there have been many), there are those among my white brothers and sisters who have now labeled my family racists, and do not want to see my family at church anymore. There are those who say that the recent (3 months) worth of posts have been exclusively “Black this and black that” and they are sick of it. They are tired of seeing it in their newsfeed. There are those who believe that all I have shared is negativity. There are those who have unfriended my family and labeled us as now preachers of hate and not preachers of the Gospel. All of this and more because of news stories shared on Facebook. Does anyone other than me see a problem here? We have not changed as a family. The current issue that we happen to be confronting is simply a more difficult one for people to come to terms with. As Christians, for the most part, we can agree on the issue of abortion. For the most part we can agree on the danger of ISIS and the need to pray and stand against that. But sadly, we do not agree on issues of racism. My life experience has given me a different perspective than some of yours, and I share from that perspective partnered with what Gods Word teaches us, and many are increasingly, overwhelmingly uncomfortable. So I am called names. And my family members are called names. And I receive hate filled messages. Because somehow it is still not understood that we are the same. Now, understand that when I say that we have not changed, I am referring to our faith and commitment to Christ. It has not wavered or diminished. We have not changed. But what I am realizing is that many just never got to know us as well as they thought they did in those 2 hour a week services. We still love God. We still love people. We still stand and speak out against injustice, but we now realize that what we view as injustice is not what many of you view as injustice. What we feel passionately about speaking out against, you do not feel passionately about speaking out against. Our
goal as a family was to wake people up. Our goal was to raise awareness to what we viewed as the senseless murders of unarmed black men, and the systemic abuse of black people that has remained the status quo in America during and since slavery. Many hold to the belief that the Civil Rights Act did away with all of that, but as I have often said, you can’t legislate the heart. The Civil Rights Act simply gave the white citizens of America whose hearts overflowed with venom for the African American people, boundaries on how far they could go legally in their efforts to rid the “stain” of brown skin from this country. It did not remove the venom. Do you understand? I need you to see and know that horrible evils still take place in this country to the people who look like me, and you need me to see and know that things are not like they used to be, and you need me to understand this while I watch an unarmed black boys body lay in the street with part of his face blown off and his brains oozing out from gunfire by a police officer, for four hours. You need me to understand while I watch an unarmed, black, father of six and grandfather being choked to death, and then see the police walk away without penalty. I want you to stand and fight with me for things to continue to change, and you want me to acknowledge that there have been changes and IF progress is still needed, I just need to understand that it takes time. But how much time? Today marks the 59th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and a young black boy was found
hanging in NC a couple of months ago.How much time is still needed?
Life is about perspective, but perspectives change all of the time. We hear good movie reviews and decide to see it. Then we hear some really bad ones and decide to wait until it comes out on dvd. Our perspective on whether or not we should spend $54 (for our family) or $15 was impacted by information. How often have we lived to see our perspectives change? But in this area…racism and it’s lasting effects on this country, on the church, I have found that many of my conservative brothers and sisters hold their position. I don’t understand, but I do not harbor hatred. My perspective on the current events we are facing on this front are not what they were a year or two ago. They have continued to grow, and evolve. While I don’t blame you for holding to a perspective that I disagree with, I pray that yours will not remain the same in this crucial area. At the same time, I believe that the descendants of slaves have proven over and over again in this country, that we patiently wait and hope for change, understanding that some changes take more time than others.
I have always been a person who believed that prayer (our communication with God) and the sharing of perspectives and information (our communication with each other), changes things. Sin is a human condition. It knows no color and does not operate within the parameters that our flesh has established. It is not black, white, or brown. To continue to insist in word or deed, that one people group is inherently superior to another based on racist ideology is a huge fallacy that many who name Christ fall for daily. Following are just a couple of areas where perspectives of white and black Christians seem to differ substantially. I will be discussing these topics in upcoming posts.
The sanctity of the flag and US Constitution
The ‘sovereignty’ of American soil
The value of the descendants of slaves (human beings)
The presumed guilt of black people
I will also be covering, for the sake of sharing historical information, as well as assisting in the development of empathy and compassion, posts about the following subjects;
Brief historical overview of Black Economics
Brief historical overview of the Black Family
Brief historical overview of Black Education
Brief historical overview of Black Politics
Brief historical overview of Blacks in Prison
Gods word tells us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Let us begin to do this together in the area that is currently dividing our nation again. Remember, communicating about the issue is not what causes division. Ignoring the issue is.
The poem featured above was written 21 years ago when I was a 17-year-old senior in high school. My sisters and I had gone to the mall with my mom on a Saturday afternoon. Our chores were done, and as was our custom, we headed to the now defunct Rolling Acres Mall for shopping, socializing, and Kopper Popper! We separated from my mom, and eventually, briefly got separated from each other for a bit. This wasn’t a problem. We all had run into friends while there, but we knew that when we saw our mom we’d better be together. While walking around the mall sort of by myself, I went into a major department store. They carried a line of costume jewelry that I really wanted to check out. As soon as I entered the store, I noticed two sales representatives stand a little taller, and I saw one of them appear to nudge the other, while looking in my direction. I continued to look at the jewelry, which was on the counter that wrapped around the store from the front to the middle, but I soon realized I was not alone. I had a shadow. And it wasn’t my own. I turned and looked at the sales associate and she looked away, but when I moved, she followed me. I soon realized that I wasn’t being shadowed by one SA, I was being shadowed by two, and they were the two that I saw as I entered he store. I had shopped in that mall my entire life, and I had never felt uncomfortable until that day. There were people everywhere. It was a busy Saturday…as the mall!!! But all of their attention was focussed on me. And all of a sudden I wanted my mom. These ladies didn’t know that I had been an honor student since the third grade. How could they? They didn’t know that I had already received several academic scholarships which allowed me to attend a private college for free, save $1000.00. How could they? They didn’t know that I had volunteered in my church as well as several state-wide agencies, or that I was a state leader for an organization that trained teenagers to positively impact and lead their peers. How could they? They didn’t know that my mom and my two sisters were in the mall probably looking for me at that moment. How could they? I wasn’t dressed poorly. I believe I had a pleasant smile upon entering the store. Everything that I picked up, I put down. So what was the problem? I did not fit the stereotype of a criminal in any way, shape or form, unless of course, you count my skin, which (in case you missed it), is permanently brown. With racial tensions being what they are in the wake of history, unforgiveness, pre-judging, hatred, evil, pride, evolutionary thinking, and the list goes on, I try to be careful in what I share, realizing that this small blog reaches anywhere from 6-12 countries per day. I also have quite a few friends who could come across this, and I would not want to hurt or offend them in any way. But racial profiling is something I have experienced…more than once…and usually while shopping at the mall in major department stores. Even though this has been experienced personally by me, it has not tainted my few of al people from other cultures. I have insisted, and will continue to insist, that God created all of us, and when He colored us He colored inside the lines and on purpose! He isn’t color blind and neither are we, but God chooses to judge a person based on the intent of their heart and not the color of their skin. I choose to do the same. Those ladies who followed me around the store when I was 17, then 25, then 28, then 35, did not know me. But I knew me. And more importantly, I knew who lived inside of me. I knew the sacrifice He paid so that I could be free…really free. not just free to go where I please and eat where I want, but free to live in His love and His grace and His forgiveness and His power! And rather than choose to insist on my rights and cry racism, or profiling or unfair, even if that was the case, I chose to leave that store, each time, without spending any money, and without reinforcing stereotypes about angry black women who ‘go off’ when confronted. Did I have rights? Absolutely! Was I being treated unfairly? Positively! But in each and every situation we can choose to display the character of Christ…from our marriages to the mall Jesus is Lord, and we can’t choose to place Him on a shelf when a social injustice challenges our rights! God’s Word encourages us to have the same attitude that Christ did:
So this is how we choose to live, and how we teach our children to live. We all have rights, but so did He. And if Christ could lay ALL of His rights down for me, surely I can do the same for others. Do I want to rage at the injustices in the world? Absolutely!!! Do I fear sometimes that my children will be the victims or the targets of the evil we all know as racism? How could I not. But still, we choose the way of peace, and trust in the Lord to be our banner. And when it comes, if it comes, I pray that we respond the way Our Lord did, by keeping our eyes fixed on what’s really important, and preparing our hearts at all times to see Him face to face….
Have you been impacted by prejudice? It doesn’t matter what color we are, it touches us all. How has God dealt with your heart on this issue? I would love to hear.
This is my second rewrite of this post, and I was beginning to think that maybe I wasn’t supposed to write it. But then I thought, maybe I was supposed to write it, but better.
While watching an extremely heart wrenching movie in which a family lost the 15-year-old son/brother in a tragic car accident, and crying my eyes out, I thought to myself, ‘I can’t imagine….’. I can’t imagine losing any of my children to…anything. But then, a moment later, I could imagine, and I have found myself imagining over the years. And the very thought of the loss of any one of my children, grips my heart as if it’s real. And I immediately begin to thank God for that terrible imagining not being a reality. But in the Trayvon Martin case, his mother isn’t just shaking herself awake from a bad dream. Her nightmare won’t go away when she opens her eyes…because it’s real…her son did fall victim to a terrible crime, and in one moment all of her nightmares came true.
The morning after I heard about the Trayvon Martin shooting, I felt the need to have a VERY in-depth conversation about this event with my kids…particularly with my sons. At the time I was not aware of how much press this story was getting and how many were really aware of what happened. I had received an email the night before from one of the Christian ministries that I subscribe to, and it told the story, shared a letter from his mother, and was circulating a petition calling for the investigation and arrest of the gentleman who got out of his car and shot an unarmed young man because he looked suspicious!!!! I have a friend named Stacey, and I shared with her via Facebook that this tragedy made me pull my boys closer…. And it made me have a talk with them about this hate-filled world we live in that I really didn’t want to have. To me, my children are exceptional. They are believers…they are intelligent….they are funny…but there are some who will never get to know that because they choose not to see past the fact that they are black. Yes, in 2012, it breaks my heart that we are still having these conversations with our children 😦
My children have grown up in the inner-city for most of their lives. When they attended public school, they attended a culturally diverse school, and in our choice of churches we have deliberately chosen culturally diverse places of worship. You see, we truly believe that God created all of us, and when he colored our skin, he did it on purpose. He is the creator of all cultures. I deliberately don’t use ‘races’ because there is only one race, but within that one race there are many cultures. And that’s what we teach our children. That God made us the same. But things like this make me wonder if they’ve been handicapped. So we had a conversation. And I looked at my beautiful children and shared my heart with them…as their mother…as a believer in Jesus Christ…as an African-American mother of African-American children,,,and my heart broke. Isaiah is my oldest son. He has the most amazing smile and wacky sense of humor. He has never sagged his pants purposely, but he recently lost quite a bt of weight and now nothing fits. He has fallen in love with math in the last year and if I let him, he would work on that all day every day. He is loyal…a little rough around the edges, but he has a promising future filled with integrity, and I pray wise decisions. Jordan is my youngest son. He was born just two months after the death of my father, and he brought joy back to my heart. Like his brother, he has an amazing smile (even with braces), and when he turns to the side, he’s so thin that he almost disappears! He has the craziest laugh…and it’s contagious! He’s my overachiever, if over achieving is really possible. He gets up before his siblings to read his Bible before we wake up, and by the time his siblings join him, he’s got a 1-2 hour head start on the day. To lose one of them in any way would be devastating, but in a preventable act…there are no words.
For our morning Bible Study, we are currently studying genealogy, and have been reminded that all people groups descended from Noah and his sons. http://www.israel-a-history-of.com/sons-of-noah.html I have read the Bible for most of my life, and after getting stuck in Genesis 10, I am pretty sure that most of us have never looked closely at genealogy in order to understand our relationship to one another. I can’t help but think how different things would be if we had…if we did.
While the Trayvon case has a monopoly on the news, there was another story of a 40+ year-old African-American man who was beaten and run over with a truck for ‘fun’ by a few white teenagers two years ago. The primary perpetrator was given 2 life sentences. I found myself thinking, ‘what evil drives the heart of one who hates?’ Racism is not a political issue. It’s not a media issue. It is an issue of the heart. And we can’t legislate it, we can’t march or protest against it. But we can pray…and we can search our own hearts to ensure that it does not live in us. I see the nationwide protests on the news and in the papers. We demand justice! But can we forgive? We want the government to get involved! But are there things we can do to prevent these acts? I don’t mean intervene; I mean stop it before it starts. Conservative right or liberal left….racism, again, is a matter of the heart, not the skin…for this reason we must ensure that our allegiance remains fixed on the ONE who purchased our freedom from sin and it’s slavery. The ONE who has the power to love all of the hate out of us. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness. Each of us can make a difference, by not teaching hatred or bitterness by word or deed to the next generation. Educate them on our history…on ALL history…history where we as a people were oppressed and brutalized, as well as history where we were the oppressors and the brutes…history where we worshipped God and Him alone, and history where we led generations into idolatry and pagan worship practices. My heart grieves for this young man and his family. I grieve for every victim of racism; white towards black. black towards black, black towards white, and the list goes on. Every people group has suffered at the hands of this evil. While I do not want my kids to expect it, I want them to be aware that evil exists…in all colors…and again, my heart breaks…for the hearts that hate because they don’t know Love… for the young and old who haven’t been taught the ways of the Lord….my sons wear hoodies…especially when it rains. I can’t help but wonder, what will you think when you see them?
Heartbroken…and searching my heart in order to give all over to the Lord,