This is going to be uncomfortable. I will try with all my being to consider the feelings of everyone who reads it but I’m totally confident that what I’m about say will be heavy. For my Caucasian brothers and sisters, my desire is not to shame or indict you. I love you! On the contrary, I desire to fight along side you and every other race to stamp out racial injustice for all. The purpose of this blog is to bring you into my world and hopefully give clarity to the happenings in the heart of many African Americans today. I also desire to see that every race be united in true love and open hearts with one another. Quite simply, I want us all to be healed.
After the death of Michael Brown, it seems that the pressure cooker of racial tension has exploded in America… again. My prayers go out to Capt. Ron Johnson and the other agencies involved. You are in a conundrum. I have no clue how to protect citizens that want to peacefully protest while at the same time neutralize opportunists who only desire to create chaos.
The racial tension I’m speaking of is more illusive and complex. It’s obvious, yet so hard to pin down. It’s the feeling in the heart of the African American that says, “Police will never protect me and the media will always misrepresent me. White people will never understand.” It’s the feeling in the heart of the Caucasian that says, “Blacks will always assume my motives are racist. They will never understand.” This tension is like carbon monoxide poison. It’s nearly undetectable until its too late. I think the biggest misstep is to assume that those feelings aren’t valid. To ignore them would be deadly, similar to ignoring the presence of carbon monoxide in your home. I know for me, these feelings have deep roots and very real situations attached to them.
Let me give you some context. My goal in sharing these personal stories is not incite negativity towards any people group, but to give you an honest picture of my life as it applies to racial tension.
My first experience of racism was when I was 7. I was staying with my dad for the summer in a high rise apartment complex. For some reason, I was wandering around the complex exploring by myself. My adventure of traveling to every floor in the elevator was coming to a close. I pressed the button to my dad’s floor and waited. When the door opened I saw an older Caucasian lady with a cool grey afro. I guess I wasn’t getting off the elevator fast enough and she looked at me and said, “Get out of my way you little nigger.” I had no clue what the word nigger meant but the way she said it hurt me deep.
I wish I could say that was the only time I heard that word in that context but unfortunately it wasn’t. Growing up in a small town in the south, it would seem that me and that word would get very closely acquainted. One of the most trying times was at school. On my first day of fourth grade, I was riding the school bus home. There was the group of cool kids in the back of the bus. I wasn’t allowed back there. I didn’t fit in. I heard murmuring and laughing. I knew it was about me… Well, I didn’t “know” but I knew. As I departed the bus and it drove off, I heard someone whistle and then yell, “Hey, you grease monkey!” As I looked up, this kid spit the biggest loogie on my face I had every seen. I can still see it slowly dripping down my glasses. As I cleaned my glasses and walked down my driveway, fear and sadness gripped my body. I was all alone and I’d be here until I graduated 12th grade.
All wasn’t bad at that school. I met some of the kindest people there. It was there that I learned 2 key things.
1. Not every white person is racist. I had some white people go to bat for me on several occasions and treat me just like their family.
2. The weight of being a minority is heavy. Simply because culturally you are outnumbered. To be accepted, you will have to either assimilate to the dominate culture or be alone. Dominate cultures won’t willingly make things uncomfortable for themselves to appease the minority. Some of it’s intentional and some if it is out of pure obliviousness. This doesn’t just apply to race but anything. If the guys are hanging out and my sister wanted to come along, I could guarantee we weren’t going to see the newest love story at the movies. There would be superheroes, action, and tons of explosions.
My last story happened during the recording of Minorville. I had just had my first son and I needed a quiet place to record besides my home. I rented a climate controlled storage unit and set up shop there.
One day as I was going to my unit, the manager and I ran across each other. I waved at her. She waved back. Then she said, “Make sure you’re not in there getting high.” I looked puzzled. I’m thinking to myself she must like to smoke. I responded, “Naw, that’s not my style.” She laughingly replies, “Suuurrrreee.” I brushed it off…
One night, my good friend, Joseph Prieloziny and I were tightening up some Minorville stuff. Apparently, we were too loud for the manager. I heard her come in the unit and slam the door. I went to see what was wrong and that’s when it all went bad. She cussed me up and down. I have never been spoken to like that in my life. She told me, if I tried to retaliate that she had guns and would blow me away. I was perplexed because I never raised my voice and she threatened my life. As I went back in to my unit, Joseph said, “Bro, I got it all recorded on my phone. I can’t believe she talked to you like that.” We prayed for her. I knew exactly what was wrong. She was scared.
I could unearth so many more stories like this but for the sake of time, I’ll move on. Am I telling you this to make you angry? Am I race baiting you? Do I want your sympathy? Am I trying to stir up trouble?
The reason I’m telling you all of these stories is because I have been broken. Every word, every stereotype, and every act of discrimination has eaten away at pieces of my heart. The unrest in the African American community is not simply because Officer Wilson killed Mike Brown. This is a life of story after story of discrimination and angst coming to a boiling point and exploding. People are hurting in Ferguson and all across the country.
ALL races experience racism. African Americans aren’t up in arms because they’ve been called names. The issue is the systematic oppression of an entire race. Think about it. Slavery of Africans was introduced to America in 1619 (before the United States was formed). The Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863. That’s 244 years of the systematic oppression of a people group. It was so sinister, that it’s slaves were looked at as sub human property, not allowed to learn, and provided a seriously warped family structure. That is not how you treat people made in the image of God. Imagine how your marriage would be affected if a person could at will, summon your wife and rape her. How would you view manhood, if you were told you were an animal (eventually considered 3/5ths of a man)? Now imagine that for a whole people group for almost 3 centuries. Then imagine that same group is set free but is systematically oppressed by the government that is meant to protect them via the Jim Crow laws for another century. It wasn’t until the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that on paper African Americans were given the same rights by the government as everyone else. That’s only 50 years ago… My mother remembers desegregation. Let that sink in.
Now, some of you will say, “What does that have to do with me. I didn’t do any of those things to anyone.” You are correct. For my Caucasian brothers and sisters, YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SINS OF YOUR FATHERS. Those sins are embarrassing as a nation. You didn’t do any of those things and it seems as though every time a issue between a black person and white person happens, you are instantly on trial. You’ve been discriminated against and its not fair. It makes you angry but you move on. You ignore the ignorance.
Therein lies the problem.
As the majority culture, you have the ability to do so. Think about it. Caucasians have been the dominate culture in America since it began. America was built with the majority in mind(Democracy). For African Americans (and others) that’s not so. We constantly have to adjust or assimilate to fit in.
What makes that a problem?
If the majority culture has a negative view of the minority culture, then it will protect itself at the expense of the minority culture. Similar to the story of the manager of the storage space. Her perspective of me put her in survival mode. She thought she needed to escalate to protect herself not knowing that I would never harm her. The mainstream portrayal of African Americans is not a representation of the majority of our culture. That’s why Eric Garner was strangled to death by the cops. They feared him. Did you know 4 unarmed black men have been killed by the police in the last month? Why? Out of fear.
If I’m honest, my biggest fear is for my sons. As my family was leaving a restaurant today, a lady was sitting in her car and smiled when she saw my 2 year old bopping to the car. At what age will he become a threat in her eyes? Not because of what he has done but because he fits the stereotype. That’s where the angst in the black community is coming from. Not an overtly racial initiative but a simple reaction to fear by the majority culture that is at the expense of the minority.
The problems in the black community are vast. Some people will steal, kill, and hurt anyone for their own selfish desires. The key word in that sentence is SOME. I often hear if African Americans want to be respected, they need to clean up their community and stop acting like thugs. Thugs act like thugs. It is unfair to make criminals who you gauge our culture by. That would be like making Al Capone and the mafia the epitome of Italian Americans. Furthermore, No culture is absent of degenerates and criminals so it’s grossly irresponsible to isolate them as the African American’s “biggest problem.” Most of us just want to live our lives, make a decent living, and be loved. Judge me by my character and not by a stereotype. I am a man made in the image of God.
I also extend this challenge to the African American community. We must remember that not all Caucasians are racist. Even during slavery, many white abolitionists risked their lives for our sake. Many Caucasians protested with us during the Civil Rights movement and many are standing with us now. We must remember that. We also must be gracious and patient. In the words of the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. I can assure you that many of our Caucasian brothers and sisters are just like us. They just want to live their lives, make a decent living, and be loved. Sound familiar? We can’t attribute the sins of some, to an entire people group. Furthermore, we cannot attribute the sins of past generations to people today. We have to allow room for hurt. We have to allow room from grace. We can‘t be heavy-handed as we seek to express our heart. Proverbs 15:1 says a soft answer, turns away wrath. But a harsh word stirs up anger. If we have any hope of reconciliation, it will be with love and grace.
That brings me to my final thought?
The reason we settle for stereotyping one another is simple… A lack of love. We have no clue how to love one another. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We don’t empathize with one another because we are scared it will leave us unguarded. We are acting in fear. My life was changed by the love of Jesus Christ. If you look around today at the world, it’s clear that we are messed up. Every one of us have sinned. The beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ is he died for all of our sins, not because he had to but out of LOVE! What is love? 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 says,
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails.
I propose that we follow in the footsteps of Jesus and do the same for one another. If we viewed each other in love as image bearers of God, stereotypes would disappear, hearts would be mended, oppression would cease. We would literally start a revolution. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve failed miserably and often in this area but I’m willing to change today. Will you join me?