It is interesting that, once the intense conflicts and cultural-heat subside, race-relations in America have a tendency to fall back into the entrenched patterns of existence that we have all grown accustomed to. In the midst of the questions, the accusations, the violence, and the silence of the last couple of weeks, allow me to make an observation:
Nothing has been solved. Nothing has changed. And few expect it to in the future.
My further observation is that, until there are major shifts in how we approach the issues between black people and white people in America, there will continue to be no solution nor lasting changes. Along with many Christians who desire transformation, justice, love and substantive peace to manifest, I believe that the lone valid hope for change lies squarely in the Church, the followers of Jesus Christ. Where else can two become one? Who else, but Jesus, can empower forgiveness that actually transforms both the violator and the victim? Neither Republicans or Democrats will ever find that kind of lasting potency of influence. Racial division is the ongoing fruit because hard-heartedness is the deeply plunged root. Until we quit waiting for the entire system to change before we cross racial lines individually, that broken system will continue to gasp and churn out its dysfunctional product. What must occur is that enough of us who are willing to risk it individually, and pay whatever price is necessary, will have to persevere in love and desire to come to the side of our neighbor who happens to wear a different shade of skin than we do.
Love listens. We have a lot of words in this current racial strife and debate in America. What we do not have is much of a listening ear. Until a black man is able to be heard by a white man, the two will continue to joust, debate, rebut, defend and, in the end, disengage from one another. My personal experience is that, until I invited black people to share their experience of being black in America with me, I remained safely ignorant in my Caucasian cocoon. The converse is true also: black people have fundamental racial misconceptions about white people which tend to categorize all of us whites into one racial vanilla lump. I can promise you one thing today: I do not have the solution to fix the system. You do not either. I do, however, have a desire to come alongside those who are different than me, and seek to understand them. When I understand them, it is more likely that I will know better how to love them, seeking their highest good. This is not only my desire; it is my commitment.
After listening to the high-volume voices ceaselessly blaring on the airwaves in America, below are a few highly generalized observations I have made about whites and blacks, and our relationships with one another as it pertains to the rising tensions in America. There is so much more than can be said and must be said (and heard!). Today, this is all that I feel like I should share. There is no call from me to you to affirm what I post below. I am not asking you to sign off on my observations. This is simply what I see today, and I am asking our King Jesus to help me not fall into any patterns of business-as-usual with my black brothers and sisters, my black neighbor, my black friends or my black countrymen. I simply cannot go on saying that I love all people while, simultaneously, keeping a safe distance from the elephant in the room who keeps ramming his tusks into all of us. We need to eat the elephant. And we all know how that is accomplished: one bad-tasting bite at a time.
Generalizations from the observations of a white man about some of the factors hindering racial reconciliation:
White apathy: indifference which feels no present accountability
Black outrage: dissidence which acknowledges little collective culpability
White ignorance – actually believing that the ground is level between blacks and whites in America
Black blame – actually believing that every white person is actively, knowingly perpetuating racial inequality
White condescension – “We will not be bothered.”
Black confrontation – “We will not be ignored!”
White perpetuation – A desire for endless dialogue with no valid commitments for necessary changes.
Black protest – A disgust at the endless empty dialogue which offers no expectation for necessary changes.
White people seemingly just don’t know what the right thing is to say, so there is much awkward response.
Black people seemingly don’t know how to say the right things in a way that ensures that they are genuinely heard, so there is so much inflammatory rhetoric.
Ongoing white negligence will worsen the matter.
Ongoing black violence will worsen the matter.
Blacks and whites together: the past is a factor and must be acknowledged and addressed. The past is the ominous context of the present chaos of racial conflict. While we must seek to rightly acknowledge and address the past, it will never be repaired. We will never feel good about our racial pasts. The answer is future, and both blacks and whites must focus our eventual and ultimate attention in the direction of our tomorrows.
Blacks are living with 400 years of white men’s decision without ever having been invited to the discussion.
Whites have lived with approximately 50 years of black’s refusal to allow injustice to continue without remedy.
Does this last point sound fair to anyone? It’s not an excuse for anyone to live as a perpetual victim, but can we really ignore the systemic reality that origin influences outcome – and the origin of blacks in America began during colonial times nearly four full centuries ago, when white hands brought black people here in chains by violent force? What if our racial histories here were reversed and it was whites who were generationally enslaved by blacks? Do we really think our response would be much different than what we see today? It may not seem right to you, but doesn’t it at least make reasonable sense that blacks would be angry towards whites, given the history of our national interaction?
So, Christian friend, when was the last time (if ever) we took a long, hard and biblical look at what the Scriptures reveal about injustice. When, followers of Jesus, was the last time we sought the Word to determine how to handle injustice when it finds and hurts us, or those like us? Are our children and grandchildren observing us drawing deeper racially dividing lines, or are they witnessing us step over those lines in order to come alongside another in order to seek to love and understand them? You are not going to fix the system, friend. You can continue to live as a crusader with a blurry cause if you wish. I would rather live as my Redeemer lives, seeking to come to the side of individuals and make a lasting difference in a person. The system is not salvageable apart from individuals doing what is upright.
So make the choice for yourself. I would like to see what God might do if we begin to honor one another.
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