It is 9:30 AM, and I have had two cups of coffee and nothing to eat… so it’s probable that this is a highly caffeinated post, written with overflowing emotions bubbling from my soul. But, I must work these feelings into words, that’s how I best untangle the issues of my heart.
I sat at a table a few years ago with dear friends. All of them white. All of them middle-upper class. One of them said, “I really need to buy some books for my kids with different colored characters so they can be exposed to some people of color.” The table laughed. My jaw literally hit the ground. I could not believe what I heard. I responded, “Surely you have friends in your life that are different ethnicities, surely you see these people shopping with you in the grocery store, surely your children have real life examples of people of color in their life and you do not have to seek them out through characters in a picture book?”
The dichotomy has grown so great and so vast between race and class, that we have believed the notion that it is okay and even ideal to live in a bubble with people who are exactly like us. And by “us”, I mean: white, privileged, college educated, middle-upper class…
Our family has made the conscious choice to live in what some call the “inner city”… within 10 miles of downtown. We live off of 23rd street in Oklahoma City, which is the most ethnically diverse corridor of Oklahoma. We go to a church for “all nations”, I teach in a title one school with refugee students, apartment kids, and kids from 2 parent homes, our grocery store parking lot is grid locked on the 1st, 5th and 10th of each month. My children regularly roll down their windows and hand bottles of water to men and women on corners less than a mile from our home. I forget sometimes that the majority of America does not choose to live in such proximity to SES diversity or ethnic diversity.
I forget that the majority of the middle-upper class American white demographic is lacking one thing; racially diverse relationships, culturally diverse relationships, or income diverse relationships. Basically we lack relationships with people who are essentially different from us. This is the root of the problem. The term “birds of a feather, flock together” comes from a very true fact: we like homogeny. We like to congregate in groups that look and live like we do. But sometimes what comes naturally is not always right.
We must look at the situation and ask ourselves are we allowing our families to live homogeneous lives? I might step on your toes here, and I am not sorry… Are the only people of color that your family is exposed to mowing your lawn or checking you out at the cash register? If so, YOU ARE THE PROBLEM!
When we do not have a person we love or care about to associate this issue of race to, we have lost the ability to understand. Many of you will argue with me, NO, I do have friends or family members who are black or hispanic or Asian… I do… Good, then YOU ARE NOT THE PROBLEM. You do not have to buy a $4 picture book to educate your family on ethnic diversity. And you are probably like me, jaw wide open, eyes welled with tears and heart torn to shreds over the recent happenings in our nation.
I am beside myself with anger and frustration. Our country is hemorrhaging, our guts are slashed open, our intestines are spilling out, our bloody hands are holding things in place while we try to survive, we cannot keep trying to heal our wounds with Hello Kitty Bandaids!!!!! We cannot continue to apologize and hashtag things on social media without any action. We must go into surgery, people!!!!! We must make some changes! We must process what has happened and CHANGE how we flesh out our future!!! I am trying to clang the cymbal as loudly as I can here… And, church…. I am looking directly into your eyes!
Yesterday in church we sang Rend Collectives words,
We are Your church
We are the hope on earth
Build Your kingdom here
Let the darkness fear
Show Your mighty hand
Heal our streets and land
Set Your church on fire
Win this nation back
Change the atmosphere
Build Your kingdom here
The church is the HOPE on earth… and we are standing on the sidelines with our tail between our legs! Over the last few days I have seen countless quotes from the Rev. Dr. King on my news feed…from both believers and nonbelievers… and I wonder, if we remember what made his movement so different from the rest in the civil rights era? JESUS!!!! He was a believer, he believed in LOVE and not war, he was a voice of non-violent peace in a time, just like today, when the top was ready to explode. If not for the role of JESUS in his life, I wonder how he would have confronted the issues then? See, Jesus makes us pause and ask ourself who is at work, the flesh or the spirit? I know how my flesh wants to act, and typically (actually always) the Holy Spirit calls us to act in the exact opposite manner, that is what is so weird about God… HIS ways are ALWAYS counter-intuitive, and that is why we need HIM and HIS power to live out HIS will!
CHURCH… If we are the hope, WE NEED TO BE A VOICE FOR THE VOICELESS! We need to cross the racial divide and WALK over to the other side and make amends. We can’t simply reach over and shake hands, and then dust ours off and say we did our part… we must walk over, embrace and STAY OVER THERE…. and define new lines!
Know this though, if you are going to sow seeds of peace, your hands are going to get dirty. You can not plant or water or harvest without getting your hands and feet dirty. (both literally and figuratively!) Somewhere along the way we began to believe that peace was a happy circle of humans singing, “Peace begins with me”, but it is NOT! PEACE is the hard conversations, PEACE is the awkward beginnings of friendships, PEACE is the fire in your belly when someone has offended another, PEACE is loving your neighbor, PEACE is considering others, PEACE is making yourself uncomfortable for another…
AND, YES…. Peace begins with ME!!!! And with you.
(Photo Credit D. Hill, both taken at Northwest Baptist Church, our home church in OKC)