“I am a Recovering Racist”

After the Mother Emmanuel shooting, I posted a sign-up sheet in my church explaining how I am a recovering racist; I was born in deeply segregated Charleston, SC, and was raised to see “colored people” as less than ‘us.’ I have worked hard to reverse that perspective. The sign-up sheet was to give others an opportunity to promise, “I Don’t Do Hate.”

I am now 62 years old and my job is to demonstrate every day, every opportunity, to every person different from me that there is more for them in this life than hate from people like me.

My fervent prayer is that we can soon stop all need to talk about ‘us’ and ‘them.’ It’s just ‘we.’

I responded to a Sojourner article not long ago that any suggestion to reverse trends or make the pendulum swing back the other way is misguided; the pendulum must stop. We are all on the same side…the side of humanity seeking fulfillment of its purpose. Jesus told us how to do that: Love God. Love your neighbor… because your neighbor IS yourself.

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, who met recently with the president, apparently found a President Trump who has thought better of his initial comments concerning Charlottesville. Senator Scott made some sober and important suggestions to the president (like get to know some black people) and I feel we should give prayerful support because prophets are the only ones effective in making change because they are speaking from within. Tim Scott is a respected member of the Senate and he also knows what it feels like to be summarily discredited for irrelevant reasons… i.e., skin shade.

Those of us who believe in and follow Christ can be the ambassadors we are called to be by behaving as He did:  When the crowd wished to stone the woman found in adultery, Jesus did Not have her throw stones back at them; He diffused the anger completely by pointing out how we are ALL guilty. All of us have hated; None of us is guiltless.

Those of us with faith and the strength of spiritual conviction can find love in our hearts for those who claim allegiance with a hate group; we can love those who hate. If we do not love those who are fearful and are resorting to hurting others, what example do we set? What are we asking them to do if we cannot do it ourselves? Racists, neo-Nazis, Antifas, etc., are acting out of fear. We are to hold them in love until their fear subsides. That is what is meant by loving our enemies. That is how we follow Jesus.

 

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Racism by any other name is Fear.

I live in a community (neighborhood, county, state,…) where closed-mindedness is the norm.  I would say racism is the norm but the attitudes and fiercely-held beliefs are not limited to preferences in the shade of skin or ethnic group or even ancestry…although those are very strongly separated classifications.

People around here are deeply resistant to changing how they think but then so are people all over the world.  If it is not what they grew up with, if it is not what they are familiar with, if he is not like me in (you name it: dialect, clothing style, vehicle type, licence plate, food preference,…) then it is wrong and therefore to be condemned, resisted, and (if possible) destroyed.

Two years ago, Lawrence Krauss, “Humanist of 2015,” was quoted as saying Organized religion, wielding power over the community, is antithetical to the process of what modern democracy should define as liberty. The sooner we are without it, the better.”  I won’t venture (right now) into all that is scary with that sentiment, but he demonstrates my point beautifully; Lawrence Krauss rejects everything about organized religion because it is not what he knows, is not what he is familiar with, and people who participate in organized religion don’t sound like the people he associates with…or him.

My own beloved college-educated, successful business-man brother threw out hundreds of dollars worth of organic food from my sister’s house because he “didn’t recognize any of it; I don’t eat that stuff.”

The short-cut suggestion to remedy this issue is ‘education.’  Doctors in hospitals all over the world struggle with patients’ refusals to follow prescribed improvements in diet and lifestyle and have thought the solution was education.  Pamphlets and discharge instructions with pictures and pleas have done little.  Helps and therapies seem to have no sizable impact.  My next door neighbor was hospitalized for 10 weeks last year for complications from surgery.  During this time he was given patches and drugs to help him withdraw from his addiction to smoking.  He lived smoke free among others who were smoke free for several weeks and he even admitted he felt great off the cigarrettes. On the drive home he stopped and bought a carton and lit up before he got to the front door.

These people are not willing to face their fears of the unknown.  “You sound wierd!”  “I don’t eat that stuff!”  “I don’t think my nerves could take it.”

Some fears are huge.  “What if there is not enough to go around?  Somebody has to go without.  Why does it have to be me?”  “If we let them have their way, they are going to take over!”  “One day they are going to rise up and kill every white person they see!”

It’s fear.  That’s all it is…fear.  Fear of deprivation; fear of the unknown; fear of unbearable whatever.  But it’s just fear.

So what’s the solution?  How do you help people who have unreasonable fear?  You must help them one person at a time.  In the way a parent helps a child who is fearful of the monster under the bed, you show them over and over that there is nothing there to be afraid of.  You show the person different from you that there is nothing for them to fear from you.  You demonstrate that there is more for them from people like you than hate. You demonstrate that different is okay…and safe…and sometimes good.

I have two neighbors…brothers…who were both raised in this closed-minded community.  One went into the Navy and worked beside people of a different color and national origin.  His brother did not leave home and has never worked beside people different from himself.  One is not fearful of people who are different; the other one is …but it looks like hate, not fear.

There are specific things we can do that help get through to people who have closed minds, fierce preferences, and fear.  First, be gentle with them; they will not listen if you are forceful or you are yelling.  Second, get to a point where you see things at their level …so that you can understand why they are fearful.  Third, allow them to vent.  Hold them in a safe environment so that they will be open to revealing what causes them to be fearful,  (Sometimes, that’s all they need.)  Their venting might be scary for you but you are the stronger one here.  They need to know…to see proof…that the resolution is stronger than their fear.  In other words, you need to love them.

If you have ever been a parent and you were faced with a child who cried out, “I HATE YOU!” then you know the dynamic I am describing:  you allowed the child to cry out the unthinkable…and then you assured the child that everything between you was still okay; you still love the child ‘the whole thing…all of it…without end.’  (Yes, I’ve been there.)

One more suggestion:  use words that are not usually used in these discussions.  Avoid the cliches and button words; you know what they are.

This is how loving is done.  This is how healing begins.  This is the work of Jesus.

 

By the way, I commend Senator Tim Scott in the way he met with President Trump; Scott introduced Trump to himself….in all of the aspects with which Trump is unfamiliar and that is what is necessary for a change of thinking…

The Pendulum Stops Here

Some people think the solution to racism is to turn the tables … to even the score by having white people volutarily give up what they have to give to the blacks….for white people to eliminate themselves from competition so the black people can win…to swing the pendulum back the other way.  I say, the pendulum must be stopped. We must stop addressing the issue in terms of ‘us’ vs ‘them.’ As long as it remains a duality issue, there will be no resolution. A third force or perspective must be introduced and THAT is where the Gospel comes in.

Christ’s commandment was to love our neighbor. Who is your neighbor? Everybody but you…everybody… and that includes the misguided souls who claim allegiance to a ‘supremacy.’

Christ’s commandment was also to love our neighbor AS ourselves. Not ‘as much as’ but AS. Our neighbor IS us. Misguided ‘supremacists’ are part of the whole; abused and unjustly condemned but innocent black men are part of the whole. And the whole is All of us… which is you.  It’s also me.  It’s also Putin.  It’s also the people of China and North Korea.

If we were to stand as neutral force between two extremes and hold both in safety as they beheld each other and saw each other as loved by God, then we could watch as a new reality arose.

It is a natural human tendency to want someone to suffer…someone to pay for injustice; I get that. But that wastes time and does no good. We need healing now. When Jesus dealt with the people wanting to stone the woman caught in adultery, He did not have her throw stones back at her accusers. He dispelled the whole thing by asking who had not sinned.

Who among us has not hated? None of us is fit to condemn. We can, however, stop the stoning.

The pendulum stops here.

 

(The image was borrowed from the internet.)

Generalizations are Generally Wrong

I will make one generalization here:  The black people I know personally here in Upstate South Carolina, amazingly do not seem to alter their sense of self-worth in response to how they are treated.  I have been in the company of black people when they were dismissed, ignored, and summarily rejected for no reason other than their color.  That, to me, reflects a deep sense of true worth, likely stemming from their intimacy with God.  Those of us who have not known the extent of oppression and animosity that they have known, would do well to learn from them.

I am re-posting this because …well, I think it is worth re-stating.

I think it is safe to say that, for the most part, generalizations are wrong.  Now, notice I said “for the most part;” that is intentional because whenever I fail to include phrases like “for the most part,” “usually,” “some,” “almost always,” etc., I almost always make a fool of myself.

When people are in a hurry to make a point, they often use generalizations; politicians and others with agendas, do this a lot.  But, usually, what they say is inaccurate, if not flat out wrong, and usually mean-spirited.  For example, if I were to say “all Pit Bulls are mean and dangerous,” I know at least three people who would straighten me out.  I might be better off by saying something like,”all Pit Bulls have the potential to be mean and dangerous, especially if they have been mistreated or trained to be that way,” but I have used 7 words in the first statement and 23 in the second; too many words for a politician or a mother whose child has been mauled by a Pit Bull.

Now, to be fair, some generalizations are true, particularly when they are simply restating the subject or are simplifying the definition: All pine trees are trees; All black cats are cats, All white people are people, All General Motors cars are cars, etc.  (My son could probably argue with that last point but I’ll leave that up to him.)

Sometimes, what you may think is a re-statement of the subject is, in fact, a fallacy  (“a mistaken belief, especially one based on unsound argument,” a definition provided by Google.)  For example, a lot of people think Christians are automatically followers of Jesus; Not so.  One can be a Christian and not be a follower of Jesus just as one can follow Jesus but not be a Christian.  There are similar misconceptions about Christians being ‘nice’ people, or ‘church people’ being ‘good people;’  I daresay, a large percentage of them are but I have also been told that, “Church people can be some of the meanest people in the world.”  Notice, that observer included the words “can be” rather than ‘always are.’

It is not nice to make untrue generalizations about people; remember, God don’t like ugly. In fact, it is downright dangerous in an eternal sense, because number 9 of the Ten Commandments, says:

9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

I don’t think I need to enlighten you that “your neighbor” means ‘everybody else but you;’  That includes people of your own race, as well as all people of all other races.  Now, before you hit the reply button I want to include what Ask.com says about races:

“Although all races share over 99% of the same genetic material, the classification and division of races is largely subjective, and all races belong to the same species – Homo sapiens. Scientifically, races are defined as a group of people that are separated and grouped together due to the fact that they have common inherited traits that distinguishes them from other groups.

“The notion of race is also divided based on geographic separation, social and cultural differences and distinguished physical differences. Human typologies are commonly differentiated based on the following physical axes:

    • skin color
    • hair texture
    • jaw size
    • facial angle
    • cranial capacity
    • frontal lobe mass
    • brain mass
    • brain surface fissures
    • body lice

“These physical attributes do not necessarily have a strong correlation with genetic variations. As a result, the United Nations has opted to drop the term “race” and replace it with “ethnic groups” instead. According to a 1998 study published in the Scientific American, there are more than 5,000 ethnic groups in the world.”

(body lice?)

That’s a lot of people who are different from each other.  However, they are ALL “your neighbor.”  If you don’t believe me, ask God.

Like I said before, people with agendas like to make generalizations about people who are different from them…politicians, especially, because they are short on time…or short on something.  For example, when he said that,

“When Mexico (meaning the Mexican Government) sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you (pointing to the audience). They’re not sending you (pointing again). They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems to us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.  And some, I assume, are good people!”

…at least Donald qualified that SOME are good people.  That’s what I am suggesting; we should avoid making generalizations by including qualifiers, like “some.”

(I would like to add, Donald, that if those are SOME of your “best words,” dear, I suggest you consider taking a vow of silence.)

Unfortunately, I grew up hearing a lot of non-qualified generalizations…particularly about black people, but also about Jewish people, as well as Asians and Native Americans.  I recall hearing the explanation that”all black people are bad; that’s why God made them black.”  (What?!?)  First of all, I never understood what was meant by “bad.” Were they bad drivers?  bad spellers?  I don’t think that’s what was meant.  I think it meant that they were inherently dishonest, corrupt, and dangerous.    And, he was wrong, incorrect, inaccurate, and, to be fair, probably spoke out of fear.

Before I go any farther, I have never known, personally, a black person who was ‘bad.’  The black people I have known personally, from the time I was a child to the present, and I mean people I have known well…people I worked with for 22 years on a daily basis, for example…have been kind, generous, polite, friendly, helpful, honest, trustworthy, decent, not dangerous…all those descriptions I use when referring to people who are ‘good.’  I met one young black man in the hospital last year whom I would not trust, but I did not know him well, and based on his words and actions, I don’t think anyone would trust him.  Black people I meet on a daily basis down here in Anderson, South Carolina, have been … without exception … gracious, polite, courteous, and when I pass on information about my writing, they usually say, “Thank you, ma’am.,” which to me shows good manners and up-bringing.  Furthermore, when I open a conversation about faith, Christ, or spirituality, there is immediate affirmation; Black people ‘get it.’ They KNOW God which tells me a great deal about the purpose of hard times on this earth.

Thanks be to God and to God be the Glory.