09 July 2016

My thoughts

I don’t know if you will ever understand unless you walk in the shoes
and life of a black person!

I don’t know if you will ever understand unless you walk in the shoes and life of a black person or are willing to listen to our story and try to understand.  I am utterly dismayed at all the hatred and anger that has occurred with the killing of the two black young men and just as horrified with the killing of the Dallas police officers. On all levels, both were brutal, ignorant, and just plain wrong and painful to stomach.  But not only am I hurt about what has happened this past week and last few years but I also anguish over the years of oppression, slavery, injustice, and lack of civil rights. And this week it came to a head and exploded on both sides and I am just wondering how in the world did we get to this and how in God’s name do we move beyond this. I offer a few suggestions but first ask you to read and empathize with me as a black person living in America!

First, let me say why I say you may never understand.  “Black lives matter” is not just a catchy slogan that started what some call a hate group or maybe it was historically started by a black female who shared her thoughts with a hashtag after a murder of another black male but it has even far and greater reaching depths. Those words reach back to slavery, to lynching, to us not being able or given the opportunity to read, write, our families being separated, our women being raped, and our men being emasculated, disrespected, and killed and humiliated as black men. Being told we are apes, second class citizens, not able to vote, left out of history books, not given credit for inventions or entrepreneurship ideas, being tokens in experiments like the Tuskegee experiment or Henrietta Lacks, not able to eat in established restaurants, not able to have equal rights in the justice system, in the school system and having to march for freedom.  Seeing our civil rights leader get murdered before us.  Just to name a few. Our lives did not matter, we were just an X.  So you see our pain is deeper than 2016. It stems farther back and the spirits of anger, hatred, and murder have haunted us for years and to say just get over and move on is not the solution.

I was born in 1968 in Griffin, GA while my mother was carrying me, she had to sit in an all black waiting area where she was not allowed to sit among whites. This separation told her she was different, not good enough, her life and the life of her child was a second thought and regulated her and other blacks to feel humiliated and demoralized. And this was just 48 yrs. ago. Both my mom and my dad participated in the civil right movements. My mom participated in the sit ins in Atlanta where she is from and my dad helped curb racial divides in the city of Griffin.  Not too mention the things that my grandparents and great parents suffered. And though I was in her womb when she sat in that all black waiting room, I had no idea her pain and her injustice, but it seeped in my spirit and bled through her womb and touched my heart.  I have experienced racism, injustice in small ways growing up in Griffin and seen systematic racism in a county who refused colleges, malls, and other progressive things in our city to keep the textile mills in Griffin filled with black high school drop outs and graduates. I have spoken out throughout my life and as a clergy been told to be politically correct and not divisive. And that has never been my motive to divide but to bring awareness, cultural sensitivity, and provoke others to understand our pain so healing can come. So I write this to say, “can you empathize, can you feel our pain, can you see why we are saying “Black lives matter”? Do you see us?  We are not apes, hoodlums, or an untamed people. We are intelligent, God-fearing moms, dads, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, nieces, cousins, fellow citizens, doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, rappers, entertainers, basketball and football players, and yes police officers but our pain is still here and unfortunately so is racism and sometimes it overt and other times is not even known or naively present. 

So how do we move from our past and bring healing to our present.  First, some need to acknowledge our pain without deemphasizing it and admit that there is systematic racism by some even if you are not a part of the problem. And yes black America, we must also acknowledge that we have anger, un-forgiveness, and spiritual trauma that we must overcome.  Our rhetoric on both sides must be fair, truthful, caring, empathetic, culturally sensitive, cross-racially, and concerned. We must hear each other and it cannot be one sided.  Then, we must move from our conversation to united action.

We cannot kill the very police force that is trying to protect us because of the few racist, bigots that are on the force nor generalize all police officers as bad. In the same light, we cannot discount the lack of racial tolerance, unnecessary force, and murder that is dis-apportionately happening to our black men and in some cases women and boys and girls.  There is work to do on both sides and guilt and error on both sides.  It is wrong to demoralize our president when he speaks to the truths of what is a truth in America and something that we have yet to overcome. I don’t agree with everything he says and does, but as a black man, he understands and he deserves the respect, tolerance, and consideration as the President of the United States that all presidents are given whether we agree with his policies or not. He is not inciting racism but understanding our pain and speaking to it. And yes, it is systemic racism and yes there are many blacks who have hatred, anger, bitterness, resentment, and racism in their hearts as well. But we know two wrongs don’t make it right.  

So how do we move from here? I don’t know all the answers but I only share a few solutions that are in front of me.  First thank you to those who have acknowledged our pain and injustice(s). Yes, my white counter parts and friends who in light of all the rhetoric have seen past that and empathized with us because of what we’ve gone through and what is happening in our communities. My denominational superintendent has done so and for that I am grateful.  And there lies one solution, there should be a solidarity in our reaching solutions and an ability to hear each other, understand each other, and work together to acknowledge wrong and move forward with what can be right.

Secondly, in some light, some blacks are acting totally out of character but no sensitivity is given to the fact that we are impoverished, uneducated, and marginalized. This does not justify nor give an excuse to what that young black man did in Dallas nor any senseless heinous crime whether committed towards others or those within our own communities. It identifies a problem that we need to fix. Likewise, so does the murder of too many black young men by police. This identifies yet another problem that we need to fix.  I do not think we should look to others to fix our communities but we must also take responsibility for our brokenness, our crime rates, drugs, fatherlessness, and all the ills that our communities are facing and become a people who will do our part to make a difference in helping to bring transformation and change in our communities. Spiritually, we must destroy the principalities, spirits, generational curses and strongholds that plague our communities with prayer and God led action. When we refuse to hear and acknowledge our past and injustice of our present, it leaves black people feeling hopeless, impoverished, lack of identity, and without purpose, promise or hope. In some ways because we have been lynched and beaten in the past, we've never recovered and unfortunately, the pain of it is manifesting in us killing each other, drugs and the ills I mentioned before.


Thirdly, as Christians we can reach across cultural lines to reach into the depth of this pain to bring change! Some are already doing so but more of us need to and where there is hatred and hurt, pain and injustice, we all need to acknowledge it and do our part by building relationships and building bridges!  I do not think it was a coincidence that these murders happened to these two black men with their children in the background either seeing or hearing this and then the cops getting killed in Dallas.  It is a tragedy of unsurmountable proportions that has happened in our nation and one horrific act does not trump the other.  It’s waking all of us up: black white, Hispanic, Asian, Jew, Gentile, Gay, Straight, Muslim or whatever—we need to have tolerance and love for each other and begin to help make change in our communities. It is a heart problem and God’s love is the one thing that breaks down the walls, restores hope, transforms men both black and white, acknowledges the past and present sins of our forefathers and move us to bring reconciliation and restoration of people across all sides.  When we walk where others have walked, get in the trenches with them, build relationships, gain trust, stop systematic injustice, see each other’s pain, look past the present manifestation and look deeper at the root of the problems and touch lives one soul, one community, and one day at a time as a collective human race, we may begin to see some healing and change.  We are His agents in the earth and we must find our place and do our part to be a part of the solutions and not the problems.

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