A Little Less Racist than I Used to Be…

August 18, 2014 at 2:01 am (Uncategorized)

It is easy for me not to care about an unarmed black kid that is shot and killed by a police officer.

There. I said it. It is easier to malign Mike Brown’s character, to categorize him a criminal, or to simply label the whole Ferguson incident a black issue rather than to feel the profound emotion attached to the loss of life, to wrestle through the dynamics of social injustice, and to try to love my neighbor. 

Love takes a lot of work. And a deeper love takes a lot of lessons. 

Lesson 1: White Privilege — It is easy not to care about Mike Brown’s life and it’s tragic end, because as a white-American male I don’t have to. There are many items in the Backpack of White Privilege, perhaps one of the most insidious is the capacity to disconnect from the sufferings of others because they are not like me: The loss of life for the Brown family is a black issue. Immigration is a Latino issue. I can recluse myself from the conversation because I and folks of my hue are not frequent victims of police brutality or are not checked for citizenship. I have the racial/emotional capacity to pretend that #Ferguson (and many other issues) doesn’t affect me. 

But I shouldn’t. So many of the authors I’ve been reading of late (here comes Lesson 2…) reflect that oppression/racism distorts both the oppressed AS WELL AS the oppressor. In this case, the option to not care distorts my humanity. It is a willful rejection of another human being’s existence and the value of that life. In my faith, I believe that all life is valuable. That I am called to love my neighbor.

I have to choose to do this. I have to choose not to ignore the passing of a life. I have to choose to love. It is a choice to forsake ignorance, abstraction, and misdirection and to step into the mess of loving someone who is other than myself. 

I titled this blog “A Little Less Racist than I Used to Be…” as both a confession and challenge. A confession that I live comfortably in a Euro-centric world and am often OK with the privilege that affords me. And as a personal challenge to continue to grow. As a Christ-follower, I want to be more like Jesus, to love like He loves. That often means confessing the realities of the world I live in and learning the realities (and hardships) of the world around me.

Lesson 2: You are what you read — Six years ago (thanks to Mission Year) I resolved to read at least one book a year by an author that wasn’t white. (The fact that I considered this progressive is telling in-and-of itself). My most recently completed read was Aliens in the Promised Land by Anthony Bradley. The book reflected on Minority Leadership within the White Church and Religious Institutions. The book includes a 1994 report on Racism and the Church published by the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church. Essentially the report said that racism is an issue, it is a sin, and it is something that the power of Christ can overcome. I stumbled on this 20 yr. old Missouri report on racism the week Michael Brown was shot.

This is still an issue — be it police brutality, over-militarization of local police, or media portrayal of African-American men. And I confess my ignorance to these issues. I have been thankful this past week for the many blogs that have challenged and educated my way of thinking. Here are a few of them:

This is Why We’re Mad About the Shooting of Mike Brown; The Front Lines of FergusonIf They Gunned Me DownWhen Terror Wears A BadgeBecoming a White Ally to Black People in the Aftermath of the Michael Brown MurderThe Police Are the Issue In Ferguson, Not Michael Brown’s CharacterThe Unacceptable Silence Of Asian American Christians In Response To Ferguson

I’ve been reading a lot more recently from a diversity of authors. It has helped me immensely in being a little less racist than I used to be. 

Lesson 3: A Little More Loving than I Used to Be — It is no longer as easy for me not to care about the shooting of an unarmed black kid. It is no longer as easy for me not to care about bombings on the Gaza Strip or the plight of Afghani people. I have tried to center my life on loving God and loving my neighbor, and this has caused me a whole world of grief. Grief over lives lost, over injustice, and grief over my own ignorance to the pain around me. 

As I pray for Shalom (God’s peace and justice) for Ferguson, Gaza, Israel, Ukraine, Iraq, and my own Akron I recognize on so many levels that I am a lot more racist or selfish or sinful than I realize. By God’s grace, I am a little less so than I used to be. And I pray that I can be a little more loving than I used to be as well. 

Continuing in advocacy and prayer. 

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