Tuesday, December 09, 2014

I don't know nothin' and a recovering racist

There are a couple pieces I want to point to regarding the whole race/ferguson/police thing. I've been hesitant to discuss it much, but that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about it. I am not usually so restrained in my opinions. Maybe I'm maturing. Or afraid. I don't know, but I am learning that anybody can have an opinion; it's another thing entirely to have something worthwhile to say.

The following two posts really stuck with me. The first I saw on Fitch's blog, and the second is from a guy who actually grew up in the same small Illinois town of 400 people as I did. He lived down the street.

David Whited wrote the following, and I'm just going to put the whole thing on here.
One night in high school youth group, my youth pastor told us a story about the first time he was invited to preach at a historically black church in our hometown in Arkansas. My youth pastor had just graduated from seminary and was feeling pretty good about all of the stuff that he learned there, so when the invitation came, he thought he’d preach on a subject he felt would relate to the people he was preaching to.

The topic he chose for that Sunday’s message? Suffering.

My youth pastor told us about how he got up to the pulpit on that bright Sunday morning and preached his heart out. He was shocked by how the shouts from the congregation made him a better preacher than he had ever been in a white church. He was convinced things had gone really well, so he was really excited to see one of the men he had identified as an elder in the congregation start to move toward him to shake his hand at the end of the service.
As the old man made his way to shake his hand, the young preacher indulged in some quick fantasies about the assessment he was about to receive. He was pretty sure that the elder was going to tell him he was surprised that a young white man could “bring it like that”.

Instead, the old man reached out to shake my youth pastor’s hand and gave him exactly one sentence of feedback. He said, “Boy… you don’t know nothin’.”

Ever since the night I heard that story while sitting cross-legged on the floor in the youth room at my church, I have tried to take that elder’s simple remark as my starting point in any conversation I engage in around topics of race, difference, or marginalization. It’s true. I don’t know nothin’. That’s why I need to listen long before I speak and learn before I make a judgment. I’m not naturally good at either one of those things, but because of that old man’s rebuke (and the humility of my youth pastor), I know I have to try.

I pray for all the people of Ferguson tonight and offer up this confession before so much violence and fear:

It’s true. I don’t know nothin’.

 I would like to include the entire post for the second one too, but this is long enough already, so here is the link to Joshua Throneburg's "Thoughts From A Recovering Racist." He starts out, "I grew up white, not just in the color of my skin, but in the culture of my youth..." It's good stuff. Worth clicking through to read.


MR said...

I hate to give up by just saying it's something that's "unknowable". I mean, does this mean there's no accountability for anyone? Certainly I don't know what it's like to be anyone but who I am, so how could I ever enforce any law on anyone if it's impossible to say you've walked in their shoes given the diversity of individuals? I think holding everyone to the SAME standard rather than trying to grade on the curve means you still believe in them not to break the law. A good example: if I approach someone on the street and put a hundred dollars in their hand, they're going to ask me what it's for. If I said they won some contest, fine, but if I want to see about their self-respect (I didn't say pride), I could say "well, I was looking around for someone I thought really NEEDED it and you look like you need it." There's a good chance I'm going to offend them and get my $100 back. That person didn't want to be treated with kid-gloves, because they would rather have the respect. So, I don't really see this as civil disobedience if it's truly not civil. There really ARE problems in their culture: zero fathers, they've gone from blues & jazz to gangster rap, and if you don't have a rap sheet you're not a man.

Here's a perspective I never hear: what if it's not about black and white, but smart and dumb? If we are prejudice against dumb people, including what we might call "white trash", it would probably look a lot like this. Then we start the conversation about why their education isn't as good in those areas. And probably still people will look for broader, more sociological reasons and avoid the obvious absence of personal responsibility.

There are those who say slavery demoralized them forever, and those who say slavery brought them to America and all the opportunity they needed (Keith Richburg). So, essentially, it goes back to self-respect. If you wake up every day not the person you want to be, and seeing no path to becoming the person you want to be, then... why bother?

Pastor D said...

There is hope in the next generation. The kindest complement my son ever received was from a black roommate in college who said to him, “you’re the most non-racist person I have ever met.” In speaking to us about “Joe” the roommate not once did he mention he was a person of color. To this generation color does not matter. It is not an issue. It does not register.

Dr. Kings dream of judging a man by the content of his character might become a reality with this next generation. The current president’s two terms of office speaks volumes.

My daughter living in NYC has met persons from every nationality and color known to man. America can still can do better. Its 2014. The Civil rights act was passed 50 years ago.

Old habits die slow. I should know. I serve a parish who had a German Service from 1838 until 1985. I’m the first pastor not to speak the language that only Jesus speaks!

See Revelation 7:9 for a view the view of a perfect world.

Pastor D said...

And dare I say it the next president of these United States might be a woman!