Thursday, July 15, 2010

Racism and Prejudice: Part II

If you read my last blog entry you'll see that I believe that some level prejudice resides in all of us. What we do and how we act in light of that prejudice determines how we interrelate with other races, cultures and people who are different than us. I like to think of myself as a person that loves people. Learning about other people and the things that make them unique as individuals is refreshing to me. I often try to challenge my prejudices and do what I can to get to know different people.

I am an Evangelical Christian. When my family and I moved to St. Augustine, one of our top priorities was to find a strong, Bible teaching, Evangelical church. We also really wanted a church with a strong expository preacher. My entire life has been spent in Black churches. Racial makeup of the congregation really wasn't important to me but it was important to me that my next church home be a place where I can feel totally comfortable inviting anyone. I wanted a place where I knew that my guests would be treated with love and respect and they would hear the Gospel no matter what their skin color or socioeconomic status was.

We visited a number of churches. Some of them were predominantly black, others were predominantly white. We visited a couple Southern Baptist Churches and ended up settling on Turning Point @ Calvary in St. Augustine, Florida. Southern Baptist churches are known for expository preaching and we found a home that we are desperately in love with. For those of you who may be history buffs, you know that Southern Baptists are overwhelmingly Conservative and don't quite have an exemplary record when it comes to relations with Blacks in the past. (At one time they supported slavery and segregation)

If one were going to find racism in a church, they might be prejudiced to expect to find it in a place with ties to such a troubled racial past. My family and I are among perhaps eight to ten African American people in this congregation of well over a thousand. At the time of our joining, I never noticed more than two or three in regular attendance. This could have been a prime time for me to be guided by my prejudice. I could have said to myself, "Where are all the Blacks?" "I'll bet these folks will act funny towards us because we're black." It didn't take me long to realize that these prejudices couldn't be further from the truth.

I've found this church to be the single most inviting and loving congregation I have ever had the pleasure to interact with. While I'm sure that there are some that have certain prejudices about me as I do them, the love of God is evident in their interactions with me and my family and others. The Word of God is taught without compromise and God's work is evident in the life and deportment of the congregation. I am learning that white people are a lot like me. They work, pray, laugh, love and cry just like me. Many of my prejudices are being further broken down and I hope that many of their prejudices are being challenged by my family.

From time to time some well meaning person will say something to my wife like, "Sing soul sista" or some well meaning gentleman will make it a point to let me know how many Black people he knows in one of our conversations. Some would choose to be offended by these episodes in a kneejerk fashion. This is not how we are going to move forward into a real post-racial America. There are substantive differences among the cultures of the people of this great land. How will we ever learn to appreciate one another if we don't have patience and take the time to understand each other?

Sometimes we toss around the word diversity. What was the last thing that you did to actually promote diversity? When was the last time you intentionally befriended someone who perhaps is a little different than you? Maybe if more of us would take the steps to understand each other we could really move closer to a post racial future.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Racism and Prejudice: Part I

I love White people. I don’t always understand them—I love Black people. I don’t always understand them either. Am I a racist? I don’t believe so. I am however, prejudiced—and you are too. There is a difference between racism and prejudice. The difference is subtle but it makes a world of difference in our daily interactions as members of the human race. I won’t go to the dictionary for definitions because you can do that yourself and I really want to speak extemporaneously on this topic.

When I think of racism, I think of a deep seated belief that one’s race is superior to another. The world has seen its share of racists in its history. The history of White supremacists in this country is probably the most poignant and common example. There are also Black Supremacists. This may not be as well known to as many. These are they that proclaim that the White man is the devil and so forth.

This country has a history of racial tension and acrimony. This is very unfortunate. This is one of the primary reasons that we all are so prone to prejudice. Prejudice can be defined by simply breaking down its root words pre and judice. Prejudice quite simply means to pre-judge. Prejudice is the single biggest reason we are experiencing such a resurgence of racial tension in this country in 2010.

To be sure, racism is still alive and well in America. There are still too many who hold the aforementioned racist and bigoted views. The fact is there are exponentially more who do not hold racist or bigoted attitudes. I will concede however that all of us are prone to prejudice. Our history too often causes us to view each other through the prism of racism. It has to be noted however that all of our prejudices don’t have to do simply with skin color.

Disclaimer: This is where I may get in trouble…

Example 1

When I am walking through the mall parking lot and I see a group of young black men speaking loudly in foul language, in oversized shirts, sagging pants, gold teeth and bloodshot eyes, I give them a wide berth. I say to myself, “self, those fellas might be high and they might want to start some trouble.” I may want to keep an eye on them and try to stay out of their way. You don’t have to admit it but you would be just as nervous in this situation whatever color you are.

Example 2

On Monday of this week I took my five year old daughter to swim lessons at the local pool. After her lesson was over my daughter came out of the pool and started to walk towards where I was sitting. I got up and approached her to meet her and took her to a nearby bench where a white woman had just placed her and her small son’s belongings on one half of the bench. I sat down and proceeded to help my daughter dry off and get herself together. As we were working, my daughter started to climb on to the bench next to me. Before I could stop her she almost sat on a sun visor that belonged to the white woman. Almost immediately I noticed the woman approaching us. I said hello. She said nothing that I could discern and proceeded to move her things to the next bench.

She seemed bothered and I have to confess that my initial thoughts were not very fair minded. I thought to myself, “I don’t care if you don’t like black people.” I was calling her every kind of racist I could in my mind. I possibly could have been correct in some regard but why can’t it be just as likely that she may have been a little upset that she perceived I was allowing my daughter to climb all over her belongings?

Is it fair that I would be worried that people that look like the gentlemen in the first example might be violent? More importantly, is my fear of them simply because of their skin color or were more factors in play? Is it fair that my first reaction to the woman at the pool was to brand her a racist? Does she deserve the benefit of the doubt concerning her racism? Do you think all of our prejudices are based solely on skin color?

That’s enough food for thought. Now I’ll write Part II of Racism and Prejudice.

Friday, July 9, 2010

We used to have to sit in the back; Now we have to stand on the left

I've been on an odyssey of sorts lately. I feel obligated to share some of the things I have come to realize over that past year or so. I have a burden in my heart to set free people that are like I was. I don't write this for the following people:

People who believe that mankind is essentially good

If you fall into any of the aforementioned categories, you probably want to stop reading now because this will probably be a waste of your time. I write this to people that believe in the following:

Hard Work
Personal Responsibility
People who believe that mankind is fallen by nature and in need of a Savior

I voted Democrat my entire life up to and including the last presidential election. I honestly have to admit that I never took a long hard look at politics until I became enamored with all that Barack Obama was saying he could to do to fix our country and get us back on the right track. During the election, many of my good friends who knew me and knew what things I believe are important tried to open my eyes to why I would vote for him. They would ask me how I justify many of President Obama's policies in light of what I believe. I would manufacture an answer but I knew deep down that my answers had no solid footing.

You can check my Facebook for my constant rants about the specific things concern me but I ask you to take a look at the lists above and then think about what they mean to your vote. Think about this: 95% of Black Americans voted for Barack Obama. I'm as proud as anyone that a Black man can become the most powerful man in the world. However does this mean that 95% of black people essentially share the same views on the issues mentioned?

Monday, July 5, 2010

An Open Letter to White People

Dear White People,
I pray this letter finds you well. I am writing to inform you that I officially, henceforth, now and forever do absolve and forgive you from the guilt associated with slavery and our country's spotted history of civil rights. I do this while recognizing and understanding that there are yet still some whites that would still seek to propagate racist ideology. I submit that it is now easier than ever to navigate around these people. I truly believe that there is not a racist alive that can stop me or any of my fellow black people from achieving their dreams.

None of you had anything to do with slavery. I find it unfair to blame you for the evils of some of your forefathers. Also, if I were to continue to hold the evils of slavery against you, it would be necessary to also hold the same grievance against all of the Africans who practiced slavery and were complicit in trading Africans to those first European traders. It is in fact said that there were more African slave traders than White slave owners in America during colonial times. There were also many of your ancestors who were dead set against slavery right along with many of mine. Many of them sought to abolish it from it's outset in America. Their opposition unfortunately took a back seat to the revolutionaries who didn't want to open up a schism as they were forming this new union. It is truly a pity that it took so long. However, it is with these facts in mind that I find it more sensible to forgive and move on.

It is also my belief that we have come a long way since segregation. Most of you had nothing to do with that. I know that this doesn't apply to all of my fellow black people but I personally have never been called a n*gger by anyone white. I can't say that I have ever been passed over for a job because of my skin color. I have been subjected to injustice by blacks as well as whites. Bad things happen but I'm willing to bet that a relatively small amount of bad things that befall my fellow people of color can directly be attributed to racism. Racism does indeed still exist and it's much easier to notice when you are actively searching for episodes of it.

Though I realize that racism still exists, I find searching for examples of it and blaming it for my problems counterproductive and a waste of energy. I prefer to channel those energies into growing myself, educating myself and educating others. I don't need your affirmative action or any other quotas to help me find my place in America. I take more pride in finding my own way with a thankful eye on the sacrifices that people made before me to give me this freedom and opportunity and a focused eye on doing whatever it takes to forge my own destiny in this changing world. I don't need the so-called black voices in media to continually try to convince me of how much of a victim I am. I don't buy it. Too many people that look like me have found legitimate success in America. I want to travel that road of hard work, focus, and personal responsibility that so many successful people have followed and help others to do the same.

I want to thank you for doing what you can to assuage the fears of those that still wish to proudly carry the blood stained banner of victimhood. I know it can be difficult when it seems like you are labeled as racist every time you disagree with a person of color. I realize that there are some of you that still don't like me and people that look like me but that's okay. We can deal with you on a case by case basis. I also recognize that some black people may have a problem with me being so anxious to bury this hatchet. I can accept this. They don't have to bury it with me. I believe that we are all individuals not monolithic beings bound in thought by our skin color. I am simply ready and willing to truly step into a post-racial society. Who wants to go with me?



Saturday, July 3, 2010

Independence of Thought and Patriotic Dissent

The following quote is attributed to Alexander Fraser Tytler a Scottish born, British lawyer, writer and historian:

A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

  • From bondage to spiritual faith;
  • From spiritual faith to great courage;
  • From courage to liberty;
  • From liberty to abundance;
  • From abundance to complacency;
  • From complacency to apathy;
  • From apathy to dependence;
  • From dependence back into bondage.
As we approach another Independence Day I find myself in deep reflection of the virtues of our great nation. The United States were founded under extraordinary circumstances by extraordinary people. Perfect? Our founders and forefathers were not. However, they laid down an awesome framework in which America quickly traveled the aforementioned sequence from bondage all the way to abundance. It seems to me that we are now sliding into complacency and apathy and moving quickly into dependence. I am truly concerned about the last stage of this sequence- back into bondage.

It seems that more and more, disagreement with issues such as universal health care and comprehensive immigration reform will get you labeled as intolerant, indifferent to the poor and a racist. Contrary to popular belief, Americans are among the most benevolent people in the world. We individually give very generously when disaster strikes around the country and around the world. The key word being individually. There are forces at work in our nation that seek to oppress the will, rights and virtue of the individual and replace it with that of the group.

Major polls regularly indicate that a relatively small percentage of Americans actually consider themselves Liberal in terms of political policy. This raises many paradoxical questions about what we are seeing happen in our nation. Given the information gleaned from these polls, why does it seem that a disproportionate amount of our media, news and pop culture leans so far to the left? How do Conservative writers consistently top the New York Times Best Seller lists? How and why does Fox News consistently dominate the other cable news networks in spite of the vitriol from the current administration and much of the media world? Lets break it down a little bit.

Why do Conservative entities hold such an advantage relative to their liberal counterparts?

I'd like to offer this hypothesis: The majority of Americans who are interested in current events and are actively engaged in the political process are not interested in going with the flow of pop culture. They cast a critical eye at notions of group victimhood and cast aside notions of personal gain at any cost. They are not impressed because a politician offers them a leg up or an easy way out. They understand that everyone needs help at some time but we must weigh the cost.

How do far-left Liberals gain such inroads into our pop culture?
Here's another hypothesis: Too many Americans simply do not take the time to formulate a political stand based on what they truly believe. They are not prone to actually taking the time to deeply understand issues that will effect them and the nation. They are then easily manipulated by people that would seek to place them in a group. The groups are many. They include the poor, the middle class, Blacks, Latinos, Christians and labor just to name a few.

My hope for America is that we will not forget that our strength as individuals is what makes us collectively great. We can disagree on issues. That is the American way. Our disagreements are what make as stronger. Our debates are where we sharpen and prune our ideas. However, the key to this strength is an informed electorate that understands their strength and value as individuals. The founders understood this. They welcomed a melting pot of ideas for the purposes of strengthening the union. If we don't continue to avail ourselves to this process we may raise our eyes one day and find ourselves back into bondage, under what Tocqueville called the tyranny of the majority.