There has been a lot of talk recently regarding racial tension and race relations. Listening to the rhetoric of both sides pertaining to justice, rights, fairness, guilt…it makes me think of my own history in this matter.
I grew up in north Florida but in the remnants of the Old South. My parents were moderate racists. By that I mean they were ignorantly glad that they were White. They had little affection for and much suspicion of any other race or nationality. I grew up with them referring to all Blacks by the ‘n’ word.
Somehow, I never got use to that reference and never thought of African-American people that way. My particular outlook was cosmopolitan. I never thought that worth or nobility had a limited hue. Perhaps the impetus of my color blindness was due to the fact that I was always a dreamer imagined a la John Lennon.
Most of my life was lived in the public school system. In Elementary and then in Junior High my peers were almost all pale unless they lived at the beach. Our ecosystem was Caucasian and so you would think that everything would be cool and groovy. Not so much. The kids were mean—the White kids.
In our Middle School we had four Blacks. They were pleasant, well dressed, and scared. They were there because they were bused in. Desegregation was being enforced which forced children to leave all that was familiar only to find themselves behind ‘enemy’ lines. Between Math and English Comp I saw these Black kids abused. Not all the time but enough that it was never a surprise. I always felt impotent to help, held back by my upbringing, by the present cultural tensions, and by my own limited strength of heart and body. I was a skinny farm boy totally shocked by the enmity I was witnessing…and also experiencing. Yes, I too was a victim. Haters gonna hate.
After Middle School the roles were reversed. When our bus arrived at the designated campus for our Senior High School—far away from our neighborhoods—no one rushed to get off. We all stared out the windows at all the young Blacks milling around. Someone sitting in the back summed up our fear by involuntarily stating, “We’re outnumbered”.
Fights during class breaks were commonplace. One learned how to navigate around the melee. Barbed wire and police patrols were part and parcel of the academic infrastructure.
Hating Your Neighbor
I’ll never forget the time I was ‘jumped’ by six or more Black guys. Blindsided by the first blow to the cheek I fell as other punches and kicks followed smashing into my face and body with all the rage that a history of prejudice supplies. It was over quickly and as my assailants faded into the crowd I stood bleeding, in shock, trying to bring my senses back online.
My experience with bloody nose, busted lip, and bodily bruising in Middle School because of the mean Whites and now, in High School because of the mean Blacks, completed the color spectrum. Hating your neighbor covers all shade and pigment.
Christian Race Relations
When I became a Christian I thought prejudice would be nonexistent among the disciples of Jesus Christ but found myself alarmed and disappointed that there were ‘good Christian people’ who were still biased in their thinking. In Bible College, in the church, and in seminary ‘race’ was an issue or could become an issue depending on the conversation or situation.
This inherited sin certainly finds strength in personal and family histories. Events remembered, stories told, and personal experiences all serve to keep that fire smoldering. Such is the fallen world and all the efforts toward understanding, equality, and reparation have failed or will fail without first taking care of the foundational cause—sin. And the only way to deal with sin is confession of transgression and forgiveness toward transgressors. And both apply to each and every one of us. We are all haters because we are all sinners.
Love & Sacrifice
How thankful we all should be that God demonstrated His love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. For all who would demand blood—the blood has been shed—resulting in a new people-group where red, yellow, black, and white are all precious.
“by this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
“Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt”.
After we have presented our bodies as living sacrifices we are told:
“Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
We are called to be more than just ‘mere’ men.
Let’s all act like Christians out there.