My wife Janet recently asked me what I have learned from all my anti-racism reading, watching, listening and discussing. My, but she has a way of cutting to the point of the matter. So I have been thinking about how to condense what I have learned. I think this might take a couple of blog posts—here is part 1.
I did not previously understand why there needed to be a Black History Month. How was Black history different than the history I had already learned? I knew there were college courses in African American studies, but I had no idea what that meant.
Well, I have learned that no one taught me about the history experienced by a large part of our population. I didn’t know about the laws passed in the very early days of our country to ensure the continuation of slavery. I didn’t know about the political deals that ended reconstruction after the civil war and opened the door to the oppressive Jim Crow laws. I had no idea of the extent of the lynchings and murders of Black citizens that took place. And it goes on and on. There is a long and detailed history of grim oppression and murder in our country that I knew little about. God have mercy upon us.
No Generalizations/No Stereotypes
Black culture is different from white culture. Yet, each person is an individual. Each person is a unique. Each person must be judged as an individual. We cannot generalize that all Blacks think alike any more than all Whites think alike.
Black Lives Matter
There was a time when I would respond, “All Lives Matter.” But I now understand that “All Lives Matter” just continues to discount the unique pain and oppression that Black people suffer. It is said that “all lives” can’t matter until Black lives matter. I think that makes sense. The other metaphor that made sense to me is when you call the fire department because your house is on fire, you don’t want them to come and spray water on all the houses on the street, they need to focus on the house that is currently on fire. Black houses are the ones currently on fire.
We have had a conversation about whether to put a Black Lives Matter sign in front of our church. I have heard that someone against the idea expressed the fear that someone might burn down our church. A recent PBS special about The Black Church reminded me that throughout history Black churches have been bombed and burned to the ground by angry white mobs, at least once killing three young girls. Black churches have already been burned, perhaps it’s time to stand alongside them and risk our own churches. Black Lives Matter!
Fixing Racism is the Job of Whites, Not Blacks
I used to think I should support Black folks in their anti-racism work. They needed my help. This is wrong on so many fronts. Fixing racism is not the job of the Black community. It is a problem created and supported by white people and it is our job to fix it. Asking Black folks to fix racism is like asking a murder victim to solve their own murder. It is blaming the victim. It is our job to fix this.
Whew, this is hard stuff isn’t it? Stick with me here. A Part 2 blog will include a few more learnings. Let me end on a positive note. Here is a quote from “Reading While Black: African American Biblical Interpretation As An Exercise in Hope,” by Esau McCaulley.
“The history of Black people in this country is a litany of suffering. Yet we are definitely more than this suffering. There is a thread of victory woven into the tale of despair. We are still here!”
I love it. Black folks have endured the worst and they are still here. Thanks be to God.