A Call to Love

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people bridge

I find that it’s hard to be sympathetic to things and people that I know nothing about.  It’s much easier to appear sympathetic when we don’t really have to deal with that kind of pain personally.  We feel really great about ourselves when we are accepting, tolerant of others.  We tell ourselves and others that we are not really prejudiced and that makes us feel pretty darned good about ourselves …

Things have gotten uncomfortable around these parts, even scary for some of us.  It’s feeling like the sweeping under the rug that some of us have been trying to do – and by “us,” I mean those of us who don’t usually have prejudice aimed at us on the daily or weekly so we don’t choose to deal with it – has now become a futile attempt.  Our throw rug has become wall to wall carpeting and it is bulging on all sides and it looks like it just may vomit ALL OVER everyone at any moment.  Some of us are still furiously sweeping while we close our eyes, some of us are turning our heads, because that has worked for years, some of us are thrilled that we can finally express how superior we feel compared to those other people, some of us are terrified of all of the trouble these other loud mouth liberals are causing for no reason because things have come so far, and still others are thrilled beyond measure that something is finally going to change, because it can’t get any worse, can it?

These are some of the arguments that I’ve held near and dear or, at the very least, agreed a little bit with when others have expressed them to me:

1.  My children don’t have the same chances at a college education that people of color do.  It’s not fair that my child has a better GPA and can’t get into the same college as a person of color simply because they are a person of color.  (My hispanic hubby and I have had MANY discussions about this one.)

2.  My grandfather came into this country with less than two nickels to rub together and he worked his a*% off and made something of himself without a freeride from the government.

3.  Have you visited your local prison?  The majority of inmates are black for a reason.

4.  They all just seem so angry.  I mean I didn’t do anything.  My parents were the first generation here.  My descendants didn’t enslave theirs.

5.  Hasn’t slavery been abolished for a long time?!  How is giving them all of this preferential treatment going to make things more even?  – and when is this all going to stop so that everyone is finally on even ground?

6.  They don’t want equality when it comes to playing sports like basketball, do they?

By now, I’ve ruffled some feathers. I’m a white girl.  I understand.  I was raised by parents who claimed to not be prejudiced and then proceeded to justify why they felt the way they did, on the regular.  I was also raised in a small town that rarely saw the light of anything but white while I lived there.  Although in 5th grade twins who were black, a boy and a girl named Michael and Michelle, if memory serves me,  moved into my little village for a couple of weeks while their parents worked at the apple orchard outside of town.  I was beside myself.   I wanted them to feel welcome and I instinctively knew that they wouldn’t.  I went home and excitedly told my family.  I remember being teased about my love of black people.   My friendship at the age of 3 or 4 with a little black girl named Boo when we lived in Detroit has been the topic of ribbing since forever.  I was heartbroken that they didn’t see how cool this was and that I was going to make everyone love and accept each other.

I’m prejudiced.

I wish I could tell everyone that I’m not.  I’m working on being more who He wants me to be and a HUGE part of that is truly understanding that we are all God’s children and NO ONE is superior, but shedding the shell of my culture, my majority, my “security”, my power is no easy task.  It is necessary and freeing.  It is humbling in painful, embarrassing and joyful ways.  It’s a shame that it even has to be “fixed”… What is wrong with this world – with me?!

I’m a little afraid that “my” people won’t be in power in the near future.  I’m not even sure what that means or what that looks like, but in my gut I want to be part of the people who run things or at least blend in and be protected by them.  Because for some reason I believe I should be afraid of people of color, especially black people.  If I’m alone in my parked car at night and I see a black man, I instinctively want to be sure my car door is locked – in all fairness, I feel this way about almost anyone if I’m alone in a parked car, but especially if the person I see is black.  I was taught this from a very young age.  It is standard equipment for white girl upbringing.  This entire paragraph is a confession, not a justification.  God help me.

A friend recently reminded me of things I was told as a child and as an adult, such as, if a black man is walking toward you on the sidewalk, you should cross to the other side.  Asian people aren’t smarter than us, they just respect education more and try harder.  Muslims all want to kill us.  When people speak in a language other than English, they are being disrespectful to Americans. ( If you can’t speak the language, get out of our country!)  Black men always want big white girls.  The Mexicans coming here are mostly murderers, rapists and other kinds of criminals.  If the women who wear those veils across their faces can’t remove them to have their picture taken for a license/i.d. then they need to go back to their own country.

I remember when my son and his wife, who is black, first became seriously involved.  A family member questioned me about her being black.  They asked if she had a college education (my son does not, btw), they asked if she talked “black” and then they asked if her parents were married and professionals.  I was appalled, and somewhat defensive.  I tried to argue how insulting this was.  The other person chuckled and then tried to change the subject.

The truth is “my people” are my children who are both anglo (from many countries), and hispanic, a husband who is hispanic, a dil who is black… as time rolls along I have no doubt my family will be more and more enriched with people from many cultures and I look forward to this blessing.  It’s time to embrace people and reject the ignorant fear of anyone different before we even get to know them as actual people with just as much to bring to the table as we do.  It’s always been time, we’re just slow learners.  I long for this for the future generations of my people.

1.  It’s not fair.  It’s necessary.  It’s not fair that only people with money or with almost no money or who know the right people get to go to college.  We are all Americans and if we want our country to progress we are going to have to level the playing field by giving people of color a hand up educationally in college since we most certainly don’t before that in our public school system.

I think it’s also important to note how uneven things are once everyone graduates from college:  

One possibility is that blacks are often paid less—about 10 percent on average—even when working the same occupation as whites. This is probably a combination of discrimination and differences in skills.

As for discrimination, experimental evidence shows that potential employers are less likely to initiate the hiring process with blacks even when their resumes are identical. On the skills side, blacks are significantly under-represented in top colleges: only five percent of students in the top decile of four-year colleges (ranked by alumni earnings) are black.    -Jonathan Rothwell in “Job Gap Closes, Income Gap Sticks:  Halting Progress Towards Race Equality”

2.  My grandpa came here from Ireland and worked for 6 or 7 years, as I recall, before he could afford to bring my grandmother over.  They had 6 children.  He worked very hard and I am proud of what he did for his family and the future generations of his family.  He was a very angry man and we’ve all reaped the benefits of that in our lives as well.  He died just before I was born. Near the time our country lost JFK.  My grandma was with us all of my growing up years.  She had a beautiful accent, a wonderful sense of humor and the warmth of a mackerel.  (I realize other grandchildren had a different relationship with her.  I can only speak of my own.)  Their children were (and still are) white.  They have no accents.  Some of them attended college and almost all of their children attended college if they desired it.  When my ancestors came here they came by choice.  They had some money and they were welcomed by either family or by loads of people in the same boat as them from their country of origin – and they had white skin, so they blended right in with the people in power.

3.  I am dreading this one.  So many facts.  So many opinions.  There is not one pat answer for this cop out.  Sin is sin.  Crime is wrong.  You can only oppress people for so long before things go awry.  This system is broken and the justification because of it is a freakin’ mess.  When do we go outside, meet our neighbors and see each other as people.  When do we trade in being part of the status quo for being a real, active part of the solution?!

4.  I think about locking my car door.  Their children have been shot for simply looking the way God made them to look.  Seriously, are we that insensitive?  We need to walk in their shoes.  I can only tell you from my years of teaching that we (white folks) have NO idea what it is to be a person of color, to be truly poor, to attend an inner city school that offers less than very little, and to be treated like you are evil incarnate most of your young life – especially if you are a boy.

I think I would be angry…

5.  Refer to #1 and then ask God what He calls on you to be and do.  I just can’t believe we all think that it’s okay to turn a blind eye to this HUGE ELEPHANT in the room.  These people are our family.  We are all His children and family is messy.  Nobody said this would be easy, but it is necessary.  We must embrace the beautiful, and even the irritating differences in all of the stunning ethnicities of our world and we need to start with the people who live in our own neighborhoods, and where we work and everywhere He places an opportunity for us to build a bridge.

6.  I just can’t…  In the whole scheme of things… Nope, I can’t…

This is a journey I’ve been on my whole life.  God placed this passion in me for all to feel loved and accepted unconditionally.  I’m sure I’ve written things that will offend people for different reasons out of my own ignorance and out of His conviction.  I welcome your loving input.  I want to grow and do better and I can’t do that alone.  It’s time for all of us to sit down across the table from our brothers and sisters and bridge the gap that exists because of our fear and ignorance.  It’s time to see each other through the eyes of love and understanding and to embrace one another’s differences and allow our lives to be enriched by these relationships.  We will inevitably be hurt and injured as we are in human relationships, and the enemy will be sure to build upon that, but we must get back up, dust ourselves off and carry on in love.  It is necessary…  Our children, our people are counting on us.

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