Friday, November 27, 2015
Did you choose your parents? Did you spend time deciding your ethnic or socio-economic setting as a baby? Did you ask your dad or mom to go to graduate school so you could live a better life? Oops or what if you were born into a family where your dad disappeared or is in prison is that your fault? What if you have a mom who has been unemployed and lived off the safety net of the State is that your path in life too? I was born into a ‘White’ middle class family with incredible parents so does that make me a bad person because I was taught from the cradle to have morals, work hard, share and care? Whereas my dad was born into a family where his parents divorced when he was 10 and he grew up in a ‘Black’ neighborhood in St. Louis so does that make him disadvantaged and a thug?
I just finished reading an incredible article about Emily Smith who is a ‘White’ urban school teacher that one day woke up to the fact that her ‘whiteness’ did handicap her when it came to working with students of color that came out of under resourced single mom homes. This last week there were peaceful but loud protests taking place in Chicago because of a ‘White’ police officer that gunned down a 17 year old Laquan McDonald. Yet, there wasn’t any protest about a Black assailant that was in the process of kidnapping a gal that was rescued by a doctor who was shot while helping.
The racial battle continues to grow in our country as the reasons for racial inequality continue without anyone doing much to see bridges being built between very different communities of people. I applaud Emily Smith for her willingness to recognize the need to teach in a different format to reach her urban students who are very different from her. It wouldn’t be any different if she were teaching in a magnet school where her students excelled and she would have to adjust her subject matter to better help the learning process.
The challenge today is that it is so easy to do the blame and shame thing on everyone instead of considering what are the elements that have caused both ‘White’ privilege and ‘Black’ oppression in today’s society. Again I didn’t choose my racial, educational or moral level of my parents who birthed me! Much as some of the kids and teens of color that I’m around didn’t purposely choose a dad who is in prison for attempted murder. The opportunity is for all of us to choose to work together to learn more about each other’s stories and see positive avenues to pursue which helps us to better understand each other. None of us can alter the past, whether that be parents that grew up during the depression, WWII, Vietnam or the impact of the historical journey of our country that allowed and promoted slavery.
Clearly the present dialogue or more accurately shouting between racial groups over the present tense situation doesn’t accomplish anything but to promote violence, hatred and more racial prejudice. I will confess to the fact that I react to the term White privilege because the setting upon which I have been fortunate to experience is a byproduct of hard work, determination and the grace of God not an inheritance of a wealthy estate. Yet, the perception of many in the Black community is that my success in life means the demise of their community. Is it really my fault that many of the Black teen guys I’m around choose to drop out of school, be unemployed, steal from the local Circle K Store, smoke pot, be rude, crude and foul mouthed? Most are going to react to anyone who acts out in an immoral fashion if it intersects their lives.
As I relate back to many friends who come out of very different social and racial contexts we have to purposely choose to dialogue about the present day issues in a positive and constructive fashion. Yet, what usually happens is the perception that could be reality is that another White Policeman shot another Black teen in a totally unjustifiable fashion. Understanding of the why of what caused that White Policemen to shoot are never considered much as the why of what caused that Black young man to challenge the authority of the Police Officer is never considered either.
It’s so easy for the White person to assume that all Black males under 25 are thugs from the hood much as it so easy for the Black person to assume that all White people are racists and will go out of their way to make sure they oppress anyone of color. If we continue to live this way then there will be more Black men killed by White Police Officers, protest will continue and the divide between the different communities will only get worse.
What would happen if all sides involved would stop assuming the other side is totally evil and out to do harm and instead take the time to learn a little bit about the other group’s circumstances and life story. Imagine what it would be like to have a ‘Black’ Emily Smith write about how she had to adjust her teaching style to accommodate a group of Hispanic Students that were learning to speak English whose parents were undocumented farm workers?
The simple fact is that we live in a complicated society where everyone ultimately has a story that they believe should give them access to what’s best in life. The sad reality is that too often our plight in life is a byproduct of many factors that are beyond our control. So what is the best path to pursue; ongoing violence, peaceful protests, pleading ignorance or becoming like Emily Smith who purposely chose to admit to her blindness and then do something positive about it?
Friday, November 20, 2015
Change is good? Tough question to answer! Most of us are set in our ways and balk at someone attempting to push us to change, consider another opinion or dive into something that seems rather alien. As an Air Force brat that moved every couple of years I had a mom that was a genius about forcing me to enter into my new neighborhood and new school without any hesitation. I can remember being at war with my parents when I discovered that we were going to move in my sophomore year of High School.
We had lived in Montana for five years, which was a Bennett record; I had become an established rock god, had girls flocking around our band and had become an Eagle Scout at 13. My world was literally rocking until I heard that the Air Force Base was going to close and the bomber squadron was being relocated. I was tired of always moving just as I had become established and made friends. Yet, my mom, the expert at transitions, had taught me well to suck it up, get packed and see this as an adventure in life. The sky is the limit, so don’t complain but seize the moment to say your good-byes and then get on with it because life doesn’t stop. You will always make more friends and yesterday can’t hold you down supposedly.
So as I face another move, transition and new neighborhood I wonder what I’ve learned in the last five years. Funny that it seems to be five-year cycles that often define my life. I know that change at times can be like getting a second chance on life or discovering that you are getting old and don’t’ do as well with adjusting to much of anything. I definitely have learned over the year that home is where your family and friends happen to be and has less to do with a house or a neighborhood. Yet, I’m a little jealous of those who have lived most of their lives in one house and can actually drive back and see it as their kids become grown adults.
I don’t cherish the thought of having to pack, organize, toss out what I haven’t touched in five years and have to ask friends for help. The good news is that we are only moving a little over a mile away. Yet, I know that sadly I won’t miss the negativity of my neighbors who are in a different world from me and are too easily irritated over silly stuff that doesn’t matter. Yes, I will do a better job of intentionally reaching out to my new friends that will live close to me. We will have a great house to entertain and build community. The question is whether we will step up and not hide in our new house and spend too much time with being obsessive with making everything perfect.
Mom I do miss not having you around to encourage me, kick me in the butt and forcibly walk me house to house to discover the ‘lay of the land’. I know I can’t assume that any neighbors will actually come over with cookies or a bottle of wine. Yet, I’m going to make the choice to make our little block our new home and discover the beauty of living close to open fields, South Mountain Park and most importantly being walking distance from my Starbucks.
Yes, moving can be good because it forces you to rethink old patterns of behavior, toss out what you haven’t touched in years and have your world rattled a little by strangers who you hope will become new friends soon.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
What has happened to having common sense and a heart to care for fellow human beings in tough circumstances? The Trumpster is ready to close all Mosques because of the terrorist attacks this last week and now a growing group of governors have chosen to label all Syrian refugees as being extremist terrorists. The person who stands out this last week is Aaron Rogers, a quarterback, who purposely spoke out against a fan in the stands who said something totally racist and inappropriate.
What has happened to our society that we continue to react out of fear instead of having a broader sense of providing hope and help to those that are being persecuted are experiencing injustice? The mindset or logic that unfortunately typifies most of our presidential contenders would see us firing all ‘White’ Police Officers or arresting all ‘Black’ Men that hang out on the street. Isn’t it possible to step back and see that out of the billions of Christians and Muslims in the world today that 99.99 % are amazing people who do care about the human race and would be willing to help if the opportunity was provided for them?
The sad commentary because of the media’s coverage of tragic events that brings them into our lives instantly is it becomes too easy to follow the lead of those who scream the loudest either out of ignorance or fear. Again the voices that get attention would talk about bombing the ‘Hell’ out of certain people groups or just as crazy to establish a deportation posse that would round up 12 million Hispanics and ship them across the border regardless of the circumstances!
This last week I again saw the heart of a group of Muslim students that chose to do something rather radical for anyone! Muai and his group of friends volunteered to help paint a house of a low-income senior with my group that were predominately Christians. I’m so impressed with my Muslim friends who totally shatter the stereotype of Islamic people as being unwilling to mix with non-Muslim groups and take a risk working with people who could be critical of them after the terror attacks in Paris, Beirut and the growing list of attacks. The simple fact is that Muai is no different than the rest of my 200 plus volunteers that helped paint seven houses of seniors this last Saturday.
So what has happened to the church and our society when it comes to showing real grace and compassion to the widow, orphan or in this context the refugee that would be murdered if they stayed in their country? Has our society forgotten that all of our descendants were at some point the alien or foreigner in the land or the Native American that was persecuted or the African American Slave that was seeking justice and freedom?
My heart is broken after the events last Friday but I have hope for the future because I witnessed a large group of people of all backgrounds, i.e. Chinese, Korean, Muslim, Christian, Gay and an assortment of ethnic mixes show real kindness to a group of low-income seniors!