Thursday, August 14, 2014

why i care

The following was written many many months ago (a year?) and has been sitting in the draft folder. There was so much discussion that it seemed like nobody was really listening or pausing or considering anything that anyone else said. When nobody pauses, it seems silly to add a voice to the cacophony. I have no idea if anyone is openly listening right now or not, but hitting publish with a prayer.


"Why do you even care?" was the question posed.

Well. Let's see. Truth is, I care for a lot of reasons. I want to be a good neighbor and I want to understand things outside of my reality. Love compels me to care. We are striving and seeking to bring His Kingdom here on earth as it is in Heaven. I think that's a perfect reason to care. I have a black son. I have a white son. They would both benefit from a less racially-jacked-up world. 

That is the short list. 

I wasn't there and I am not charged with upholding Florida law, so my thoughts are not actually about the verdict itself. I don't know how it went down, I only know that the feelings it stirred in the mothers of black sons are real. Are difficult. Are raw. 

The case points to the bigger issues.  Racism is a festering problem that hasn't improved as much as most would like to pretend. I notice that most people that tell me racism is not an issue are not the people that would necessarily be discriminated against. I notice that those that say "work hard and everybody has the same benefits", are the people that didn't start with societal and cultural and historical prejudice stacked up against them. I notice that most white people that get angry when black people say there is a problem, are people that don't have a diverse friend group or neighborhood. 

I don't find it implausible that most of us walk around with a certain amount of prejudice in our hearts toward people of differing cultures, languages, and skin colors. It seems much more implausible that everyone is as fair as they say they are. I know this: I grew up mainly fearing black men. I did not interact with black children or adults and I did not sit down to a meal with a black family until I was 29 years old. I don't know if that made me racist but it did make me fearful. We all fear what we don't understand and our enemy comes to destroy and he does it by planting fear and distrust - he did that in my life - and he seems to be succeeding elsewhere frequently.  

Black men (and women) say they experience profiling, overt discrimination, fear, and worse. I don't doubt that for a second. I don't really understand those that want to say that cannot be true in this day and age. Even as my black son leaves "cute little kid" stage and enters into the "threatening pre-teen" stage, I have seen people that don't know him respond to him differently. 

We are generally not a very empathetic people, and that is unfortunate at best and horribly harmful at worst. The suffering of others, no matter how little I can identify with their struggle, should matter to me. The unfair treatment of another one of God's children shouldn't be ignored by me - Because, seeking His Kingdom here on earth as it is in Heaven. I think in Heaven we care about injustice, my keen logic skills lead me to believe bringing Heaven to earth means I care here as well. 

Can I fight every battle and every injustice in this world?  No. Of course not. Should I care about racism that doesn't usually directly affect me personally? Yes, and I think we all should.

Living in Haiti has taught me a lot. I am, in fact, a person of privilege. My skin color, place of birth, and passport all make it so. In most situations in life I have an assumed presumption of good-character and I can go about my business unnoticed and unharassed. That said, living here in Haiti as a minority has given me a little tiny glimpse into the world of someone whom is not given carte blanche benefit of the doubt. 

Haiti has had its fair share of abusive, rude, superior acting, white people come through as "helpers" over the years. Technically, the slave owners of more than 200 years ago were all those things.  For that reason and because of many more horrific abuses spanning history, there is a portion of the Haitian population that very much dislikes, distrusts, and even despises white people. On occasion, I have been running and had someone call me horrible names. I have been driving and been told to get the $*&@ out. I have been glared at, mocked, snubbed, and felt unfairly judged. 

Based on things I've witnessed here, I understand that response. I don't begrudge those folks that find my presence here troublesome, some of the things I've heard fellow expats saying about Haitians make me dislike and distrust them (us) as well. Upon glancing at me, how is my Haitian neighbor to know which type of expat I am? I have been given an opportunity to experience prejudice. 

This experience has at times made me mad. "How unfair", I've lamented. However, I long ago decided to see it as a chance to identify more with my Haitian children. Experiencing a tiny bit of ill-will and unfair judgement has taught me how to better identify prejudice and empathize. I feel like it is my chance to walk (ever so briefly and with so much less intensity) in the shoes of my black children and friends. That's incredibly important to me as I raise my Haitian-American children. Prior to living here I had never experienced anything that would have allowed me this unique insight into what they may face. Don't hear me saying I totally understand it, hear me saying, I've begun to understand it and my minuscule experience leaves me wanting better for my children.

I don't want to hear my black friends (or children) saying "This is an ongoing problem for us" and ignore, deny, downplay, or turn away. Would we do that if they came and said they were being abused in other ways? I want to listen and learn. I want to offer genuine concern, care, and empathy. I want to do my part to bring His Kingdom to earth.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Christena Cleveland wrote:
"Privileged people of the cross seek out, stand with, and stick their necks out for people who have problems that are nothing like their own. Privileged people of the cross resist the magnetic draw of our culturally-polarized society. Privileged people of the cross jump every societal hurdle in order to understand the perspective of, stand with and advocate for the other. Just like Jesus did for us."
Greg Cary wrote:
"The unity of the church requires that white Christians truly honor the reality our neighbors experience. We cannot isolate our spiritual lives from the rest of our experience. We cannot say, "We love you, but we don't believe your stories." Shallow reconciliation will not do. We cannot expect to pray with black, Latino/a, or Asian American neighbors while we tolerate the absolute negation of their humanity."

Ephrem Smith

"Even with all this, I am hopeful because I know that the Kingdom of God is near. I realize that race is a man-made social construct influenced by Satan to keep the children of God from understanding their true identity and purpose. I will continue to fight with spiritual weapons to bring the reconciling message of Jesus Christ to the lost and the broken. I will not give up."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

I will also continue to fight with spiritual weapons to bring the reconciling message of Jesus to the lost and broken. I will seek out, stand with, advocate for, and jump societal hurdles (allow myself to be utterly uncomfortable) in order to better understand the experience of my neighbors and my children. 

I care. Now you know why.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

(Not in original year old post, added tonight - emphasis is mine.)
Osheta Moore

Today, I raise my hands, because perfect love casts out all fear and because Abba Father sees the suffering of his children.  I raise my hands to bear witness to my  brothers and sisters who were tear gassed and shot with rubber bullets. I raise my hands because my love for them is restless. I can’t do anything tangible with these hands, but raise them high.  Lord, we are restless for change and anxious for hope.  We are witnesses of injustice. We are the women at the foot of the cross, empower us to stay through the torment so that we can be present to bind up wounds and then—see resurrection.

Greg Boyd wrote:
If the church is ever going to significantly manifest the beauty of God’s diverse humanity, it’s going to take place one life at a time. Reach out. Cross ethnic and culture lines. Watch how it challenges your paradigms, enriches your life and expands your worldview.