Breaking a Promise

I told myself I wasn’t going to do it.

My kids agreed it was a good idea to stay away from it.

My cousin proved by his comments on my Facebook posts that it wasn’t going to be easy.

But, I’m currently attending a seminar at church (well, from my basement) on healing racial trauma.  One of the things that was brought up was Dr. Martin Luther King’s book, “Letters from a Birmingham Jail.”  He is “down” in Birmingham helping them fight back against segregation and he gets thrown in jail.  No surprise if you ask me.

Well, while he’s in prison, he can’t talk to people on the phone, can’t e-mail, can’t do much.  So he wrote letters.  One set of them got turned into a book – “Letters from a Birmingham Jail.”   It was written on April 16, 1963.  There is a lot of good stuff in this book.  I mean there’s a lot of good stuff if you want to try to make a difference in the world.

That book, particularly the part that I quoted right below this paragraph, is a large part of why, even though I said I wasn’t going to talk about race and the political situation, I am.   But……

First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate.’’’

I’m going to talk more about some of the details Dr. King brings up, but for today, I just want to share one point

I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace…..

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Letters from a Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

I believe, from this relatively close to middle age white guy, that there is no better or more well respected leader of the civil rights movement from that time.  And when he says the moderate Christian is his biggest stumbling block it would do well for the church to sit up and say, “Who me?  We’re always supportive of Civil Rights for all people?

Are you really?   Are we really?  Are we really prepared to step out of our comfort zones and be more of a neighbor to those who don’t look like us?   According to Dr. King, no we are not.

According to Dr. King, we are worse than the Ku Klux Klan.

Ouch

You know those guys who used to ride around on horses in the middle of the night, plant burning crosses in the front yard of black families and then haul out the men and/or boys, tie them up and lynch them.

He said we’re worse than that?  Yes, he did.

We are just over a month away from the presidential election.  Some call it the greatest freak show on earth, some call it the most amazing transfer of power in the governments since the time of, oh I don’t know, the Crusades?

Presidential Debate

Between the natural disasters, the medical disasters and the political disasters, there is a LOT of stuff going on.  And it’s time, actually it is past time to engage these issues and try to make a difference the way God would want us to.

I’m going to talk about this more in the coming days and weeks, but I firmly believe that we have a huge problem on our hands – the problem of the one issue voter.

You know the guy, he says, “I’m going to vote for _________ because he was endorsed by the NRA.”   Or “Mr. Smith is pro-abortion and so I will never vote for him.”   When someone does that a couple of things are happening:

  • They are totally ignoring the rest of what that person stands for.   You might like this particular policy but are you really willing to put control of _________ in the hands of someone who has never __________?
  • Mr. Smith says that he’s pro-life.  He says that he would only allow an abortion to save the life of the mother.   What’s his stance on the discrepancy in funding and everything related to that for schools – where, on average, black schools get, I believe, close to half of what white schools do?
  • Does he support reform in the mental health and adoption/foster care areas of life that both need substantial reform?
  • What is his or her stand on immigration?
  • What is his or her stand on healthcare?

There is a lot more to being pro-life than just being anti-abortion.  So, when someone says they are going to vote for ______________ because of his stance on gun control, then you are ignoring a lot of very important issues related to guns, related to domestic violence, related to immigration, related to free elections that all are impacted by someone if they say they are pro-life.

So if someone says they are opposed to adoption, ask them what they think about the kids being “warehoused” literally, in vacant Walmart stores.   If they aren’t really upset about that, ask them how they can be pro-life and not opposed to that?

The world is complex.  Very very complex.  We are in the first election in my lifetime where you can no longer say,  “If they say they are a _________________ then you can vote for them because they believe the same.”

It doesn’t work that way right now.   If you vote for someone who meets your rules for one issue, they might be totally against what you stand for in other ways.

Don’t look only at one issue.  Don’t look only at whether they say they will or won’t raise taxes.  They can say one thing now and then something else later.

Don’t be a moderate one issue voter.   Look at multiple issues and also those other “things” like character, flexibiliy, truthfulness, respect, treatment of those with disabilities and the list could go on, but there’s too much other ground to cover in the next month (and beyond.)

Thanks for reading, stay tuned.  I don’t know what all we are going to talk about, but I know it will be “interesting” to say the least.

Respectfully,

Tom

Mediocre White Men……

Let me build the “surroundings” for you.

This is another incident that happened in the drama that Oprah Winfrey produced called “Queen Sugar.” It is a drama that is written from the standpoint of people of color in Louisiana and the struggles they have. It is surprisingly adept at pulling you into the lives and feelings and reactions of the people involved in it.

And as far as I can tell the story of “Queen Sugar” pulls no punches. It’s pretty adept and raw and painful to watch. But at the same time, it makes you realize that there’s a part of world that is a LOT different than what you are used to. A lot different than your middle class white suburban bubble. A lot different then the middle class suburb I live in. Not all that much different than the lives of some of the people I go to church with – except they probably don’t farm sugar cane.

Anyway, back to the happenings “last night.” There are two main people involved in this part of the story….. Charley – formerly married to a basketball star, recently divorced after finding out that husband was not faithful, moved back from LA to Louisiana when Dad died and left an 800 acre farm to her and her sister and brother. After Charley’s nasty divorce, she and her teenage son became very strong advocates for those who are the poor, the mis-treated, the abused, the poverty stricken. She sets up a free medical clinic for the migrant farm workers and is in the process of running for City Council because the ”power” white family in town is working behind the scenes and forcing black farmers to sell their land so that they can eventually put a highway, a oil refinery and lots of pollution and at the same time essentially wipe their town off the map – at least in regards to the history and family that made the town of St. Joe what it is. Charley was running for City Council to try to stop the Landry family from achieving their goal of essentially wiping out the town. The Landry family had their son, Jacob, running for City Council against Charley. Jacob is pretty much a Daddy’s boy and will do anything his family says. He also has a thing where he reacts very negatively to any woman who tells him what to do. I think it has to do with the way his mother treated (and still does) him.

Jacob confronted Charley a day or two before they were having a town hall meeting as part of the election. In that confrontation, Jacob pushed Charley and told her to withdraw from the election because he’s been told that he has already won the election and there wasn’t any way she would win, so he told her she should “save face” and withdraw from the election.

Her response?

“The arrogance of mediocre white men never ceases to astound me.”

Now do me a favor. Don’t react to that statement yet. Instead, take a few minutes and look at what you know about the people in government, your local government, state government and national government. Based on what you know about them and what you’ve heard about them, does it sound like she might be right?

How does Jacob respond? He does not disagree with her, no he actually says that she’s right. But then he says,

“It’s not arrogance, it’s power.”

Ouch. The obviously mediocre white guy is saying, we’re arrogant, but not because we’re good, it’s because we have power. That’s it.

Ouch.

The power of the mediocre white man shows itself in many ways. It is a huge part of why racism is still an issue.

And I spent 20 years working in an industry that was full of mediocre white men who were arrogant and had the power to determine the make up of cities and neighborhoods and more.

We’ll be talking about that more in the future

Tom

Hard

“It’s Hard…..”

“It’s Hard to Stare at the Pain
But it’s harder to pretend like the pain isn’t even there.”

That quote comes from one of the main characters in Oprah Winfrey’s TV Show, “Queen Sugar.” I’m sorry that I don’t remember who said that – I was too busy scribbling it down so I could share it on here.

Let’s take a look at what they said and how it can apply to what we might be going through:

“It’s hard to stare at the pain…..”

When I look at the things that have happened in my life
• medical problems from brain surgery in January of 2018 that are still causing substantial difficulties (or differences – depending on the day) and will be until the good Lord decides to grant a miracle. (Want to know more, Google AVM – Arterio-Venous Malformation).
• It has been 2 years and 4 months since my Dad passed away.
• ………

I’m not going to go into more of mine right now – but let’s look at some of the things on the national and international scale:
• How many families all over the world are dealing with the loss of a loved one to CoVid19?
• How many children all over the world are struggling because school – in many places and for many kids – was the foundation that they could count on. I saw it when I was substitute teaching – you could tell some kids were so much more secure at school than it appeared to be at home?
• How many of our brown and black neighbors have seen a rise in discrimination because the “other fringe” seems to think that the resident of the White House approves of it?
• How many people have loved ones fighting this disease — either in their own families or because they are on the front line of caring for the people who are sick and fighting CoVid?
• George Floyd
• _____________(fill in the names of recent victims of police shootings.)
• How many times have people argued over wearing masks while carrying rifles?
• How many times has Dr. Faucci had to go in front of the media and correct things that our government says are true?

And I could go on and on and on. It’s really hard.

It’s really hard to stare at the pain. Really really hard. Hard enough that people who know way more than I do are anticipating a growing mental health crisis in our country.

It’s really hard.

But

But it’s harder to pretend like the pain isn’t even there.”

“Ignore it and it will go away.” That might work for a stubbed toe or a skinned knee, but that doesn’t work for pandemics and hate crimes and police shootings and……….

“It’s harder to pretend like the pain isn’t even there.”

Don’t put it in the closet.

Don’t hide it under the rug.

Don’t put on a smiley face because that’s what people want.

Personal note – Due to the Covid 19 and my increased risk if I got it, you probably haven’t actually seen me in a while. I’m being a bit of a hermit because the medical issues I already have, if they combined with CoVid would be kind of nasty.

But you know what, if you ran into me at the grocery store (hypothetically speaking) – or let’s say we were talking online in a Zoom call, it would be the exact opposite. It would be easy for you to pretend like my pain isn’t there. I really don’t look that much different than 2 or 3 years ago (not that much) and so it would seem to be easier to pretend like the pain isn’t even there.

Until, until I try to pick up my ice tea with my left hand and the nerve tremors make me have to switch hands so my computer doesn’t get flooded.

Until I try to lead a discussion on ___________ (pick the subject) and 15 minutes into it, my voice gets quieter and quieter and I start coughing more and…….

It’s harder for me to pretend like the pain isn’t there. Because then I’m forcing myself into a position where I have to do and say and be the same things I was before the surgery. And I can’t.

It’s harder for you to pretend the pain isn’t there, because you know it is.

It’s harder to pretend like the pain isn’t there when you see it all around you.

It’s harder to pretend like the pain isn’t there when the deacons at your church ask for more donations because more people at your church lost their jobs and need help.

It’s harder to pretend like the pain isn’t there.

And there’s so much “hard” going on right now that more of us should be seeking the help of professionals to help us figure out how to work through the “hard.”

Because they know it’s hard to stare at the pain

And

They know it’s harder to pretend it isn’t there.

I know, I have and continue to have someone in my corner helping me navigate the hard.

I hope that you at least ask yourself, “Should I talk to someone about getting through all of this?”

It could be a life saver.

Tom

Hooded Sweatshirts

They don’t teach this in pre-adoption parenting classes. (At least I don’t know any that do). If you know any that do, leave their contact information and details in the comments, please!

The article below spells it out very well, but it is an area of adoptive parenting that the adoption “industry” deserves a failing grade in. Consequently, we are sending many children of color, children of color who were raised by white parents, out into the world without adequate knowledge and preparation for how the world is going to look at them.

When my youngest two children came home from Haiti, they were two and three years old. While I can’t claim any credit for it genetically, they were two really adorable toddlers. They have grown up a lot in the last 16 years. There are many people who have had an impact on that growth and we are grateful for community that has helped us raise all 5 of our kids.

A strange thing happens as kids grow up. They don’t stay looking like the adorable toddlers they were. (Okay, actually, that would be kind of weird if they did). But instead they grow up and start looking like the kind of adults the world is afraid they will become – black ones.

Because black men who are very muscular are dangerous. Right?

Black men who drive alone in their car enjoying the summer night with the music up and the windows down are dangerous, Right?

Black men who ask too many questions when pulled over for going 31 mph in a 25 mph speed limit zone are angry and dangerous because they must be hiding something. Right?

Black teenagers who go the mall with their friends are thugs looking to steal something or get in a fight with someone. Right?

WRONG!

And that’s where the adoption agency and adoptive families and the churches fall short. We must do a better job.

We must do a better job before the adoption is finalized in teaching white parents that there will certain conversations and certain roles that this world forces parents of children of color to have. I can teach my son how to be an adult, a husband, a father, a banker but I can’t teach him how to be a black adult, a black husband, a black father…..

Because I don’t know. I don’t know how to be any of these. Because I haven’t been those and I never will.

And that is why, not for the sake of the parents but for the sake of the kids, start doing whatever you can to help children of color, especially male children of color (though what I’ve heard, there’s an equally hideous (if not more) tragedy that can happen to girls of color.)

Maybe the best way to help the kids of color who have white parents is to get the white parents together and scare them into reality? And then get things moving for their kids to show them some of the reality of the world we live in.

Just about a month ago, my son had a headlight go out on his car. He was going to fix it “tomorrow.” Apparently his girlfriend was waiting for him. I said, “you have a choice to make. Choice #1 be home before the sun goes down. Choice #2 let’s get busy and change that lightbulb as quickly as we can and then you can go.”

“Dad, I’ll do it tomorrow, it’s not that big of a deal.”

“Son, I love you too much to let you go out and drive after dark in a car with a headlight that says, “Hey Mr. Police Officer, here I am, come talk to me.” Is that what you really want to say? Do you really want to waive a sign asking the police to pull you over at 11:15 at night and you’re a teenage young black man and you’re all alone and you’ve got a head light out.

Don’t go there.

And Dads – it’s our responsibility, whether we are black, brown or white to make sure that not only our kids but also their friends and others know the reality of “Driving While Black.” I can’t do it. But I can sure talk about it and do my best to prevent it from happening.

Oh and while we’re at it, what’s up with hooded sweatshirts? We have a rule in our family, the only place you can wear the hood up on a hooded sweatshirt is outside when the weather is conducive to them. It’s 20 degrees out, that’s perfect hoodie weather. It’s 75 degrees out? Nope, not so much. Hood off.

If you walk into a public building – restaurant, gas station, school, friend’s house and you are stepping out of the weather, the hood comes off. Not eventually. 1 step inside the building.

Why? Because if you take your hood off, people can see your face. If you take your hood off, you don’t look nearly as much like a gang banger as the white people in the gas station might think you do with the hood pulled way down. When you take your hood off, it increases the chance that the people you are going to interact with will see you for who you are – a well behaved teenage young black man. If you keep the hood on, people are going to let their theories run all over the place and before you know it, you’ve got trouble and the manager is on the phone with the cops.

I’m not saying that keeping your hoodie off when you are inside and when the weather doesn’t call for one outside is going to solve the police brutality issues. I did grow up in the all white middle class suburbs, but I’ve learned a lot since I was a kid.

And I know that taking off your hoodie certainly won’t hurt.

Tom

Http://dojustice.crcna.org/article/letter-my-children

P.S. If you know of people who work in this or could help or you want to or whatever about it, let me know – use the comment box on the right.