Saturday, I had the opportunity to talk with a young woman who is a student at a local college. She is studying PR and Marketing and self described herself as “a black girl.”
We got to talking and I asked her if she was from around here. Her answer kicked off a very interesting discussion. A couple of things that she said:
- She is not from West Michigan and as soon as she graduates, she will not set foot in West Michigan again. “I’m gone and I’m not coming back.”
- When I asked her why, was there a problem with her college? She said that her college is a great place for a person who is a minority. I believe the terms she used describing her school were – “understanding, kind, open, and acceptance of everyone no matter what they look like.”
- Outside of her school, she said that West Michigan is very unfriendly, very stereotypically close minded, very unwilling to blend with others who aren’t like them. She said that she is a waitress and is the only black person on staff and she is amazed at not only the things her white co-workers say but also how they seem to have no concept of how their words hurt someone who isn’t part of the white power group.
- We had a discussion about church and how there are very few churches in West Michigan (a very small percentage) where a single (not necessarily not married, but just 1 person) person of color would walk into the church 10 minutes before their Sunday morning service would start. What would the reaction be? How would that reaction differ if I, as a white person, went to an all black church (btw – I would consider it a privilege to be invited to an all black church).
- We talked about Madison Square Church – where my family and I attend and how we, as a church, are constantly wrestling with how to worship and lead and work as a joint group of mixed and diverse communities and how it is very hard but it can be done.
- We talked about how do we change this? How do we get rid of the racism that is causing so many problems in our world? She laid out a very convincing case that the way to defeat racism is from the inside. We need to work one on one, one person reaching out to another person and reaching past the difficulties, reaching to understand their viewpoint and reaching to help them understand your viewpoint and to acknowledge that your viewpoint might be very harmful to others and might be based on years and decades and centuries of ill will and unfair activity.
- It’s two days later and I’m still processing what we talked about. I’m amazed at this young woman’s perceptivity and intelligence and also her willingness to discuss difficult things with the antithesis of what she is – a middle aged white guy (me). It was a big step on her part.
It was a step in the right direction for both of us. She is going to give my information to the head of a group at her college that combats racism and hopefully we can connect them with Madison Square and make a bigger difference.
A chance meeting?
Nope, not a chance.
God knew that both of us needed to discuss a hard subject openly with someone on the other side of the color spectrum.
Pray that more of those type of conversations can happen. Our community and our churches and our nation need it.
My friend, Susie Dixon, wrote this on her Facebook page today and it is being reprinted below with permission. I will have a few more comments below…….
“For all my friends who are outraged at all the “kneeling” and “standing in unity” during the national anthem at football games, I would like to share my heart with you.
The protest is not against our military or disrespecting all the lives lost protecting our country. This flag represents so much more. It represents America. History. People. Freedom. And it also represents a country that still has racism embedded within our histories past and present documents…which have shadowed and demoralized how people of color are still treated today. These protests are speaking to all institutions who have bought into the lies of supremacy and inequality. They are speaking to all people to open their eyes to the discrepancies within our culture, within our own homes and communities, and with one voice say, “No more. We stand for equality and freedom and justice for all.””
Read it again – especially the last few sentences……
This protest is not against the military or disrespecting lives lost defending it. If you have studied the Revolutionary War, you’ll know that our country was founded on protests.
“These protests are speaking to all institutions who have bought into the lies of supremacy and inequality.” All, not just.
“They are speaking to all people to open their eyes.”
“No more. We stand for equality and freedom and justice for all.”
Not just the white people.
Thank you Susie.
When I started my 20 + year career in banking, I had no idea that the housing and mortgage lending policies that the government had in place would make a place Chicago one of the most diverse cities in the U.S. but also one of the most segregated…..
This is a tough week. There are people who are happy. There are people who are sad. There are people who are angry and vengeful. There are people who are scared, scared personally and scared for the nation.
There are people who are absolutely terrified about what this might mean for their children as they grow up.
It has changed social media from social to sociopathic.
This is not the time and this is not the place for trite answers. This is not the time for rainbows and unicorns. This is definitely not the time for death threats and sexual assaults (not that there ever is, but there are reports of both coming in since Tuesday night).
A friend of mine (and I’m not going to use his name because I’m quoting him without permission) wrote on Facebook yesterday…..
“Last week, one of my kids asked, “What are you going to do if Trump wins?” After a moment’s pause, I said, “I’m going to keep trying to make this place look more like the kingdom of God. It’s just going to be a lot harder in some ways.”
I’m back this morning. It’s good, but it’s a lot harder in some ways.”
Recognize that it’s going to be a lot harder. It already is a lot harder.
Don’t try to minimize pains or fears.
Sit with their pain. Sit with them in their sadness or their fear. Let them know that you are still here. That you don’t know what to say but you’re still here.
And you’re going to be here, fighting for what’s right, being a voice for the voiceless and sitting with the hurting in their pain.
Because it’s going to be a lot harder in some ways. And it’s up to us to stand up for what we believe is right.
And to sit with those who are in pain and let them know they aren’t alone.
We need to show those who are afraid and the rest of the world that one man and the anger he has unleashed do not define this country and do not define our church.
If they do, then may God help us all.