Category Archives: Racism

A Clarification–Black Lives Matter

I have to admit that the first time I heard the phrase, Black Lives Matter, my internal reaction was, “Yeah, but why are they protesting about this?”  I didn’t get the nuanced differences between what different races and even what different families thought about the Black Lives Matter movement.

Wait, is it really a movement?  Or is it more of a protest point?  Or just a kind of talking point/rally cry that will get more people involved? 

Are there really people out there who think that Black Lives Matter is a slam against white lives?   As in it’s a zero sum game?  Huh? A zero sum game is a game where the winner takes home everything and the loser gets nothing?  Like  ‘The Survivor show – you know the original one where they drop 20 people somewhere in the wild and the one who survives the entire time wins $1,000,000?  Does #2 get $500,000?  I don’t think so.   I’m sure they win more than number 20, but no where near what the winner does.

Life is not a zero sum game.  If Black Lives Matter was a zero sum “game,” that would mean that for a black life to matter more, a white life would need to matter less.

Ah…. nope!   God didn’t set the world up that way.  He didn’t set things up so that if one people wins, then another one loses.  God set things up so that all can be blessed and there is room at his table for anyone who believes He is their God and their Savior.

So, Black Lives Matter is not an effort to make white lives matter less.  It doesn’t have to be that way.   It’s possible for a black life to matter more and the white lives still matter too.  We can be equal, but we aren’t.

And God says that’s wrong:

“It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open.”  Acts 10::34-35 (The Message)

God says that all races and ethnicities are supposed to be equal.   When the Black Lives Matter “movement” came out, many white people countered with the saying,  “ALL lives matter.”

It’s like we were trying to play a game of “one better” with our neighbors and those we meet who aren’t caucasian like I am.   “Oh, well you’re saying that Black Lives Matter, huh?”   Just to show you that I’m a “bigger” man than you are, take this as our entry into the “Slogan of the Month” Club…..

“All Lives Matter!”   Ha! We have successfully put the people of color back in their nice little colored box and we can go on again living our white lives………

Not so fast.  If you wanted me to take you on a walk through history, I can show you very simply many stories in time where it is not true that all lives matter. I took a history class in college (I don’t remember a lot of the details – it’s been a few years) that was on Medieval European History.   It was frankly disgusting at how little lives matter there – especially lives that were not white.

When white people are co-opting the saying, “Black Lives Matter” they are, by saying, “All Lives Matter” saying that those who believe in the BLM statement are wrong.   Black Lives and Chinese Lives and Indian Lives and Canadian Lives and French Lives and American Lives and…….. all matter equally.  If that were true, then……

But we all know it’s not true. 

All Lives Don’t Matter Equally.

The Black Lives Matter movement is trying to bring attention to the fact that Black Lives are not treated like they are equal and they matter.  Want some examples?

Breanna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown……

Here’s a list of the fatal police shootings from January 1, 2015 to this week that was posted by the Washington Post.   I think you’ll find it a sobering list of 5,866 people who have been killed by the cops since January 1, 2015.   I have not analyzed the data to see how many were black yet, but I intend to and I will post the details.

Black lives are not currently treated equally, they aren’t now and they haven’t been for a long time.  If they aren’t treated equally, then you aren’t saying that black lives matter.

82467670_10156857828921966_2987504608860962816_nBlack Lives Matter as much as white lives.

Black Lives Matter as much as middle eastern lives.

Black Lives Matter so people from Africa should be given the same rights and respect as people from England.

And they aren’t.

Because we aren’t.

Yes, we.   I’ll be writing more about it as time goes on, but it’s kind of awkward when I have to look in the mirror and see a relatively middle aged white guy and then think that throughout the centuries and even throughout the Civil Rights era of 40 years ago, who were the people behind most of the ways that we didn’t treat black lives like they mattered AS MUCH AS white lives?

The middle aged white guys. 

As Pastor Darrell says,  “Say Amen or say, Ouch.”

Ouch!

Tom

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