“I don’t see color. I see people.” That’s what we’re told is the correct way to speak and think.
This post is not a judgement on police, Ferguson, Michael Brown or any other headline of how the legal system fails people of color. I know precious little about how the legal system works in these cases, or what evidence juries hear and how attorneys spin facts and opinion. However, as a country, we have to start listening to each other. White people in particular need to stop trying to ‘fix’ or dismiss these situations, and we need to learn to listen to the reality that people of color live.
With complete humility.
Admitting our shame.
Repenting of our inaction.
As a white female, I feel ashamed to bring up race relations with people of color … which I’m not supposed to acknowledge. I know I come from a place of societal privilege; and the view I enjoy from farther up the heap gives me a comfortable perspective. I rarely think about the people I may sit upon who afford me that view. I read a commentary this week where a panel of 10 black mothers spoke honestly and openly to a full auditorium about the reality of how they have to raise their sons. It’s not enough for them to teach their children to respect authority, be kind to others and work hard. No. They have to teach their children how to stay alive by taking extra precautions because of the color of their skin.
“I get tired of hearing all the whining about how tough their lives are. Slavery was abolished over a hundred years ago. They have civil rights. Their lives are better.” I hear these statements all the time. I’ve probably made at least one of them in my lifetime. I remember living in Alabama where the South has found ways to get around civil rights laws. Exorbitantly priced private schools that offer ‘scholarships’ to acceptable families (white) keep black families from affording a better education for their children. Some towns and neighborhoods won’t publicly list homes for sale–you find out by word of mouth who wants to sell a house–so that ‘certain elements’ can’t move into the neighborhood and drive housing prices down. My husband and I lost over $20,000 in the sale of our home because black families had started moving into the neighborhood, making our neighborhood ‘mixed.’ We lost that money because of the color of someone’s skin. Not because of anyone’s quality of character. Not because drug dealers moved into the homes. Not because crime increased and houses fell into disrepair. Although, I would have moved out of the neighborhood if the military hadn’t transferred us to Colorado because of the white family that moved next door–sandwiching their boat between our houses, parking their truck in their front lawn, and not controlling their dog that would attack us when we tried to enter our house (it even ‘treed’ my husband Christmas morning when he went out to retrieve a gift hidden in our car). In Arizona, some friends moved into a predominantly hispanic neighborhood. They would not allow their sons to associate with the neighbors because the neighbors might be drug dealers, and at the very least, couldn’t be good influences with the music and gatherings they had. Our friends found an acceptable (white) neighborhood less than a year later. Where their son experimented with drugs and other frowned-upon activities….
Yes, racism and prejudice are alive and well all over our country. Which is the first admission we need to make. We have to stop pretending tolerance of others ‘not like us.’ We are not tolerant. We are racist and prejudiced. Toward people of different colored skin. Toward people of different colored sexual orientations. Toward people of different colored genders. Toward people of different colored socioeconomic backgrounds. Toward people of different colored physical, mental and emotional capabilities.
I remember the part of the start of each elementary school year that excited me the most was opening the new crayon box. If you were lucky enough to have the 64 color box with the built-in sharpener, whoa! You just became popular! Everyone wanted to use ‘Burnt Sienna’, ‘Orchid’, ‘Melon’, ‘Raw Umber.’ ‘White’ rarely got used–unless we were trying to make clouds or colors more watercolor-y. The more colors we had available meant our imaginations could take over the picture we created. Sometimes, we would take 5 or 6 colors and swoosh them just to see how they blended. Glorious times!
When did we start celebrating using only a few colors in the crayon box? Isn’t it time to remember childhood and celebrate all the colors around us? Celebrate how the different colors create nuances and depth to our lives’ pictures. Primary colors set a great foundation to outline a concept; but we need all of the crayons in the box to flesh out impressions to make the image real. God made man in His image. God’s image exists with breathing, multi-dimensional, sentient life. So, how do we begin to take ownership of how we contribute to the inequalities in our nation?
- Take some time in the last weeks of 2014 to observe your own prejudices.
- Recognize them. What is the basis for them?
- Analyze them. Why do you have them?
- Then find people you normally would judge and observe the image of God in them.
- Really listen to their experiences and what has shaped them.
- Celebrate that facet of the Eternal you may have never recognized.
- Let the presence of God wash over you in holy awe and wonder as you see with His eyes the beauty of His world’s colors.
And maybe … just maybe … our world will become a little less ‘white privileged’ and a little more equally privileged. We don’t need a pyramid ‘heap’ to have a great view. When we all are on the same level and see eye-to-eye, that’s a position that should take our breath away.
I welcome comments. Please keep them respectful and constructive.