Posts Tagged ‘justice

05
Nov
21

EST-CE QUE TU PARLES FRANCAIS?

Joan and I have been in the south of France for the past week.

And when I say, “the south of France,” I mean THE SOUTH. As in, imagining we hear banjos and guitars having a pick-off duel as we round every turn in the road. 

In French, of course.

Don’t get me wrong… this is a beautiful place. Full of vineyards, ancient stone castles, quaint villages, winding roads and craggy hillsides. It is breathtakingly romantic and serene.

Except that NOBODY here speaks a word of English. As a matter of fact, I am not sure they know any language besides French even exists.

And so, as we have navigated our way through the amazing little towns of Boutenac, Carcassone, Minerve, Lezignan, and Coulliere, we learned to get by with some quick, seat-of-the-pants translating. When ordering lunch, for example, we had to figure out that it would not kill us to choose something off the Poisson section of the menu. It just meant we would get a nice piece of grilled fish. 

We also learned that adding a dash of cannelle to our morning coffee would give it a flavorful little kick.

Waitresses and hotel clerks and retailers regularly took pity on us and used their back-pocket English when we appeared to struggle. But for the most part, we were a couple of odd ducks wherever we went. Which – I have to admit – was kind of a new experience for both of us. 

Because, you see, most of the time, I am alert, aware, comfortable with my surroundings, and on top of my game. In my native habitat, stuff doesn’t fluster me… unless, of course, we are talking about finding ANYTHING in the grocery store! And so, the experience of being in a place where I am different… where I am lost and unsure… where I am The Other… was unsettling and frankly disorienting.

It also made me realize that it is not necessary to travel in France with a limited-to-nonexistent French vocabulary to feel out of place. Often all it takes to feel like un poisson hors de l’eau is to be a member of any non-advantaged group. 

Those of us who – because of our race, gender, ableness, or economic class – begin life on second base, are told (and believe) the story that we hit a double. We inherited the FastPass at Disneyland and can’t, for the life of us, figure out why everyone else is still standing in that silly line. We get the grades, we get the help, we get the jobs, and we get the dream… in many cases all because of factors we have zero control over. 

And so, it comes as a very unwelcome shock any time we find ourselves standing on the outside – of ANYTHING! – looking in. 

Most of the time when this kind of disquieting, uncomfortable moment happens to us, we moan and wail and kvetch. “This totally sucks!” is one of our more popular refrains.

But what if we used these pinch-point moments for a different purpose? What if we used them instead as a moment of awakening? What if we recognized them as a time when SEEDS are being sown? 

Seeds of insight… seeds of compassion… seeds of understanding.

What if – when the time comes when the cards all seem to be stacked against us, we cocked our heads, opened our ears, and heard the voice of Jesus saying, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest…” (Matthew 11:28, NRSV) and paid special attention in that verse to the word ALL?

What if?

That would sure be tres bon, wouldn’t it?

Abundant blessings;

21
Apr
21

Will It Matter?

This was about one action in one moment.

And yet, it was about so much more than that.

The trial of Derek Chauvin that found the former Minneapolis police officer guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter focused its attention on the isolated action of one misguided police officer and the way he responded to one store owner’s complaint against one individual named George Floyd.

And yet this trial was about so much more. 

Derek Chauvin’s trial was also about using this unique moment in time as a vehicle. As ripples of outrage went out around the world, this trial also became a vehicle for shining a light on the disparities in treatment between white people and people of color by law enforcement officials. It became a vehicle for asking fundamental questions about how police officers handle themselves under stress. It became a vehicle for reexamining the relationships between a police force and communities of color. 

Most of all though, it became a vehicle to help us critically examine whether this nation really means it when it says we stand for, “… justice for all.”

Too many times we have seen shocking cell phone videos. Too many times we have seen body-cam footage. Too many times we have stood in front of our TV sets and asked, “How can they get away with doing THAT?”

And too many times, we have also seen justice denied. 

This time, there were too many eyewitnesses. This time, the visuals were too stark. This time, the “thin blue line of silence” was broken by officers who courageously spoke out against one of their own. This time the ground swelled and churned in righteous outrage. 

This time, justice was done.

We weep in relief. We embrace in celebration. At the same time, though, we wonder, “Will this moment matter? How far will the ripples of this moment spread? Will they reach deeply enough into the substrata of our racially biased criminal justice system to make any long-term difference? 

Or will this ultimately just be about…

… one moment, and

… one man?”

01
Mar
21

I Totally Missed It

Here it is, the first day of March.

Which means, I missed it completely.

What I mean is, I missed the chance to say anything in this space during the month of February about the fact that it was Black History Month.

I missed the chance to pay homage to one of either the sung or the unsung African Americans who made important contributions to our American experience.

I missed the chance to reflect on the fact that in spite of the landmark victories in the civil rights struggle won by people like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and John Lewis, and Medgar Evers, and Rosa Parks, and Bayard Rustin, and Fannie Lou Hamer, racism still casts a long and dark shadow over our land.

I missed the chance to stand silently in humble awe of all those who stood nonviolently and endured fire hoses, attack dogs, Billy clubs to the side of the head, bullets, nooses, firebombs, and hateful words screamed in their ears, and then came back the next day and faced it all over again.

I missed the chance to reflect on all the ways that I – an aging white, middle-class male – have personally benefited from the uneven playing field that racism has created. 

I missed the chance to pledge my energies to interrupting racism whenever it rears its malevolent head in my presence.

I missed the chance to remind you (and myself) that diversity – in race, gender, faith, outlook, ability, or any other human characteristic – is a gift to cherish and not a problem to be solved. 

I missed those chances – and more – because I didn’t think Black History Month had anything to do with me… because, you know, I’m not Black. 

I thought this was your observance, not mine.

And you see that last statement may well be the biggest of all of my “missed chances” of the past 28 days. Because you see, when White people decide that Black History Month doesn’t have anything to do with them, they only succeed in adding more brick and mortar to this country’s towering Wall of Racial Isolation.

When we fail to grasp the deep intertwining of Black History with White History in these United States, we actively cultivate the perpetuation of the state of US vs. THEM. 

White people can indulge in that kind of subconscious omission and not think twice about it. Because that’s the way it works when you are a member of the majority class. 

So, I beg your forgiveness for my blindness, brothers and sisters (though I don’t really deserve it).

Black History Month may be over. But Black History lives on.

Abundant blessings;

06
Jul
20

Ideal vs. Real

Flag on houseI flew my American flag every day last week.

No… I did not fly my flag because of some sudden, Fourth-of-July-inspired outburst of patriotism.

I flew my flag because that’s just what I do. Flying the American flag is a routine, everyday occurrence at our house.

“How can you?” some might ask. “When you look at the injustice, the racism, the corruption, and the greed that have helped build this country, how can you fly that flag and support all of that?”

I reply that I don’t fly my flag out of ignorance about the deep, ingrained flaws of my country and its leaders. On the contrary, I am VERY aware of (and deeply ashamed by) a lot of what is happening in this country today.

I fly my flag because I love and support the IDEALS our country was founded on; ideals which it still – I believe – stands for… no matter how poorly.

Joan and I also faithfully attend the church of our choice.

How can you?” some might ask. “How can you possibly overlook the role that religion has played in fomenting hatred and war around the world? How can you possibly square today’s vast storehouse of scientific knowledge with the unscientific mythology of a book of 3,000-year-old writings?”

I reply that I do not choose to be a believer because I am ignorant of the massive harm done by people of faith over the centuries.

I choose faith because of the IDEALS espoused by Jesus Christ and those who transcribed God’s Word into the sixty-six books of the Holy Bible.

Having said that, I need to level with you; the time is long overdue – both for this country and for the church – to start working a lot harder to reconcile the IDEAL and the REAL.

Because of the tragic confluence of recent events, this country has been offered a real opportunity for soul-searching and course correction. We can no longer cling to the illusion that we as Americans live under some kind of divinely ordained exceptionalism that allows us to sweep our national sins under a gigantic rug.

That rug can’t hold any more. It has finally burst wide open, vomiting out its shameful secrets for all to see.

The only acceptable way forward for this country is through a campaign of genuine repentance.

And even though its affliction might not be as pronounced or as visible as the country’s affliction, the same can be said for the church. The time for the church to actually practice what it preaches in terms of love of God and neighbor, justice for the oppressed, mercy to the poor, and outcast, healing for the stricken is long overdue.

It is time for the church to abandon its “edifice complex,” stop acting as a willing stooge for the Empire, and summon the courage speak truth to power, the way Jesus did regularly. (For a great example of this, check out Jesus’ blistering tirade toward the religious leaders of his day in Matthew 23:13-30. It begins with, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites…” and uses the next 17 verses to basically rip those leaders into bloody shreds.) 

Right now I find it incredibly hard to affirm my faith in this country. But I have seen dark times before. I have also seen us wipe off the muck, reconnect with our North Star, and get back on track.

I am just naïve enough to believe the country can do the same thing again.

Crazier still, I believe the church can, too.

You see, when the Apostle Paul reminded me that God gave me (and anyone else who follows Jesus) the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18, NRSV), he was thinking big picture. Yes, he was talking about the reconciliation of men with women, of slave with free, of believer with non-believer, black with white, and American with non-American.

But I believe he was also talking about the reconciliation of IDEAL and REAL.

And THAT might be the biggest miracle of reconciliation of all.

 

Abundant blessings;

29
Jun
20

Child of Privilege

Shaking hands across a deskI remember the interview very well, even though it happened more than 30 years ago.

It was an excellent job and I really wanted it. I had some of the necessary qualifications, but certainly not all.

And yet, at the conclusion of the interview I was rewarded with a smile, a firm handshake and that truly delightful question, “So, Russell… when can you start?”

I also remember that time a few years later when I stopped to fill my gas tank. This was back in the dark ages before the invention of credit card scanners on gas pumps… if you can imagine such a medieval thing.

I pulled up to the bank of pumps furthest from the cashier’s office. There I saw a hand-lettered cardboard sign that read, “Please pay before pumping.” I shrugged and began walking toward the main building. No biggie.

Right at that moment, the cashier – a white man about my age – turned and saw me through the window. He immediately offered a dismissive wave of the hand as if to say, “Hey, buddy… that’s OK. Go ahead and pump your gas.”

I finished filling my tank and went inside to pay. “Hey, thanks for letting me go ahead and pump my gas first,” I said to the man as I fished out my wallet.

Yeah, sure,” he replied. “We’ve had a bunch of ‘drive-offs’ here lately, so we had to start asking people to pre-pay.”

And then he added, “But you looked OK.”

What he really meant to say was, “You looked white.”

These are two of the more glaring examples of times in my life when I have been on the receiving end of white privilege.

They are troubling, to say the least. What should be even more troubling are the countless times I have received unmerited privilege and been utterly oblivious.

For example…

… all the times I have not been pulled over by the police because I “fit a description.”

… all the times I have not been closely watched as I browsed among the clothes in a suburban department store.

… all the times I have not seen another person cross the street or clutch their purse tightly when I approach them.

… all the times I have been able to make a major purchase with nothing more than a cursory credit and employment check.

… all the times I have not been amazed and delighted to finally see someone on TV who looked like me.

… all the times I have been in a classroom led by a teacher and surrounded by classmates who looked like me.

… all the history lessons I have learned that were filled with people who share my skin tone.

…  the multiple talks my father did not have to give me about the extreme caution I must exercise when driving in a different part of town.

… all the stories I have not heard about how people who look like me are more inclined toward criminal behavior.

… the tendencies toward diabetes and high blood pressure and other ailments that I did not inherit simply because of my race.

The list literally goes on and on.

I will readily confess: turning down an offer of unmerited favor is hard. In fact, I am not sure I have ever done it. If someone wants to grant ME a privilege they might withhold from someone else, my inclination is to receive it, say, “Thank you very much,” and walk on.

In the same way, folks like me who compete on a playing field tilted wildly in our favor rarely speak up to challenge the justice of that field.

But we should. Especially if we take the sentiments of Dr. King seriously in his letter from the Birmingham jail. Seeking to incite the consciences of well-meaning, well-mannered white clergymen, King wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

The Good News of Jesus Christ was never intended to function strictly as a tool of individual sanctification. Yes, it begins its work deep in the heart of one person, but it was always our Savior’s intention that that individual spark of saving grace would spread a flame of mercy and justice and peace over the face of the earth.

Now is the time.

We are the people.

Let the hard work commence.

So be it.

20
Jun
20

This Side of the Desk

When Breath Becomes AirI just finished reading the book When Breath Becomes Air.

I am still drying my eyes.

It is the story of a brilliant, gifted neurosurgeon named Paul Kalanithi. Kalanithi seems to be on his way to an illustrious career as that rarest of medical hybrids, a surgeon/scientist. He is married to his med school sweetheart and they are preparing to conceive their first child. His world is suddenly blown to bits when he receives a diagnosis of terminal cancer at the age of 36… just as he is preparing to graduate from his residency program.

Oh yeah… did I mention that it is an autobiography? Kalanithi wrote it himself… as he was in the process of dying.

Watching him navigate the transition from doctor to patient – while remaining fully a doctor – is one of the more intriguing storylines in the book. Midway through his cancer treatment, Kalanithi says that his experience with the disease has helped him realize that, “… the physician’s duty is not to stave off death or return patients to their old lives, but to take into our arms a patient and family whose lives have disintegrated and work until they can stand back up and face, and make sense of, their own existence.”

If I didn’t know better I’d say he was describing the work of a pastor!

Kalanithi regularly expresses amazement at the way it has been possible for him to know volumes of information ABOUT the body and its diseases without truly grasping the full weight of their impact on the real people he serves as a doctor.

Until suddenly, he finds himself sitting on the other side of the desk.

Today I am trying turn up the dial on my education about the lifelong challenges faced by African Americans. I am reading books, I am talking to people, I am watching movies and documentaries, I am thinking quietly, and I am praying. Please understand… I tick off this list with a sense of embarrassment, not pride. This is all work I should have been doing a long, long time ago.

And believe me, it helps. Ava Duvernay’s powerful documentary, 13th (referring to the 13th amendment to the constitution outlawing slavery) opened my eyes to things I was painfully naïve about. She taught me, for example, about the wide disparity in the legal penalties for possession of crack cocaine (a low-cost, smokable form of the drug, favored in inner-city settings) and powdered cocaine – used almost exclusively by white suburbanites.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg of eye-openers and gut-punchers in store for those who choose to tune in.

Unlike Dr. Kalanithi, however, I will never be visited with the opportunity to suddenly find myself sitting on the other side of the desk… eyes finally opened… perspective finally focused and accurate. I will always only be who I am; the lifelong recipient of a host of benefits derived from a playing field tilted severely in my favor.

But does that deficit mean I can’t be an effective ally to the cause? No. It just means I will never be black.

What it does mean is I will need to work even harder to educate myself… and never stop educating myself. It means I need to take people at their word when they relate their experiences of encountering systemic racism. It means I need to actively use some of my privilege and advantage to advance the cause of justice… not just to make my world more comfortable.

It means I need to redouble my efforts to listen to and follow the advice of the prophet Micah who said, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, NRSV).

 

Abundant blessings;

18
Jun
20

Order out of Chaos

Extension cordsLook at this.

Isn’t it amazing?

My organizational genius of a wife took our laundry basket full of a mishmash of all sizes and styles of extension cords and – armed with only her labelmaker and a few plastic containers – turned it into this miracle of peace and harmony.

Ahhhh! Satisfaction.

So inspired was I by her de-cluttering, systematizing prowess that I immediately turned my attention to the task of taming the long-ignored Garage Beast!

Mission accomplished!

Satisfaction AGAIN!

In spite of the fact that I occasionally seem to be content to wallow around in an untidy environment, there remains something deeply satisfying about bringing order out of chaos.

It seems almost as if this ordering drive might be hard-wired into our humanness, doesn’t it?

Some theologians, in fact,  have argued that the Genesis creation story begins, not with God creating SOMETHING out of NOTHING, but rather with God creating ORDER out of CHAOS. Indeed, we read in Genesis 1:2, “… the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep.” (Gen. 1:2, NRSV).

But I wonder… if it is true that the impulse to ORDER our world is an essential, defining quality of the human experience… can we ever go overboard with this impulse? In other words, can there be such a thing as TOO MUCH order… and not enough CHAOS?

Lately we have certainly seen a whole lot of chaos in the streets of our major cities. Violent protests have erupted in the wake of murders by armed police officers. Chaos erupts. Order is imposed. MORE chaos erupts. And even more order is imposed.

But then sometimes… somehow… something new gets born out of that chaos. Ask anyone who has ever been present at the moment a brand-new baby is delivered into the world; it is a moment with more chaos and mess and disorder happening all at once than you will likely EVER see anywhere else!

And lest we forget…

  • From the chaos of 40 years of wandering in the desert, the new people Israel was born.
  • From the chaos of the American Revolution, this country was born.
  • From the chaos of riots and unrest in the early 60s, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was born.

There is no doubt that this moment is calling forth the need for something new to be born in the way our governments go about the work of ensuring public safety. The day when we need heavily armed, militarily trained phalanxes of police officers to keep the peace is gone… if indeed it ever existed in the first place.

Yes, we need order. Yes, we need peace. But not at the price of our freedom. And not if it means whole segments of our population end up living in daily fear of the very institutions appointed to ensure their safety.

You see, God has been trying to teach us this lesson from Day One… first through Abraham, then Moses, through the judges, the prophets, the kings, and through his only begotten Son, Jesus. God desperately wants us to understand that the only sure path to both peace and freedom is by following the Big Two…  1.) Loving God, and 2.) Loving Neighbor.

Loving our neighbors… WHO they are, AS they are… can be a little chaotic at times. Because let’s face it, some of them are just not that lovable.

But it is also an essential part of the people we are each made to be.

 

Abundant blessings;

08
Jun
20

A Cracked Shell

Cracked egg shellSomething seems to be leaking… and I can’t help but believe that’s a good thing.

In fact, I hope you are starting to leak a little, too.

When you and I first come into the world as babies, we have a soft spot on top of our heads. This spot is also known by its formal name, fontanelle, from a French word meaning “small fountain.”

The fontanelle is only one of many things that makes babies weak and vulnerable. They can’t walk. They can’t talk. They can’t feed themselves. They can’t clean themselves. Every sight amazes them, every sound startles them, every nerve ending in a baby’s body seems to be exquisitely on edge.

Babies lack any kind of filter to help them stem the onslaught of sensation.

They are utterly defenseless and exposed.

But then, time passes. Then they (we) get older. Then they (we) grow filters. Then they (we) develop coping mechanisms. Then, slowly and steadily, we start to grow exoskeletons that shield us from the white-hot intensity of the world around us.

As we age, we become less soft… less vulnerable… harder.

And sometimes those exoskeletons fit so well and feel so comfy-cozy that we curl up inside them. We close our eyes and go to sleep in our shells while outside us the storms swirl and rage.

And sometimes we forget to wake up… until it is too late.

I can’t help but notice… something has been happening to my shell over the past couple of weeks.

My shell has been cracked. Hammer blows named Breonna Taylor and Amahd Arbery and George Floyd, and Just Mercy, and #blacklivesmatter, and “Am I Next?”, and systemic racism, and Unequal Justice have been raining down on it.

My shell is cracking, and the world is leaking in on me… startling me and arousing me from my nap.

It feels somehow cold and unsafe…

… and yet also somehow exactly right.

I discover that I am slowly awakening. For one thing, I am awakening to the hard, cold implications of what it means to stand on the side of Jesus.

It is becoming abundantly clear to me that if I stand up and tell the world I am on the side of Jesus; I am, in effect, abandoning my shell altogether.

If I dare to tell the world that I stand on the side of Jesus, I understand that I am obliged to join him in saying, “Come to me, all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens. Come to me, all you who are systematically denied justice. Come to me, all you who have seen hope snuffed out like a candle wick. Come to me all you that are hungry, and tired, and poor, and addicted. Come to me, all of you, and I will give you the rest you so richly deserve and which you have been so steadfastly denied.” (Matthew 11:28, with a few editorial additions).

In some ways, my shattered-open shell feels a little like a death.

In other ways, it feels like a rebirth… like becoming as helpless as a baby all over again.

May we each today be blessed with leaking margins and an uneasy soul. May we each be aroused and unsettled and hear the call of our brothers and sisters in pain. May we stand defiantly on the side of Jesus and choose to love those that he loved.

 

Abundant blessings;

06
Jun
20

Agents of Change

Fists upIt is no startling revelation to say that we are in a time my friend Max would have referred to as, “… a yeasty moment.”

Something is bubbling. Strong, unseen forces are at work, above and below the surface. Change is afoot everywhere you look. I walk apprehensively as the ground seems to buckle and surge with every step I take.

THE GIVEN: Life on this planet will not be the same on the other side of whatever-this-is as it was before. Hard truths are being voiced. Ancient wounds are being uncovered. Old, solid, accepted solutions are being exposed for what they really are: defense mechanisms for an oppressive status quo.

There will be no “the way it used to be” to go back to. It was lost in the fire.

All of which makes me ask: how does authentic change happen in the world? And when I say CHANGE, I mean lasting, elemental, paradigm-shifting change. BC/AD-level stuff.

Sometimes change is violent… sudden and unavoidable. Mount St. Helens blows up and redefines an entire part of the map.

Other change – changes in the way we treat deadly diseases, for example –happens only through a creeping, glacially slow evolutionary process.

Changes in social structures and the laws that support them seem to fall somewhere between those two extremes.

Describing the process of change is easy: first comes the recognition of the need for change. That recognition grows and spreads until some empowered person (or group of people) takes the necessary and effective steps and institutes the change.

Lastly, the change leaders dig in and prepare to defend that change against the inevitable assaults from those who oppose it.

As I said, describing the process of change is easy. Carrying it out is anything but.

Thinking back, I can recall one change in my own life I made with relative speed and ease. After watching this video of a TED Talk, (Click here), I immediately decided to change the way I tied my shoes.

Just about every other change in my life has been preceded by much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth… even when I agreed the change was needed.

Right now, we are at the “weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth” phase of the change in our way of being a nation. The killing of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers last week has ignited a tinderbox of rage, sweeping up even those most committed to staying on the sidelines. The brazen injustice of that act combined with the frustration of the coronavirus lockdown, the rampant loss of economic security, and an already bitterly divided electorate are all helping feed the flames engulfing our cities today.

Some of us want immediate, wholesale, revolutionary change. We spray-paint obscenities on public buildings, set dumpsters ablaze, lock arms and chant in the streets. We ignore curfew orders, police loudspeakers, and clouds of teargas, daring authorities to arrest us.

Some of us want to sit calmly at a bargaining table and rationally work out the size and shape of the change. We want to be social engineers, carefully drawing our blueprints. We disapprove of the tactics used by our boisterous sisters and brothers and wish they would stop breaking things and alienating people.

What neither of us quite seems to realize is that BOTH of these voices are needed to affect change. I have no doubt that were it not for the loud, obnoxious voices of the sit-ins, peace marches, and draft card burnings, this country might still be mired in the swamps of Viet Nam. Without the rude PETA people throwing buckets of red paint at people wearing fur coats, there might never have been any meaningful animal-welfare laws passed.

The loud voices call the moderates “sellouts.” The calmer voices call the loud ones, “radicals” and “anarchists.”

I pray that each extreme in this debate might see the vital role played by the other and that real, lasting, just change will arise from this troubling moment of national anguish.

Of course, the only real, lasting, soul-deep change in the world AND its people is the change of comes from faith in Christ. As Paul reminds us, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation…” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18, NRSV)

Praise God for change. Praise God for justice. Praise God for reconciliation.

Abundant blessings;

04
Jun
20

Things I don’t have to do…

George Floyd protestsBut let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24, NRSV

In my life, there are a lot of things I HAVE to do. I have to help out around the house. I have to pay my taxes. I have to regularly demonstrate my love and affection toward Joan. CORRECTION! I WANT to regularly demonstrate my love and affection toward Joan. I have to obey the law. I have to behave graciously toward my neighbors.

But there is also another list. Here below I present only a partial list of things I don’t have to do… simply because I am a white male.

  • I don’t have to carry around the knowledge that I might be pulled over by the police at any time, in any part of the city, even if I am flawlessly obeying every traffic law.
  • I don’t have to have a carefully-worked-out script committed to memory in the event I am pulled over by the police and questioned.
  • I don’t have to make sure I am holding a young child’s hand on one side and a cute dog on a leash on the other side whenever I want to take a walk outside, just so I don’t arouse the suspicions of my white neighbors.
  • I don’t have to monitor the way I walk through any retail store, constantly making sure the clerks don’t find a reason to suspect me of shoplifting.
  • I don’t have to sit down with my two male children and have a serious talk with them about how lethal it is to wear the skin tone they were born with.
  • I don’t have to wonder if this evening’s jog might be the last one of my life.
  • I don’t have to sit down for an entire evening of mindless televised entertainment and wonder why I don’t see anyone on the screen that looks like me.
  • I don’t have to feel the pressure to be twice as qualified, twice as astute, twice as eager, and twice as willing to be flexible as white candidates when I apply for a job.
  • I don’t have to worry that I have a substantially higher chance of being wrongfully convicted of a crime than a white person. Specifically, if I were black, I would be SEVEN TIMES more likely to be wrongfully convicted for murder, THREE-AND-A-HALF TIMES more likely to be wrongfully convicted of sexual assault, and FIVE TIMES more likely to be wrongfully convicted of drug crimes than a white person, (according to a study by the Newkirk Center for Science and Society, University of California Irvine.)
  • I don’t have to worry if my family doctor (of a different race) is actually listening closely and working carefully to diagnose my health concerns.
  • I don’t have to lose sleep wondering whether my children are being afforded the same opportunities and given the same tolerance and understanding in their classrooms as the children of white parents.

And finally, I don’t have to feel a sense of mind-numbing rage at the report of yet another citizen of my race and ethnicity being murdered in cold blood by the police simply for the crime of being my race and ethnicity.

As an older, white male, I have the luxury of being able to scan the news, shake my head, say, “Ain’t it a shame!” and then go right back to watering my lawn and wondering what’s for dinner.

I pray God will afflict my heart and the hearts of millions of others with the same pain that lives DAILY in the hearts of those denied that luxury.




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