Last Friday morning, I sat around a backyard fire with five or six friends with whom I have been meeting weekly for the last year or so. I won’t name them in order to keep any targets from being painted on their backs. Each and every one of these guys are bright, good-hearted, and compassionate gentlemen.
Every week for the last several months, we have been exploring the Book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. We discuss the history, literature, and message of the book. Being mostly business men, most discussions get around to extended discussions on ethics which, of course, the Bible is all about.
The discussion was bound to get to the problems before and after the murder of George Floyd. With protests erupting all over the nation and even protests and vigils held in other countries. I mean, Iran held a vigil for Mr. Floyd. The United Nations, the World Health Organization, the European Union, even Russia has criticized the brutal treatment of our brothers and sisters who have suffered unjust targeting and brutality at the hands of racist law enforcement and vigilantes.
As I say repeatedly, we are incredibly blessed to have police officers of compassion and discipline. My middle son said, “But just because we know that it is by no means true of all police officers, is not to say that this is not a very pervasive problem. It’s like women saying that all men are pigs. Is every single man a pig? No, but there are enough who are to make the accusation stick.”
We live in a really, really white community. When I was moving here back in 2012, I looked at the demographics of Clark County and saw that it was 99.8% white. I admit. I was concerned about that.
I was raised in the South. Fortunately for me, my grandparents and parents were the farthest thing from racist. I’m not saying they marched with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, but they took great measures to be inclusive in everything they did.
My best friends in school were a mixed bunch. I spent the night with friends of all colors and religions and ideologies. I ate at their houses. We defended each other. Stood for each other. Respected each other. Loved each other.
I’m not saying that we didn’t see color when we looked at each. That’s ridiculous. Of course, we saw each other for who we are. One preacher said, “God doesn’t see color.” An ignorant statement. “If that’s the case,” said one of my friends, “Are you saying God doesn’t see me? And if YOU don’t see me as a black man, then you don’t see ME.”
There is a vast difference between acknowledging difference and hating difference. Racists hate the difference.
Personally, I love the differences.
I’m not a self-hating white boy but I am a white boy who hates what other white people do to our sisters and brothers for no other reason than skin-color.
Back to Friday morning, I think everyone in the group agreed that what happened to Mr. Floyd was terrible and criminal. And almost everyone was sympathetic and understanding with the protests. Most of understood the reaction that led to the looting. But let’s be honest, much of the looting was instigated by whites under the guise of protestors.
One member of the group called for grace in all of this. Grace to understand the victims, the protestors, but even the racist oppressors. As Nelson Mandela said, “In an oppressive system, the oppressors as much as the oppressed need to be freed.” The oppressors, racists, white supremacists, name it need to be freed also. But…
Grace does not mean simple acceptance of someone’s wrong.
Forgiveness bestowed without confession made is Cheap Grace, according to Dietrich Bonhoeffer. If we are called to be agents of Grace, then we must be agents of change.
Maybe you don’t like the violence and the protesting and the blocked streets. But Rev. Dr. King said, “It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.”
As agents of Grace and change, we cannot simply wring our white hands and pray for everything to work out for everyone, everywhere. It doesn’t work like that.
Moses confronted Pharaoh. Amos confronted the kings of Israel. Abraham Lincoln fired the first shot of the Civil War. Dietrich Bonhoeffer joined the plot to assassinate Hitler. Rev. Dr. King confronted President Johnson. Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu led the assault on Apartheid.
If we want to be rid of the racism in our own hearts and communities, we must listen to the voices of the oppressed. Don’t speak. Listen.
And, for Grace’s sake, do something. Whatever form it takes—writing your representatives, your president, your city council—just do something before the only recourse truly is violence.
Stand up for the oppressed. A friend of ours was in the Abbotsford Dollar General and was approached by a white man in a t-shirt that read, White Lives Matter. He told her that she should “go back where you came from.” She told him that she was from this area! Bless her, she then replied that he should go back to school and learn something.
I have no worries about Owen-Withee Police Chief Jesus Ibarra or his officers. I would trust these guys with my life and the lives of those I love. My worry is about the next chief in 25 years. Guidelines and protocols must be put in place in every community everywhere to safeguard the citizens and residents.
As for us, don’t think for a second that you can get away with racist behavior.
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