On Race: I’m listening, learning and grieving
Hi Friends! In this period of racial tension, I’ve hesitated to comment too quickly on current events because I’ve wanted to be a good listener and learner from Black American Voices that are speaking at this time. And I must say that two things are happening: I’m learning a lot and I’m surprised at how much I’m learning! Here’s a sample of what I’m learning… I share these thoughts with you to possibly help you learn a bit too!
Regardless if George Floyd was a sinner, a saint or somewhere in between, his death has brought up a lot of emotion because the video of his death invokes negative thoughts many Black Americans deal with on a daily basis. Here’s just a sampling of what I’ve heard over the last couple of weeks:
A Black American wife posted on a Facebook community page that her husband (also black) had started running to get into shape. Her post was something like this: ‘Hey if you see a black man running at 5:00 o’clock in the morning he’s not running away from anyone or anything. He’s just trying to get fit and run back to his family.’ The fact that she would even worry about her husband coming home from running breaks my heart, especially as a runner. My wife never has to worry about whether I’m coming home from a run. I have thought about this a lot and it has given me a lot of perspective.
Denver Broncos player Kareem Jackson shared a story that was printed in the Denver Post recently about being pulled over by police a couple of years ago. From the article: Watching the video of a policeman cruelly snuffing the life from Floyd, “it was horrifying,” Jackson said. It was particularly unnerving because he has felt the sting of racial profiling by police officers while a member of the Houston Texans.
“Once they walk up to the car and they see me, they instantly ask: ‘Who’s car is this?’” recalled Jackson. “And for me, it’s an insult. Just right off the bat, what makes you ask that question? … Because I’m an African-American driving a nice car, what makes you think I can’t afford this car?”
I also have a pretty nice car, but no officer has (or would) ever pull me over and asked me immediately, ‘Who’s car is this?’ Can you imagine how degrading that would be? I’ve seen on several occasions articles where Black men describe the only reason they are being pulled over as ‘driving while black.’ Black drivers are much more likely to be pulled over. Over time, that would begin to wear on me in frustration.
Finally, I’ve been reading a lot of articles and seeing a lot of videos where Black men describe how they consciously think about how they are dressed before they step out of their house as to not seem too dangerous looking or intimidating. This is so horrible! I NEVER, not once, have ever thought about what I’m wearing in context to the potential of looking scary. And I’m 6’7” and a big guy!
As I take all this in, there’s something going on in our country that’s pretty epically huge. Those living as a Black American have a much different experience than I do. I understand better why the term Black Lives Matter is important. Because they think, based on their day-to-day experience, that their lives don’t matter as much as Anglo lives matter. It’s not that they wouldn’t agree with the term All Lives Matter, but what it seems they are really saying is, ‘Our lives matter as much as yours does, Mike. Listen to us when we say, our lives really do matter!’
I continue to pray, listen, read, and understand. And to Black friends reading this, I’m sorry you feel like your life doesn’t matter as much and I’m prepared to do my best to be a change agent. It’s true: Being black in America should not be a death sentence. I love you, God definitely loves you and always remember that as sinful people, we’re never completely going to get this right on this side of heaven. But praise God that there will be a day for those who are in Christ when we will all be bowing before God, praising His name, and race won’t matter anymore. I look forward to that day with great anticipation!