Racial discord has been a problem in the US for generations. While all of us have been touched by this, we have been touched in very different ways. For many whites, we have openly declared there is no systemic racism in this country. For many blacks, especially black men, there has been a tremendous outcry indicating just the opposite. The events over the past few months where black men have died at the hands of police have effectively been the match to the tinderbox igniting an explosion of protests regarding racial bias amongst the police organizations throughout the country. Unfortunately, we have seen opportunists engage and take these protests and turn them into violent civil unrest across the country.
Let’s be clear, the videos of the most recent events are disturbing at best. The video of Mr. Floyd’s death was horrific, and completely unacceptable. We have seen videos in the past that have fueled the discord, and in some cases created an even greater wedge between us as a people. Like everyone else, I had my perspectives, and while listening to the Catholic Channel I came across an interview with Fr. Bryan Massingale. Fr. Bryan has written a book called “Racial Justice and the Catholic Church”. The interview was about a recent article he had written and I found it posted in National Catholic Reporter entitled “The assumptions of white privilege and what we can do about it”. For complete transparency I struggled with the title and some of the content, but this article stayed on my mind and I have brought this to prayer over the past few weeks. The article can be found at:
I wanted to share some thoughts about the article and the situation. I ask all of you to take some time to read the article, and bring this to prayer. Be open to where the Spirit leads you. It led me to a place I did not expect to be, as is usually the case.
I am a strong supporter of the police and always have been. I have always said that the vast majority of cops (99.9%) are good people and the .1% are the problem. I have always believed that the US was not inherently racist. I have always looked at the data that is out there relating to police brutality against all races, as well as supporting the view that “black on black” crime was a more significant problem that needed to be addressed. As I meditated on the subject, God asked me a very direct, and I believe a very profound question – “What do you know about being black?” Well, the obvious answer is nothing. This “revelation” allowed me to reread Fr. Bryan’s article from a very different perspective; I believe God’s perspective. This also forced me to look internally at my own unconscious bias that shut off being open to other perspectives for a very large portion of my life. Here is what I know:
* I cannot judge someone or disavow anyone’s opinion having never walked in their shoes. Nobody can. This is not my place to begin with.
* There are a number of things Fr. Bryan stated in his article that I still struggle with, but God has shown me that I don’t know enough about the subject to be disagreeing with anyone, especially a black man who has lived through very different experiences than I have.
* I cannot paint the situation with a wide brush, meaning I am sure there are white people who do fit the description Fr. Bryan gave for “white privilege”.
* I believe in the inherent goodness of all people, but acknowledge we live in a society that focuses on the negative aspects of people. We cannot allow that to continue.
* I believe that all good people want everyone to live a good life, help others, and to walk with Jesus
* I also believe that nobody is listening. We are all speaking, but nobody is listening. We all want to be right. This stalemate has allowed too many people to be killed or injured with a disproportionate number of blacks and latinos being the victims. We have put very good cops in even more danger for their lives, and have allowed the violent agitators to hijack very painful moments and made a mockery of them. We let that happen.
* There is not enough God in the people and in the world. God doesn’t see race, gender, sexual preference, political leanings, etc. God sees His children. Jesus sees his brothers and sisters. I know I need to pray more to see the world through God’s eyes, and I need to do my part to help others to see God and invite him more into their hearts, their minds, and their souls.
So what do we do now? I think the first thing we need to do is to read Fr. Bryan’s article and accept his experiences and his beliefs. What else can we do since we have never experienced what he and other blacks have experienced. We need to have a conversation. A real conversation where people speak and more importantly listen. The goal is not to be right or win a debate. The goal is to find common ground between all of us and help each other to understand the challenges we as God’s children face. I believe then, and only then, can we start to break down this wedge between us. Please pray on this. I would welcome feedback as to how we can start this conversation and engage proactively to bridge the racial gap that exists today. I will be hosting a discussion on Bring Faith to Your Day in a few weeks and would welcome everyone’s participation.
I end this post with a quote from Richard Rohr’s book “On the Threshold of Transformation”:
“Mature Christians should recognize that ours is a generous and benevolent universe, as described in the first chapter of Genesis. We are told that this world is not only good, safe, and on our side, but that there is someone who is for us more than we are for ourselves. This truth must be felt, understood, and drawn upon to be life-giving”