At the beginning of February, I had this blog all written out. I planned to discuss and dissect Black History Month, its history, and its everlasting relevance to those who dwell on Earth. I have since changed my mind. I’m not saying I dislike beating a dead horse, but I’ll save my take on BHM for another February.
What changed over the past month is a tempering of my anger towards prejudices and those who wield racism habitually. After experiencing a poorly chosen gesture from a co-worker, instead of being mad, I thought about her and the gesture. I began to think about what her experiences were with those of another race and how the media could have skewed her thoughts towards Black people. Does she have Black friends? What did she learn from her parents about Black people? Does she not know the dynamics of White-Black interactions? Despite the situation and questions swirling around in my mind, I could only think of one thing; Grace. The thought of grace seems scarce when racial conversations come up. Fingers are pointed and lines are finely carved in the sand like an imaginary “Whites Only” sign in a suburban neighborhood. Yet, grace towards the culprit is hard to come by. I’m no exception. I’ve had my fair share of seething Facebook arguments with Caucasian combatants. Instead of speaking out of love, I just wanted to push my point across. It was especially hard because the offender was either A) Oblivious B) Incredulous or C) Just didn’t care what I thought knew to be true. Does this give me the right to be angry?
Yes. We should be upset towards actions or words that “pass the torch” of racism further into the future. But has Christ not extended his grace to us even if we are A) Oblivious B) Incredulous C) Just don’t care about our sins and their effect on the world? God hates our sin, but he loves us with a legendary, unending passion. We have done far worse things to our Creator than any man can do to us, yet he temporarily dethroned himself to endure the plight of those who lived in ghettos. He touched those who were addicts, broken and beat down by their sins. The Son of God came to promise a brand new life and was sacrificed for the world to see. That same God loved me before I was born and I can do nothing to stop that. Grace is what we must pass to those who offend. If grace is the gift we have received from our Father, can we not give that same gift to others?
This isn’t a pass for ignorance or apathy. We know biased structures exist to physically and socioeconomically separate Black people from the rest of America. But still we rise. We also know our country latches on to popular ideologies such as “colorblindness” which does not address racial and cultural tensions that separate us under the surface. These issues should be addressed in the face of ridicule and doubt. If we use grace as a vessel to press past ethnic separation, we take a step closer to racial reconciliation. Recently, I heard an interview with the late Stuart Scott. Scott, who was Black, anchored for the sports news channel ESPN before his passing earlier this year. When he started at the company, Scott was one of the only Black anchors on sports television. During the interview, the host asked him if he ever became tired of defending/explaining the nuisances of Black culture and interests to his White coworkers. Scott said he saw it as an opportunity to educate those who didn’t have the same background that he came from. Instead of responding in anger, he acted in grace. He did not see it as the cliché “ask a Black person”, but rather embraced his role as a teacher. Scott bridged racial divides on and off the sports desk through his time at ESPN.
As a citizen of America and a Black man, I find it difficult to be proud of America. This nation was literally built off the backs of my forefathers, yet their contributions to this country are down played, at best. This country has many more sins in its history that are conveniently swept under the rug come July 4th or any other patriotic holiday. (ie. Japanese Internment Camps, Trail of Tears, eugenics etc.) To me, America has an odd fetish for global might, control, and economic dominance. These characteristics impact the worldwide community for the worse. Despite my indifference towards this country, I am called to love it. I live here, but I am also a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. Dual citizenship if you will. This country comes with good, bad, and ugly traits, but God has called me to love Liberty Lady. God has loved me in my sin and filth. As Christ-followers, we are called to love the hardest to love as he has loved us.
Fighting my initial instincts, I will strive to choose grace over anger. Love over hate. Education over condemnation. I can’t say this task is easy, but I believe God has graced me with patience to interact with miseducated and out-of-touch people I encounter. The plight of Black people is relatable among other historically oppressed people groups of the world. Our heritage of perseverance is something to claim with pride. One the day, when we are one with Christ, His kingdom will reflect his heart and passion for racial reconciliation. The cultures of His kingdom will not merely coexist with one another, but rather will be celebrated for who they are and how they encounter and worship their Father in Heaven. Every tribe, tongue, and nation will give glory and honor to a loving and all-powerful God. Our mission on Earth is to make disciples of all nations, unite the people of God and bring fame to his name. Racial reconciliation takes us one step closer to seeing the kingdom of Heaven on Earth.