Brothers In Conversation About Race (Part 10)

The question that still remains concerning race in America is the question of unity. What does it mean to live in unity with those who are not like us? What does it mean for the majority to recognize and accept the issues that are important to the minority? How can the minority who has been oppressed and still feels the remnant of that suffering move past the hurt to embrace unity with the majority? There are no easy answers to these questions but that does not mean we cannot attempt to have conversations that move us toward resolution. The prevailing sentiment is that we are too far gone; that people have dug their heels in and there is no room for negotiation or discussion. The prevailing sentiment is that any compromise will be seen as defeat; any concession of any point concerning what we believe about race/racism will be viewed as losing our principles. None of which is helpful. We have to be able to have discussions. We have to be able to honestly question each other and allow ourselves to be questioned. We have to be able to hear one another with the understanding that no one has all truth and no one is all wrong.

My hope that this is possible comes from my belief in Jesus Christ as the savior of the world. This week’s lection from John 17:1-11, reminds us that Jesus was given authority over all flesh to over eternal life (v. 2). The tricky part is found in the very next verse: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” The unity we seek is in knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ. But what does it mean to know God? People have used their “knowledge” of God to justify many abhorrent behaviors and beliefs. Racism has been justified using scripture. Division has increased as people lay claim to God’s word as their own, refusing to believe that anyone else has knowledge of who God is. Yet, Jesus prays for all who are his followers. He prays that we might be one as he and the Father are one. This does not mean sameness but does mean an intimately close relationship that allows for difference without separation. We have to be willing to come back to the table and discuss our difference knowing that we are united in Christ. We have to swallow our pride and let go of our self-glorification born out of this belief that we fully know God. We have to admit our limited knowledge of God and embrace the knowledge that others have been given by Jesus Christ.

Until we face the problem with honest reflection, we will continue to live in the division and conflict we see in the world today. Until we let go of our need to be glorified, to have the light shine on our thoughts and beliefs, we will continue to fail to glorify God with the unity God intended. I’m ready, let’s talk.

A Short Ode to young Black Brothers- Peeping Baldwin

Living in a state of “ontological blackness”, I had readied my mind to the notion that settling was the better than not doing at all. I found that many that grew in the 80’s as I did had fallen victim to the same plight. We had bought into the “hype of racism” and used it as a crutch to be mediocre. I call it a hype because it was a metaphorical giant that handcuffed young black males- racism. We bought the game that was shoveled to us, in the words of the Notorious B.I.G., “that either you gotta wicked shot or you gotta sale crack rock.”  Gone were days that our intellectual prowess could be used to rally a community to be an agent of change.  That our presence as young black men would impact millions with the sounds of truth, roaring from our lungs.

I watch as we are so violently harassed for meager inflictions, if any at all. But in retrospect, I watch as we dehumanize, buffonarize and sale our hearts for the limelight. We are a misguided group these days with little to no direction. Statistically only about 25% percent or less of black males go to college. Intelligence has been replaced with who has the biggest horse on the Polo shirt. School has become more of a habitat of cool  than a necessary tool to catapult one to success.

James Baldwin writes to his nephew in The Fire Next Time, about the plight that he will face in America. He writes posited in the early 60’s with a flame of love; not sure if out of fear or a unique quest to see him successful (I would say the first) nonetheless it is laced with love. Elegantly, he lays out lionized thoughts that enflame the page with insight. He writes with a love ethic that still after 40 odd years has an enormous impact.  James Baldwin has walked the path that his nephew has yet to travel and he is laying out the strategy for success.

Much the same but without coming anywhere near the genius of Baldwin I write to my young brothers. I leave with the words of Baldwin,

“You can only be destroyed by believing that you are what the white world calls a nigger. I tell you this because I love you, and please don’t ever forget it.”