The Constant Wrestle with Racism: My Reflection from the Email

My heart at times becomes burdensome with the issues of this world. I will be honest, I wrestle everyday with the concept of racism. (I am connecting racism and prejudice together, though much of what I am talking about is prejudice rather than racism.) What would make a person have so much hatred for another that they will do whatever it takes to hinder or impede their progress? What would make a person kill or harm another because of the color of their skin? I could just simply throw a proof –text from the scriptures highlighting that it is a product of sin. While that is true, I find it to be an excuse that stops the church from putting in the work to eradicate it.

I will admit racism is a hard thought to wrestle with because it presents itself as a viable outlook and outcome. If you hate me why would it be so odd to believe that I would hate. Honestly, from a survival standpoint, it would behoove me to hate you for my own safety so that I will not find myself trying to change your mind. Thus putting myself in a place for you to enslave or kill me. It takes a special and strong person to stand in the face of racism and not flinch. I am not at that place where my response to racism in labeled under that category.

Therein displays my struggle because I find passiveness to be a sign of approval. I have to really engage in introspection every day in order not to over-respond to ignorance that is really “racism undefined.”  We all do this in order to navigate through our day with a sense of peace. Whether we admit it or not we have implemented racism into our life with such creativity that it is unnoticeable to ourselves. The painstaking task comes when we get in the company of others who do not share our points of contention and they point out our areas of racism. We can either reduce it to nonsense or heed the words that they have spoken in order to change.

I believe that God is conditioning the hearts of men to realize the flaw in our thinking. I believe we are in a time when the image of God ( imago dei) is being placed on the heart of men and we are seeing that we all were wrong. We are finding that I never had to hate you in order to love myself. The end result has manifested in a society in turmoil and confusion as it wrestles with this redefining. As this post-modern age group has no color identification associated with it, we as parents tend to protect our children by sharing with them that racism is real. My fear of my children being the product of racism provokes me, so I inevitably prepare them to take a blow that they may never identify with the same way I have in my life.

So my wanting to help and prepare my children to deal with racism has the potential to make them racist or passive which takes me back to square one.

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Rethinking My Radicalism

The mark of my radicalism is upended many days with the word, “Daddy”! Right or wrong my radicalism has a new perspective. As my children get older and my marriage gets longer my revolutionary heart takes on a new norm. This could be a form of wisdom that I am possessing as I get older or it could be a solid fear that I have embraced unknowingly, nonetheless I have changed.

The need to be responsible outweighs the need to be heard here recently. As I think through my life and some of the stands that I have made, I wonder would I be reluctant to make those same stands today. One thing I know for sure- revolution and radicalism comes with a price. I have lost many jobs for taking stands for people who may or may not have done the same for me. It has damaged the financial stability in my home many times because I choose to make a stand for justice and right rather than going with the flow.

At the age of 39, I am rethinking things and how I engage. I am trying to be extremely mindful of what I engage and when. My nature is one of a tenacity to defend those who will not defend themselves. Americans in general tend to turn the other cheek when they see others being the victim of maltreatment but that has always disturbed me. Now, I wrestle with the extent of my involvement for justice at the price of my children eating. Yes, I still speak my mind but my approach has changed from confrontational to informing. I have come to grips with the fact that I am not the average 9-5 company man but I also understand some times you do what you have to do as a father.

I applaud those who make stands for justice at the price of losing financial opportunities-jobs, engagements, speeches, etc. It is a self fulfilling job but the fallout many times brings one to the brink of loneliness and misunderstanding. Many do not understand your call to service and label it as lunacy. They forgo the good you do but deep down they envy your life.

I think of Assata and many of the other revolutionary that made great sacrifices for many of the Africans trapped in these yet to be United States of America. They endured pain, prison and separation from loved ones in order to defend justice for us. (I marvel at their call to duty to be trailblazers that would lead them to short end of injustice.)

The work that many of the black radical/revolutionary preachers engaged in during the 1900’s left an edible mark on my life. They are the reason that I studied theology and continue to do so in pursuit of a pastorate. Their love for God was embodied in their love for black people. They lived on the very notion that God would bring freedom and they were willing to die for that very thing. Many suffered hardship as they developed comprehensive, theological paradigms to catapult blacks into freedom mentalities. They were men/women of intelligence as well as men/women of strength that never coward at the intimidation of racism.

I rest on the shoulders of such great theological minds that lived out their theology regardless of the sacrifice that it made upon their lives. I strive to carry on that prophetic tradition with the same dedication and excellence of such great elders-constant radical revolution.

Five Great Men Who Changed My Life

I wrote this in 2011 and these men still have my utmost attention when they speak.

These five men have said something in my life that changed a direction for me…

1)My Pops, Talmadge Foulks- He gave me a real example of what hard work looks like…He set a standard that I can’t come close to for being a man…my hero…Famous words to me,” If you are going to do something do it because you want to not because you were following someone.”

2) Dr. William Gunn- He showed me it was alright to be intelligent and settled for nothing less than my best…Famous words to me, “They say if you put it in a book that you young black males will never learn it.”

3) My Uncle Duane Everett- outside of my parents was one of my biggest fans during my athletics years but also challenged me to be even better in the classroom….Famous words to me, “If you ever decide to use your mind, you will be dangerous.”

4) James “Everett” Tillman- My cousin but we grew up like brothers. One of the few people in the world, if not the only person that I will not question if he tells me something. The smartest person I know and the person whom I try my best to emulate because he is a fantastic dude….still to this day he gives me the best guidance…famous words to me…”Finish strong…”

5) Allen Love- Man we grew up together from young boys, through college, through craziness to manhood. Hands down one of the most intelligent cats I know. While I was in college, the brother practically feed me every day and never said a word or asked for it back. Always encouraged me to stay in school regardless of  what was happening. Famous words to me, “If that is what you want to do then you need to go and get trained through a school.”