The Art of Empathy or, Understanding Why People are Upset About Trump’s Win


_87170064_gettyimages-488226322The weeping and gnashing of teeth, as well as the rendering of garments, has commenced in full effect ever since Donald Trump won the election last Tuesday. We’ve seen protests, people crying, and heard rumors (some validated, others not) of minority groups being targeted. In short, a campaign unlike any others has given way to a transition unlike any others.

There have been quite a few Trump supporters – or even non-Trump supporters – questioning why people are so upset. They’re mocking those who protest. But to them, I’d ask that they consider the following:

In some alternate timeline, the Republicans ran Mitch McConnell and the Democrats ran Bill Maher. So we have someone who is the insider of insiders, with some massive issues (McConnell) running against a populist outsider (Maher).

During the election, Bill Maher is Bill Maher. He talks about how we have to monitor parents who raise their children within Christianity. He talks about how we should infiltrate and monitor conservative evangelical churches, just because they compromise the security of America. He shows warm feelings towards the current Chinese government (who is hardline Communist and attempting to retract many Capitalist gains). He uses multiple speeches to speak of how it’s not enough to just tax the wealthy, we have to imprison them to teach them a lesson on greed. He talks about how he wants to ban conservative media sources. He mocks anyone in “fly over” country as backwards, and does this while campaigning. And at his campaign, young far-left activists throw objects at Fox News reporters and other conservative news reporters. They mock them, spit at them, and create an environment of violence, all while Bill Maher looks on and says nothing.

And then he wins.

For many of you who are conservative, how would you feel? You’d be afraid, right? You’d be afraid that the new visitor in your church is actually a government plant, sent to spy on your church. You’d worry that just because of your beliefs, you’d now be a target by the President of the United States, who has openly campaigned on how he wants to remove your rights.

You’d have friends tell you, “I just couldn’t vote for McConnell, I want the system removed.” You’d question if they actually care about you, if they are actually concerned with who you are and your rights. It’d cause you to question the nation in which you live.

THAT is the reality that many, many people woke up to on November 9. They woke up to a world where the president-elect campaigned on promises to attack their way of life. And just as you would be scared, they are scared.

I get why you voted for Trump, I understand it, because many will say, “Well because that HAS been us for a number of years.” And to a certain extent, you’re right. While the President hasn’t mocked or threatened to remove the rights of Christians, many on the far-left have. But think of how it made you feel threatened, think of how it made you feel vulnerable, and realize that many people feel that way today because of your vote.

So maybe show some empathy to them? Maybe reach out and say, “Look, I voted for Trump because I want the system to crash; but if he does actually come after you, I’ll stand with you because I support principles before I support the party. I support the constitution more than I support ideology.” It’s bad enough that Trump was elected, but if we truly want “unity,” if we truly want “healing,” then those who voted for Trump have to reach out and say that they won’t stand for Trump acting on certain promises, that they’ll stand against Trump if he does try to live up to his rhetoric.

And if you do actually believe that the rights of Muslims should be curbed, if you do actually believe that we should ostracize Hispanics, if you do actually believe that America will become great by becoming more white, then you are the problem with this nation. Not the illegal immigrants, not the Muslims, not the African-Americans, but you.

Kaepernick, the Blind Love of Nation, and the New Racism


Most+american+picture+i+ve+ever+made+democracy+liberty+independence+justice+freedom+and+america+by+your+powers_320779_4868118Colin Kaepernick has landed in hot water and not for being a mediocre quarterback. During a pre-season game he chose not to stand during the United States National Anthem. He chose not to stand because, in his words, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour.” An almost mundane choice. He’s a pro athlete making a political point, and he’s not the first one.

Yet, his refusal to stand for a song and a piece of cloth has ignited a firestorm, met mostly with criticism. It’s hard to find anyone truly sympathetic to Kaepernick’s cause, mostly because people are either enraged by his actions or apathetic towards the man himself. The conservatives hate his lack of patriotism while the liberals are too cynical to believe he’s doing this out of sincerity (but doing it because he was bumped to second string).

Removing Kaepernick from the equation, his act of protest and people’s subsequent responses betrays two bigger issues in our nation: 1) We’re too “patriotic,” in reality we are nationalistic and (2) we hold athletes of color to a higher expectation of patriotism than we hold white athletes.

To the first point, there’s a danger when we let our national identity intersect and mold our personal identity. To a certain extent it’s nearly impossible not to let our national identity influence who we are as individuals. I am, after all, a product of America. My accent, my beliefs, my cultural participation is in many ways tied to my being an American. And I’d argue that I am a patriot. I love the idea of America, I love the idea of freedom for all, I love what this nation (on paper) stands for. But being a patriot does not mean I have to be a nationalist. A nationalist will support his country no matter what, but a patriot is willing to point out its flaws and even admit to being disappointed in his nation.

I’d contend that Kaepernick, if we excuse ourselves from cynicism, is a patriot. He loves his nation, otherwise he wouldn’t protest in the hopes of change. True hatred for America wouldn’t ask for protest, but an overthrow. True hatred of America would require apathy to its flaws. Yet, nationalism prevents us from recognizing flaws in our nation, unless we first label those flaws as “outside.” One can think of how people [erroneously] say Obama is a shame to our nation, that they can’t be proud while he’s in charge. But a nationalist says this only after first claiming Obama isn’t actually from our nation, or at least claiming that his ideas aren’t American in origin. Therefore, the shame he feels for his nation isn’t for his nation, but for what his nation is becoming. And yet, without any sense of irony, he will berate and attack anyone who would question typical patriotic icons such as the flag, the anthem, and so on. Ultimately, the nationalist isn’t so much loyal to his nation as he’s loyal to the ideology behind his vision of what the nation should be, thus anyone who violates this ideology is immediately a heretic and worthy of being purged.

Our nationalism in the United States is often best seen as “white nationalism,” mostly because anyone who is not white is automatically suspected of being anti-American for any form of protest. Often, non-whites are left having to prove that they’re Americans, especially black athletes. We see this with Kaepernick, but it wasn’t that long ago that we were criticizing other black athletes for not being American enough. And by not that long ago I mean about two to three weeks ago with Gabby Douglas. She forgot or just chose not to put her hand over her heart when the American flag was displayed. The rage was so hot that other black female Olympians were often chastised on Facebook with people confusing them with Gabby Douglas. When other white Olympians failed to do the same, there was absolutely no outcry.

Notice the verbiage used for both Douglas and Kaepernick; “how dare you not respect the flag of a country that gave you an opportunity, that gave you freedom, that gave you…” It’s difficult to not imagine a slave owner saying something similar to a slave, “How dare you not be grateful for me when I’ve given you food.” The fact is, this nation didn’t give these black athletes anything. They worked hard, they shaped their bodies and talents and pushed themselves to such a level of competition that they’ve excelled at what they do (well, relatively speaking; Kaepernick is riding the bench after all). Yet, we require that these black athletes show 100% solidarity and respect to a piece of cloth, but do not place the same standard on white athletes. We can say we do, but we don’t. That we have racial inequality in our country, that we’re not living up to our ideals as a nation, is a good reason to protest the nation. Sitting during the national anthem is a good way to protest the current reality of racial inequality in our nation.

A true patriot will always love the ideals of his country, but will recognize her flaws. This allows for a duality of respect. One patriot can see a flag and show respect, because that flag represents certain ideals and the patriot wants to respect those ideals. Another patriot can see the flag and view it as representing the current reality,  and therefore choose not to respect it. In both instances, each person is right and each person is still patriotic. Both respect and protest are signs of patriotism. Neither is right and neither is wrong. The fact is, as a nation we have some deep and troubling systemic flaws that continue the oppression entire ethnic groups. But we recognize these actions as flaws because we realize that our actions contradict our ideals, or at least we ought to recognize such a thing. Sometimes it takes a drastic protest to shine a light on our flaws. Perhaps we ought to examine the message of Kaepernick before we shoot the messenger. After all, how patriotic is it to hate someone for exercising his right to free speech? Only a nationalist could allow such cognitive dissonance.

We do have a problem with racial inequality. Perhaps there are better ways to draw attention to that, but what are they? We’ve had this problem since before we were a nation and we’ve never fixed it. We attempt to sweep it under the rug like it doesn’t exist. But it does exist and it is a problem. Rather than complaining about someone protesting or the manner in which he protests, perhaps we’d be better served to listen to the message and to work to make sure our policies align with our ideals. Such an action is far more patriotic than any national anthem or pledge of allegiance.

There is no “Us or Them”


“We reject the either or
They can’t define us anymore
Cause if it’s us or them
It’s us for them
It’s us for them”

– Gungor

Last year Gungor released a delightfully dark, lyrically deep, and musically sophisticated album entitled I Am Mountain. Michael Gungor, the band’s founder and front man, also wrote an honest and insightful blog exploring his doubts about biblical literalism and fundamentalism. As a result, they were heavily criticized and even anathematized by many conservative evangelicals (Cf. Ken Ham, Q90 FM Radio, & Al Mohler).

On a personal note, I was living in Wake Forest at the time the controversy broke out and very disappointed when, at the last minute, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary canceled a Gungor concert I had been planning to attend for six months.

Gungor recently released a new song entitled “Us for Them” (which is embedded above). I find the song both moving and inspiring; especially in the wake of the tragedy in Charleston and the backlash regarding the recent Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage. Nevertheless, I suspect, it will only embroil Gungor in even more controversy.

The reason for this is simple: it calls for us to love unconditionally. 

Rejecting the Either/Or

Gungor’s song decries our fallen tendency to divid people into categories (e.g., white/black, cool/uncool, rich/poor, educated/ignorant, gay/straight, etc.), to stigmatize and judge, and to segregate and hate. This is the either/or that Gungor rejects and which fuels their declamation against those who would “define us”. Many, however, will misunderstand the message. They will, instead, interpret it as an attack on objective truth.

After all, one might argue that, to reject the either/or distinction is to violate the law of non-contradiction; literally to say that A is both A and Not-A at the same time and in the same sense. If this is true,”Us for Them” advocates the logically absurd and is, ultimately, a misguided call for us to embrace moral relativism.

To interpret the song in this way, however, would be misguided. For Gungor is not attacking the laws of logic, nor are they denying the possibility of objective truth. They are, in fact, doing the exact opposite. They are affirming the objective existence of the God who is love and who loves all men unconditionally; and calling for us to follow His example. 

Two Ways of Viewing Humanity

Broadly speaking, there are two ways of viewing humanity. The first way denies that human beings have an essential nature–i.e., a “what-it-is” to be human. According to this view, humanity is merely a random collection of accidental properties and what it is to be human is contingent upon the vacillating whims of society and individuals.

The second way affirms human beings have an essential nature–i.e., that there is a “what-it-is” to be human. According to this view, humanity is more than a mere random collection of accidental properties and what it is to be human is an objective feature of reality. This means that what it is to be human does not depend upon accidental features of individual human beings (e.g., the color of your skin, your social status, your sexual orientation, etc.).

Christianity views humanity in the second way.  It maintains people are essentially good, in as much as they are made in the image and likeness of God. For the Christian, all human beings are intrinsically valuable and worthy of love in spite of their accidental properties. This means that you are valuable, you have dignity and worth, and are lovable, in spite of the way you look, the level of your IQ, or the things you’ve done.

It is the second way of viewing humanity, through the eyes of Christ, that Gungor’s new song champions. As such it stands squarely against those who define and judge other human beings in terms of some accidental feature of their existence. It is, thus, opposed to any worldview that would cause us to hate another human being due to their race, age, religion, or sexual orientation.

“Our Only War is Love”

To reject the either/or–i.e. humanities fallen tendency to divid, categorize, and judge others based upon accidental features of their existence–is to call for us to love one anther as Jesus does: unconditionally.

To embrace the way of love is literally to wage war on our fallen dispositions and against the fallen world system. It is to stare in the face of ISIS with open arms, as Jesus did on the cross: praying for the very people who murdered him.  It is to look at all of humanity, regardless of their sins, and to see the very image of God; to see that there is no “us or them.”

It seems appropriate to close with these words from St. Maximus the Confessor:

“For him who is perfect in love and has reached the summit of dispassion there is no difference between his own or another’s, or between Christians and unbelievers, or between slave and free, or even between male and female. But because he has risen above the tyranny of the passions and has fixed his attention on the single nature of man, he looks on all in the same way and shows the same disposition to all. For in him there is neither Greek nor Jew, male nor female, bond nor free, but Christ who ‘is all, and in all”

Christians are Facing Persecution in America: Church Burnings and Racism


Chuck Burton / AP

Chuck Burton / AP

Since the Supreme Court decision on Friday the talk is about the coming persecution of Christians, but we act like persecution isn’t already occurring within the United States for Christians. The fact is, Christians in the US have faced persecution since its foundation; the constant threat of being beaten for prayer, for being arrested for going to church, or for even having that church burned (or bombed). Of course, we don’t often think of Christians being persecuted in America because what we mean is we’re afraid of white Christians facing persecution: The black church has faced persecution from its foundation, and continues to face that persecution.

Consider that in just five days, six traditionally black churches were burned to the ground. Not in the 1950s, but in 2015. Yet, the media has remained mostly silent on the issue. That’s simply how it’s been for a number of years. The African American community has fear when pulled over by the police, has fear in their own neighborhoods, and has fear when they go to church.

If a pro-homosexual group or atheist group were burning mostly white churches, there’d be constant news coverage, constant Facebook updates, and the whole circus would show up. As it is, however, these churches represent the African American community, and therefore no one is really talking about it or doing anything to challenge the fact that it’s happening.

An African American church faces a gunman and nine people die. Six African American churches burn to the ground. All of this happens within a week. But it’s the gays getting married I’m supposed to worry about. But what about my black brothers and sisters, who simply wish to worship the same Christ I worship, must fear for their lives in attending their houses of worship. How can we not see that persecution is already here? How can we refuse to act or do anything to help?

I wish I had an answer, but I don’t. I wish I could place some big conclusion here that wraps up everything above, but I can’t. I can’t because it seems that for all our effort to remove the Confederate Flag, we’re unwilling to remove the racism that flag represents. That racism turns into persecution and attacks the central aspect of most African American communities (especially in the South), the church. I wish I could say things will get better, but it seems that most Christians will choose to keep their eyes glued to gays getting married than to the actual persecution that continues to their black brothers and sisters. That the world and media would ignore the plight of our black brothers and sisters is bad enough, but somewhat expected. That we would is shameful and sinful, and it has to stop. Our refusal to deal with the problem of racism – a mostly one-sided problem stemming from white people – is getting people killed and perpetuates fear within the black community. It has to stop.

Love is the Light in the Darkness: Living in the Wake of Charleston


IMG_1007I’ve chosen to remain somewhat silent since the murders in Charleston, South Carolina. Mostly because what can I say other than, “Sorry?” Not because I’ve ever been an advocate for the KKK or racist ideology, or because I’ve proudly flown the “Stars and Bars” (I haven’t, I grew up in Kansas, so I never understood the infatuation with the losing side’s flag), or because I personally had anything to do with the murder of nine innocent African-American brothers and sisters in Christ. My silence – really, my shame – is that another white person killed black people and there’s very little we’ve done to stop this sort of thing.

Now, at this point some might interject and say, “But Roof is an individual and chose his actions. How can you hold all white people responsible? That’s actually racist!” And to a certain extent such sentiments are correct; what Roof did was the act of an individual and certainly not all white people are to account for his actions. That we don’t have to, however, is part of the luxury of being white in America: We (white people) can claim individuality in a way that others, especially black Americans, cannot.

When we see crime and murder rates within urban centers in America the common cry within white conversations is, “Well they need to get their society together.” When we perpetuate the myth of the absent black father, we always view it as a “black problem.” When riots broke out in Ferguson and later in Baltimore, we blamed the entire black community. When violence occurs within the inner city, the question goes, “Well why don’t they protest that?”

See, when a white man walks into a church and murders nine African-Americans in cold blood, we see an individual person and blame him. But if a black man walks down the street and murders anyone – black or white – we blame the entire race. Or consider that we might blame Al Sharpton, or rap music, or “race baiters,” or the “thug mentality,” or “black culture”  in general. But with Roof we’re not allowed to blame the implicit white supremacy that still exists in the South America World. We can’t blame country music that proudly promotes the “Stars and Bars,” or that such a monstrosity hangs from multiple institutions. We can’t blame the fact that, as a white male, his upbringing undoubtedly left him with a sense of entitlement to a better life and that when that better life wasn’t achieved, he sought to blame someone. That blame, of course, was passed onto non-white people (other than Asians apparently), which is quite typical. We’re not allowed to blame the culture when it comes to Dylan Roof murdering nine human beings, but it’s quite alright to blame all black people whenever a riot breaks out (even though no one dies).

The above only begins to explain why I’ve tried to remain silent in the wake of Charleston. Mostly because Dylan Roof doesn’t exist in a vacuum. He wasn’t raised to love other people, to respect people of all races and cultures, and then because of some medication flipped out and decided to go on a racist shooting spree. His actions result directly from a culture steeped in racism, so much that it’s a battle just to remove the symbols of racism – a flag, street names, monuments to men who fought to enslave other human beings – much less to remove the racism itself. His actions result from a culture where it’s okay to mock African-Americans for “their” culture, to call them thugs, to say they’re less-educated, and so on.

While I grew up in Kansas, I’ve lived in the South for nearly a decade. I’ve learned that when white people in the South get together, in private, horrible things are said. Simple, seemingly innocuous comments even exist within liberal circles. The, “Well they can’t really help it, so we have to help them.” A comment of hate laced with love, a deeper poison than some guy yelling the n-word. I’ve heard a guy speak about his church and just a few sentences later speak of how while Hitler was wrong for what he did, he wasn’t all that wrong in his thinking (had I not objected or said anything, the group would have just gone along without batting an eye). Racism is not only alive and well, but I’d submit that it’s getting worse, especially with younger generations in the South.

What’s worse, what’s sickening beyond all reckoning, is that Dylan Roof’s upbringing occurred in the so-called “Bible Belt.” In a place where Christianity is supposed to be its strongest in America, it remains one of the most anti-Christian places on earth. It is a place where Christ is rendered great lip-service, but the cry to “become all things to all men” falls upon deaf ears. After all, if a piece of cloth holds a symbol that offends another Christian – especially because that symbol stands for oppressing the entire race of that Christian – why not just remove it? Why fight it? Because of your “heritage?” But what is your heritage before the cross? Your “heritage” means absolutely nothing to a God beyond cultures and borders.

Perhaps if these so-called southern Christians recognized that they have far more in common with a Christian from Kenya than a nominal Christian next-door, our nation could begin the process of healing. What heritage is so important that one would sacrifice healing and a relationship in order to preserve it? Such a recalcitrant culture is not the sign of Christ, but the sign of nationalism.

Of course some get defensive and argue, “But what about the American flag itself? The American flag flew over slavery as well, over the genocide of Native Americans, and currently flies over bombing innocent women and children overseas. Shouldn’t we take it down too?” But doesn’t that actually underline the point? Doesn’t it highlight that our hope and identity isn’t found in a symbol, in a flag, or even in a nation? The survivors of the shooting in Charleston didn’t turn to President Obama, or do their senators, or to the American flag, or to any government or national institution; they turned to Christ and they displayed love and forgiveness.

Ultimately it is in the bonds of love, and not the protection of some gilded and fictitious “heritage,” flag, or movement, that healing occurs. If we wish to eradicate hate then we must love, but love begins with sacrifice. That sacrifice might require giving up a Confederate flag, it mights require you to befriend people who are different than you, it might require you to not only recognize your “whiteness,” but to do all you can to remove the negative elements. No one is asking southerners to eradicate sweet tea, pulled pork, or banjos; but the love of Christ should require us to give up symbols of oppression. After all, if the victims of racism can continually forgive (which is a sacrifice), certainly those who perpetuate racism – albeit unintentionally in some instances – can learn to love and sacrifice that which separates them from their black brothers and sisters. Or at least one would hope.

The Trinity and Ferguson: A Lesson in Community and the Root Cause of Racism


IMG_0540No matter where you stand on the lack of an indictment against Darren Wilson, what’s going on in Ferguson is a tragedy. While the violence and the occasion that brought about the riot is tragic in and of itself, what makes it a bigger tragedy is it underscores just how divided we are as a nation. I’ve seen multiple Facebook posts and even a few articles filled both with explicit racism and implicit racism. Everything from, “Well what do you expect from animals” to “well, how come ‘we’ [read: white people] never riot when we don’t get our way?” Both views are incredibly racist. But I’ve also seen interviews and Facebook statuses saying that “white people are just racist, it’s in their blood.” Sadly, both approaches are incredibly racist and don’t solve the problem. They’re both very nihilistic approaches to the issue of race, essentially declaring there is no hope for the other, because the other’s problem is within his skin color.

There’s a temptation within the white community to pat ourselves on the back for ending slavery and segregation (as though the eradication of both were unilaterally done by white people). Some, especially the more liberal or social justice minded, go further to talk about how they support welfare and food stamps, so obviously they’re not racist. The implied message is, “Because I support programs for the poor, that means I can’t have anything against African Americans; I even have African American friends.” Of course, the other implied message that is missed is the assumption that the majority of people who benefit from social justice programs are somehow non-white, but the statistics show that the majority of people on social welfare programs are actually white. This doesn’t stop people on the left from stereotyping blacks, however.

Those on the right tend to be much more blatant and upfront in their racism. They just assume that rioting is something “black people do.” They’ve replaced the N-word with the word “thug,” so as to avoid the controversy. All black people who protest what happened to Michael Brown are subsequently labeled “thugs.” We’re told that the black community just needs to get it together, that they’re out of control, that they’re doing something whites would never do. Of course, they completely ignore the fact that if we fired a longtime college football coach for turning a blind eye to sexual abuse of minors we’d riot (such as Penn State did a few years ago) or over pumpkins (as this happened this year). It completely ignores that white colonials rioted against the Colonial British authorities prior to the Revolution, that whites rioted against the Irish immigrants in the 1800s, that whites rioted against peaceful Civil Rights protests in the 1960s. We also conveniently forget the most shameful aspect of American history, the lynch mobs of the early 1900s all the way up into the 1960s (and later in some places).

Racism has always existed within the United States, which points to our bigger problem; individualism has failed us. Shortly after finishing the War for Independence, early Americans were concerned about German immigrants; they weren’t Anglo and therefore weren’t “white.” Around the mid to late 1800s, the concern was over Irish immigrants, again, because they weren’t Anglo and therefore weren’t white. Then it was over Italians in the early 1900s because they weren’t from Northern Europe, they were criminals, they were thugs, they wouldn’t learn the language, and they weren’t “white.” By the 1910s to 1930s, it was Eastern European immigrants (my great-grandfather falls into this category, coming off the boat in 1912), because they weren’t “white.” In our history we’ve committed genocide against Native Americans without considering them human, we’ve enslaved millions of black people and then segregated against them, and overall we’ve been very unkind to anyone who didn’t share our skin color. Why? What is this underlying cause of racism that would cause typically good natured people to turn to the basest of human sentiments, that my color makes me better and your color makes you lesser?

To understand the cause of racism and what plagues our current condition, we must understand who we are as human beings. Within the Christian tradition there’s the belief that we’re created in the image of God. Of course, being in the image of God has nothing to do with our physical appearance as God does not have a physical appearance within his essence. Socrates and other classical philosophers described the essence of humans as rational-animals, meaning we are spiritual and thinking beings who happen to also exist within the physical realm. The animalistic part is our physicality while the rational part, what drives us and separates us from other animals, is where we find God’s image. But what does it mean to be made in the image of God?

God is Trinitarian, that is, he’s three persons within one essence. Without getting into too much detail, that means God is a community unto himself. The easiest way to think of this is as follows:

God is infinite, God is infinitely good, and God is love. Every aspect of God is without limit and is perfect. In order for love to be perfect and maximally great, it much be actualized. For instance, a married couple might love a child that has yet to be conceived, but their love will be greater once the child actually exists. Thus, if God is love and that love is maximal, it means from eternity past there had to be an object for God’s love; that love is shared within the community of God. The Father, Son, and Spirit all love each other maximally. When Christ prayed for those who would follow him, he prayed that “they would be one as we [the Father, Son, and Spirit] are one.” Christ’s prayer is that all those who follow him, all of humanity, would unite within the community of God.

When we sinned a division was placed between us, which is where racism comes from. Racism, no matter what, finds its root in a lack of community, and a lack of community finds itself in our first sin when we separated from the community of God. One of the biggest causes of racism is ignorance, typically ignorance of what other people are going through. One need look no further than the current debate over white privilege, that our system is inherently tilted in favor towards lighter-skinned people. Of course, some white people deny this is the case, but they are the recipients of the favor, so it’s hard for them to see how others are impacted by this favor. Even me as a white male who acknowledges white privilege exists still struggles at times to see the ways in which this privilege manifests itself. This isn’t because I’m a foaming at the mouth racist, but because of my racial and social status I can never put myself into the shoes of the other. I can never imagine what it’s like. But I can talk to those who suffer from white privilege, I can form a type of community with them, I can learn from their experiences, I can be a human being to them.

The underlying cause of racism, no matter the person being the racist, is a lack of community. It’s a lack of talking to and trying to see the other person’s point of view. The solution, then, is to get back to community, but community stems from God since he is the original community. The simplest solution to racism is for people to recognize that they belong to the bigger community, the one that originates with God. The solution is to listen and even befriend people who are different from ourselves.

None of this, however, ought to be construed to mean there is no diversity within community. For people who say, “I don’t see color” or “we’re all a part of the human race” would be like looking at a Rembrandt or Picasso and trying to say you don’t see the patterns or the colors. Of course there are differences within cultures (though, those cultures are not necessarily limited to or contained solely within color barriers). Having community with each other isn’t the same as monoculturalism; it’s entirely possible and ideal for differences and diversity to shine forth within a community. We learn from each other that way and even enhance our own cultural experiences.

Ultimately, the solution to our racist problem is to realize that if we claim to love God, we must first love our fellow man. There’s a reason Christ said that the greatest commandment (to love God) is similar to the second greatest (to love your neighbor); to accomplish one commandment, one must participate in the other. It is impossible to love God without loving your neighbor, and it is impossible to love your neighbor without loving God. It is also impossible to love your neighbor if you can’t first talk to him, empathize with him, and attempt to understand his experiences and his points of view. Without empathy and attempts to know your neighbor, there can be no way to fix racism.

Confessions of a White Man or, What I’ve learned from White America


Photo: David Broome Upi

Photo: David Broome Upi

Full disclosure and just to get this out of the way:

1) I am not accusing all white people of being racist. What I’m saying is that it’s far more prevalent than people realize or are willing to admit. 

2) I currently live in the South, but in an area that has a huge “immigrant” population of people from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and other North/Northeastern states, so take that for what you will. 

3) I understand the difference between someone making a joke (that’s a whole other debate entirely) and someone being serious. This is dedicated solely to those who are seriously racist, although they may not recognize it.

4) I’m merely attempting to point out the prejudice that I see within language and action. I also know that I’m not perfect and have my own biases to overcome; part of writing this is my attempt to overcome them. 

Dear non-white Americans (and non-Americans),

 

I want to let you in on a little secret; white people say some pretty racist things when you’re not around. Not all white people mind you, there are quite a few that honestly are not racist (at least not obviously so). There are many who are genuinely appalled when there is mistreatment of “minorities” anywhere, or when blatant racism happens to appear. Yet, there are others who aren’t so quick to come against racist actions. Yes, they quietly “tolerate” all these non-whites encroaching upon their existence and certainly don’t want to see violence done against non-whites, but they really don’t like you. I know this because I’m white and being white means other white people feel completely free to say whatever they’re thinking to me. After all, I’m safe, right?

I’ve had the following said to me in just the past three months:

“Well, I can’t really blame Donald Sterling for what he said, it was his right to say it.”

“I’d like to move out towards Montana, where people are more like you and me, you know what I mean?”

“Well, they’re just different, you know?”

“Figures that there’s rioting after they kill another n*gger.”

Now again, and I cannot stress this enough, there have been white people who have said the exact opposite of the above. They’ve shown genuine outrage towards the blatantly racist ongoings in this country, but more often than not there’s always a wink and a nudge when talking about non-whites when it’s just white people around. To be honest, I’m disgusted by it. It makes me feel uncomfortable, and most of my friends will tell you that it’s painfully obvious. But the fact is it still happens around me and, shamefully I admit, I don’t think I do enough to stop it. Especially when it was said to me as I was a bartender, because I was more concerned about my tips and job (which I most certainly would have lost if I spoke up) than I was about doing the right thing (admittedly shameful and wrong on my part).

Of course, what’s the harm? If some white people hold a racist view, but never act it out, then who really cares? It’s not as though racial prejudice is getting anyone killed anymore, right? Well, see, that’s the problem; the racist attitudes that occur in private are inherently manifested in public, causing massive problems and even death (especially among young black men).

Think about Mike Brown and the witness (Dorian Johnson) to his murder. Two young black men stopped by a police officer. Why? Perhaps he was looking for a suspect and saw two black men, who just always conveniently fit the description of someone who’s wanted. The witness was so afraid of the police that he moved out of his apartment, and for good cause. As we’ve already seen, the Ferguson police aren’t afraid of roughing up journalists and violating First Amendment rights, so why would they be afraid of a little retribution? They’ve shown absolute tyranny in how they’ve handled the community.

Yet, within the white community, the riots are looked upon as opportunistic and self-destructive. We look at the riots and go, “Well no wonder the police are acting this way!” We show absolutely no sympathy for the vast majority of protestors who have remained peaceful, yet have been met with teargas and rubber bullets. Why? Because let’s be honest; if one black man acts up, we green light the mistreatment of the entire race. For whatever reason, no one points out the fact that the community has suffered under the oppression of poverty, under a brutal police force, under false charges, random stops, random searches, mistreatment, and absolutely no relief from this treatment. The last time an authoritative government attempted to implement martial law on a bunch of white people, to impoverish them via taxation, to fire indiscriminately into a crowd, to brutalize, search, and seize white people’s property, a Revolution occurred and the United States was born. Continue reading