I’d like to think I’ve got things pretty much figured out at my age. I’ve got a kid that is in his mid 20’s who already knows everything. But at my age, I realize the further I go, the less I know; but I’ve got things figured out. There is a difference.
When I hear something I didn’t know, I’ve figured out I can’t honestly speak to the idea without consideration. And in the case of a YouTube video called “Race Baiting” by Matthew Cooke, I was confronted by information I never knew (or perhaps knew but forgot).
The concept I had about slavery before seeing the video was that slavery was simply based in racism. White slave owners looked down on blacks and sold them as slaves; and slavery is racist and wrong. But the devil is in the details. And in the case of the history of slavery, it seems the devil might have been hiding in details I’d not previously remembered.
The video discusses a little-known historical fact of slavery – that there were both black and white slaves. Whites sold whites. Blacks sold blacks. The legacy of racism is a legacy of the elite manipulating and using the less powerful and the less fortunate for their own ends of domination and control. And the skewing of it into a “black vs. white” problem is just a clever part of the manipulation. You need to watch it to catch the genius of it all.
The fact is that, while some whites may have thought of blacks as inferior, many in the upper class have always thought of everyone but the upper class as inferior. And if they can set us against each other, it will forever distract us from what they are doing and why – the “why” being to allow enough chaos, confusion and animosity to exist that the need for state control is perpetuated; that is how the elite stay in power.
And then, the magic happened. Personal stories I recalled while watching the video resonated with the themes of history. Anecdotes I heard first-hand from people in the south, from people I worked with and from people I know who’ve experienced oppression all made me realize something crucial had been missing from my perspective on racism.
It is not insignificant that the majority of our current white population doesn’t really know what being oppressed feels like. But could the same be said for blacks? What about blacks in 21st century North America? We’ve seen the videos about police abusing their power, often (though NOT exclusively) against blacks. It is easy to criticize the rioting and the “black lives matter” rallies like armchair quarterbacks without adequately considering that perhaps at least part of their fears, their concerns and complaints are warranted.
A friend who worked in Michigan transferred to a new job in Tennessee. He was used to the idea of treating everyone equally. But on his first night in town, he was standing in line to check in at the local hotel. There was a white woman behind the counter, a white female customer first in line, a black lady behind her, and him behind the black woman. As he told me, “it was obvious the black lady was waiting for change for the vending machine. She had two singles in her hand.”
As he tells the story, the lady behind the counter finished with the white female customer, looked right through the black woman at him, and said, “yes sir. Can I help you?”
My friend was stunned. He said, “That’s alright. You can take care of her. I think she just needs change.”
The hotel clerk sneered at him, slammed 8 quarters on the counter, took the two singles from the black lady, and said to him with a snarl, “what do you want?”
He had disturbed the order of things.
He spoke of being in a restaurant in that same town where an elderly black gentleman came in and asked permission to sit at a window seat, being perfectly prepared to sit somewhere else if he sensed his black presence might be an offensive obstruction to a white man’s view.
I’d heard similar stories from others local to the area while I was down there and had to acknowledge that I had no idea it was that bad. And this wasn’t in the 60’s or the 70’s. This was barely a decade ago. Recalling these stories made me realize that my views of Ferguson, the Baltimore riots and the backlash over Trayvon Martin are too simplistic.
Each of these people has a story. I need to see them as individuals who need redemption. They may act out of anger, out of misplaced or unreasonable expectations; but some of them legitimately feel oppressed. Sorting out what to do is not easy, when the media perpetuates the myths for the sake of selling advertising space, and the current administration seems hell-bent on perpetuating the myths by meddling in every case of white-on-black crime, and ignoring or downplaying every other flavor, simply to perpetuate the “need” for continuous government intervention. It looks like another case of the elite manipulating to maintain control. History repeats. And lives – black and white – suffer because of it.
If we are too quick to apply blanket generalities to groups of people without seeing individuals, with individual backgrounds, lives and stories, we might too easily dismiss people without adequate consideration to how their individual experiences have shaped them, how it might have crippled their ability to think outside the box of desperation in which they live. So we might be right in criticizing their actions, but sterile with the sin of “cold love,” and all while seeing ourselves superior because we “think better” than they do.
I wish this was one of those articles I could write with a nice little scratch-and-sniff ending and a clever sound-bite solution to the problem – as if we all somehow have come to the same conclusion about what the problem is and what needs to be done about it, and somehow, this simple mental agreement will form some magic social pressure that will just “fix it.”
The reality is that there is no simple solution for this mess we are in. Ferguson is in a lockdown for several days straight now, in part because the church has not been effective as salt and light. And I’m not pointing any fingers here. As I watched that video, I believe God reminded me of so many stories I forgot that speak to the uniqueness of each person. If I look at “them” as a monolithic group instead of individuals, each loved by God, created in His image but badly deformed by sin, I will miss the fact that I need to be on my knees for those who are doing this, loving them as Christ loved me. It has broken my heart for my spiritual apathy in not praying for these people as unique individuals who need Jesus.
I’m not better than anyone here. I make no accusations against any who have not yet gotten on their knees in serious intercession for the sickness and spiritual lethargy that needs to be shaken from this nation. But as God has been showing me these things, He has been using them to transform my heart. I’m sharing from my knees. As J. I. Packer said, it’s not that I’m better than anyone. I’m just one beggar telling other beggars where I found bread.
Let us all fall on our faces before God and cry out for a healing of our land.
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com