I want to describe a black man, a friend. He's a businessman who employs people and does good work. I admire his values and his vision. He's ethical and honest. His reputation is excellent. His family is lovely. I know him to be kind, good, and fair.
A project brought us together. After a while, we talked about personal things, issues deeper than the usual topics like work or sports or women. I became deeply engaged with his personal narrative, his private journey and his painful life experiences. I asked questions to keep him talking. I didn't like what I heard. It was hard to hear but I kept listening.
It can be difficult to listen with empathy if someone's story has a radically different perspective. For instance, my friend likes Colin Kapernick. I don't. I'm offended at Kapernick for protesting the national anthem at football games. He was protesting black people being mistreated by police, the frequent shootings of unarmed young blacks. After hearing my friend's story, I realized I wasn't sensitive to the bigger issue. My friend carries an offense at injustice. I felt his pain.
Why was he feeling this? Our experiences shaped our viewpoints. My friend was black. His wife is white. He came to America from another country. He has an accent. Since he arrived, he has been mistreated by religious people, shunned by family, and harassed by police on two separate occasions in two cities. His experiences aren't like mine. What happened to him?
He was ticketed by a patrolman for something so minor it would've been overlooked if I'd done it. It was costly for him. I think his crime was driving while black. His business was robbed. Law enforcement declined to pursue the case even though it involved thousands of dollars of stolen equipment. Why bother? He was just a black man. In college, he was harassed by a cop when he walked off campus alone through a white neighborhood. The cop actually bumped into his legs, hitting him with his patrol car, as he walked on the sidewalk.
At church, he gave jobs to white people who, it turns out, didn't do an honest day's work. They lied to him, then requested favors because they thought he was rich. Despite this, my friend loves God. He is disillusioned by hypocrites in the church.
It doesn't matter that he's a faithful husband, an excellent father, a wonderful provider, a good man, a Christian, and a credit to the community. Nothing overcomes the fact of his being "other." Racism blinds people. Racism stops love cold. Racism is a form of hatred. The Bible calls hatred murder. And no murderer can have the love of God abiding in them.
The command of Jesus to love one another is not easy. I lost a church where God was moving, the congregation was growing, but I baptized a black child. The board turned on me. Maybe the Lord has placed you where you interact with people with whom you are not familiar. Do you resent them for their politics, religion, status, ethnicity, language, or lifestyle? If you know Jesus, his love will be in your heart. If you truly know God, you cannot be a hater.
--RON WOOD IS A RETIRED PASTOR AND AUTHOR. CONTACT HIM AT [email protected] OR VISIT WWW.TOUCHEDBYGRACE.ORG OR FOLLOW HIM AT TOUCHED BY GRACE ON FACEBOOK. THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR.Editorial on 06/03/2020
Print Headline: 'I Can't Breathe'