Thursday, June 21, 2012

It Starts With Me: Race in the U.S.

This week my mind returned to the issue of race in our country. I've recently written about race as I revisited the  20th Anniversary of the Rodney King riots. (Coincidentally, this same Rodney King was found dead at the bottom of his swimming pool on June 17. Rest in peace, Mr. King)

Our Sons Are Trayvon examined the balance of justice and mercy in the racially-charged murder trial of George Zimmerman. I've also written about results of the 2010 US Census and what those results predict about the changing face - literally - of our country. And of course I had to write about that book that had us all talking about the history of race in the South, The Help.

Recently two occurrences got me thinking about race once again: one being the election of the first African American president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the second being my husband's participation in a local panel examining and discussing race relations in our community.

Let's take a look at the first.

On Tuesday, the largest Protestant denomination elected Reverend Fred Luter Jr. of the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans as president. This marks a huge step in the right direction for a Christian organization that has historically gotten it wrong in the area of race. Prior to the Civil War, the SBC supported slavery in the U.S., and much of the last century witnessed the organization's support of racial segregation.

It seems this time they've gotten it right.

Rev. Luter does not consider himself a token in the denomination either. "If we stop appointing African Americans, Asians, Hispanics to leadership positions after this, we've failed," he said. "... I promise you, I'm going to do all that I can to make sure this is not just a one-and-done deal."

Blessings to you, Reverend Luter and the Southern Baptist Convention.

Now, on to the second.

This past Saturday, my husband moderated a panel discussion on racial relations in our current city of Conway, Arkansas. A small, quaint city, Conway sits just north of Little Rock, the capital of Arkansas. Honestly it's pretty quiet here,void of the hustle and bustle of a big city. I wouldn't say things are moving and shaking a whole lot around here.

But on Saturday, as I sat on the old wooden pews of a small African American baptist church here, I could sense a fierce energy in the room -- a room full of local pastors, politicians, educators and businesspeople. There's just something about discussing race amongst Southern folks that gets things brewing.

The air conditioning was on full blast, but the temperature rose several times during the discussion.

One man in the audience expressed intense dissatisfaction over the city's police officers' handling of African American males. Another mentioned that the panelists and audience members had skirted around the major issue in his mind, which is pure racism.

One panelist, who happened to be African American, stated that he doesn't care if people like him. He simply wanted equal economic opportunities and employment. Others argued that when people don't like you because of the color of your skin, they're not going to hire you for those equal jobs.

A young Caucasian pastor proclaimed the root of racism was sin, and the entire room hushed.

Which brings me to my take on the whole issue, for whatever it's worth.

I believe our problem with racial relations in Conway, in Arkansas, in the South, in the United States can be solved through relationship. Yes, I think it's just that simple. Relationship with God. Relationship with one another.

If my relationship with God is one that's evolving, growing and exposing me to more of His truth, then I should reflect His heart for people -- people of all shapes, sizes and colors. He loved the Samaritan woman at the well. He loved Jews and Gentiles alike. He loved us when our hearts were turned completely against Him.

And as my relationship with Him matures, I, like a lush tree with roots deeply planted in the warm, dark soil, should produce beautiful, sweet and fragrant fruit that smells like Him. One variety of fruit that my life will produce: intimate, life-changing relationships with others.

And that's all kinds of others. Others that look like me. Others that don't. Others that come from my kind of neighborhood. Others that don't. Others that already know Him personally. Others that don't.

It's just that simple y'all. For real.



  1. Love it, Carla! Great post. Was the young Caucasian pastor my husband? He told me what was discussed but never said if he said anything...wish I would've been there.
    -Kelly Johnson

    1. Kelly, thanks for your comment! There will be more for you to attend for sure. I believe this was only the first. Actually that pastor was on the panel, Cary Cox of Celebration Church here in Conway. :)

  2. Great post.
    I have some relatives in Conway. hmmm
    Relationships is the key thing!

    1. Small world, DTurn! Thanks for stopping by Deep Waters and sharing here. Blessings to you!

  3. I had the pleasure of meeting Carla recently. We were on a long flight that gave us time to get to know a little about each other. We had a great conversation mostly centered around family, but after talking about, and showing pictures of, our kids and spouses the conversation turned to racial issues of today and it was awesome. With a foundation in Christ we had a platform to transcend the common constraints sometimes found between people of different color. We laughed about unspoken words, not easy to do but this time it was. Carla, I love what you wrote in this post; Intimacy is also a commonly abused word and often taken out of context, but you got it right and I think our three hours on the plane were life changing for me. You were a breath of fresh air to me, rich and honest and pure as God intends for us to be toward one another, regardless of the color of our skin.
    Best wishes to you and your family.

    1. Jeff, the pleasure was all mine, as they say. Our conversation reminded me that often we have more in common with others than not -- no matter the color of our skin or even gender. Jesus is the common denominator we found. Blessings to you and your family. Keep brightening the days of strangers you meet -- even on long plane flights. :)