Saturday, July 9, 2016

The US Racial Divide - Where do we Begin?



This week was one of the most discouraging in our country in some time.

Sure we've lived through deadlier weeks - soldiers falling while fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, 9/11, the Boston Marathon Massacre...

And yet there's something that darkens the heart and minds of Americans when we witness fellow citizens - especially our young African American males - gunned down in the street and during routine traffic stops. 



There's something that oppresses the human psyche when we witness police officers, charged with the oath to protect and serve, gunned down and murdered by a gunman motivated by hatred and racism. (And as a military veteran that served in Afghanistan, possibly out of mental illness and PTSD.)



There's something hugely wrong about weeks like this...

And yet we are a resilient people. We have persevered through many difficult times. We have stood together and marched together, hand-in-hand, in solidarity of heart and mind.

We can make it through these challenging times as well. We can rise up from these ashes - better, stronger, more unified even.

How, you ask?

Well I don't have all the answers or every single step, but I believe our rise begins with one word.

Empathy.

As we examine the cultural-transforming power of the US Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's and 1960's, it is impossible to miss the varying hues of people that actively participated in mass marches, freedom rides and sit-ins at "whites-only" lunch counters. African Americans were joined by Caucasian and Jewish brothers and sisters that lent their presence and their voices. They were joined by politicians that fought bigotry and status-quo mentality to lobby for and sign legislation that afforded African Americans the freedoms we experience today.

America will rise or fall as one. We are inseparable in respect to our fate as a country. We will self-destruct if we continue to fight one another. White vs. Black. Police officer vs. civilian. Republican vs. Democrat. 

One way to empathize? We should all respect and support the Black Lives Matter Movement. Doing so does not negate that "All Lives Matter". It only confirms that fact.

We must march together, hand-in-hand in solidarity of heart and mind. We must use our voices to speak against the disparity of our penal system that lands a larger percentage of African American men in jail than any other race.* We must speak against a culture where a person is viewed as a threat simply because of his dark skin. We must speak against a social system that dictates a child's destiny largely because of the color of her skin or the strength of his parents' bank account, assets and financial portfolio.

We must admit that there is such a thing as "White Privilege". Can we just start there?

And in the words of that great philosopher Forrest Gump... "That's all I have to say about that."

This week, I was encouraged by so many of my brothers and sisters of a lighter hue, men and women that spoke out against the violence and injustice of this week. I'd like to share a powerful Facebook post written by a dear sister-friend of mine who "gets it" (and happens to be Caucasian).
"I am shocked and deeply disturbed at the assassinations caught on video of two African American men by white police officers over the past few days. I have no doubt that if they had been white, they would be alive. I can't really describe my disgust accurately with words. Then, the premeditated assassination of 5 white police officers. Horrible. What can we do if we are white? Pray for insight and for courage to speak up for our brothers and sisters of color. Become educated about the reality of the often covert and unrecognized racial oppression in our country. White privilege is invisible to us because it's all we know. I actually had a white, blond haired, blue eyed man deny to me that white privilege exists as recently as 3 months ago. Get educated! And LOVE others like never before. Praying for change and peace in our country." 
I will end this post with my sister's words. We must ALL get educated. We must speak up when others around us are oppressed or denied basic liberties. And we must LOVE others like never before.

Amen and amen.





* According to the NAACP's "Criminal Justice Fact Sheet", African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of their Caucasian counterparts. Click the above link to see even more eye-opening stats like these.




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