many of those who read my blog are not residents of the usa, and i want to write about a topic that has been much in the news, as much to clarify my point-of-view as to discuss an unfortunate aspect of life in this country for those who may not have spent any or much time here. we read about the controversy about the "black lives matter" movement with some insisting that a better approach would be "all lives matter." the most obvious problem with "all lives matter" is that it diminishes the significance of the repeated killing of black people in our country.
there is a more deep-seated problem that that, though. no white person in the usa can fully understand what it is to live as a black person in this society. we know that blacks are more likely to be stopped and questioned by law enforcement, black students are more likely to be disciplined in school, blacks are more likely to be imprisoned. this is not because of any deficiency in black culture. rather, it is because of an underlying deficiency in american culture.
two things are going on. first, the dominant white culture is suspicious of, and fearful of, black americans. most whites know few blacks except in the most superficial ways and have spent little to no time interacting with black americans. second, many white americans are reacting to the change in demographics in the usa. very soon, non-whites will be the majority. with that shift, white america is likely to lose its grip on the power structure. that is a scary thing for many. this is one reason donald trump and his ilk have attracted such a large following and we hear things from the evangelical right about president obama: "obama is a dictator that has little regard for the constitution" or "obama is a secret muslim" or "obama is recruiting a private army to take over the country" or "soon train cars filled with christians will be shipped off to concentration camps." this list could go on and on. it is disturbing that too many americans are certain that the usa is doomed because we've elected a black president, and this fear-mongering is a symptom of the deep-seated racism in our culture.
think of how disturbing it would be if you had to send your child to a school where most of the teachers and administrators have little understanding of the culture in which your child developed. in those schools, there are policemen who can arrest your child over a misunderstanding between that child and a white child or a white teacher, a misunderstanding that grows from differences in culture. your child could be sent to jail because of cultural ignorance. this is the fear that most black parents must deal with every day.
think of how disturbing it would be if you had to look over your shoulder every time you walk the streets of many american towns and cities or fear being pulled over by law enforcement as you drive your car since you may be stopped simply because the color of your skin causes a white policeman to suspect you. maybe you're in the "wrong" neighborhood, (a "white-only" neighborhood), maybe you run when you see a policeman approach (because you've had bad outcomes when confronted with the police before), maybe your driving was not what the policeman wanted to see (you flashed your lights because the oncoming police car had its high beams on or you changed lanes without signaling because you thought the fast-approaching police car needed to get around you quickly). these are the daily fears that african-americans live with in the usa.
the day is not long past when black americans were routinely beaten or worse for not showing the proper deference to a white person, when black men were viewed as potential rapists or thieves, when black women were thought only to be qualified to do menial work in a white person's home. when a black middle class began to develop in this country after the civil war, the fearful white majority enacted laws that "kept blacks in their place," forcing them to ride in the back of the bus, drink from separate water fountains, live in restricted areas, attend inferior separate schools. against this history, it is little wonder that the black-lives-matter movement has arisen, that african americans are saying that no person should live in fear in what purports to be "the land of the free."
it is time to end this oppression of people of color in our country, to admit that the rule of the usa by white america needs to end. we must respect african-american culture and admit that it is a culture that we've chosen to ignore and demean. it is time that black children should not have to be afraid of being misunderstood when they go to school, that black adults should not be afraid of being harassed or worse in encounters with police or white vigilantes. it is time for all americans to live up to the ideals we talk about, to confess that there is no "liberty and justice for all" until each one of us is seen with color blind eyes.
may no person have to live in fear. may we see that under our skin we are all the same. may compassion triumph over prejudice and fear. shalom.