A Time for Whites to Listen

The Black Lives Matter Movement
It has been my experience that the Black Lives Matter movement has started a discussion to take place between people of color and whites, and between whites and whites, about white privilege, racism, prison reform, climate change, minimum wage, the welfare state, law enforcement, and the fact that every human being should have dignity, freedom, equality before the law, a livable wage, clean air and water, a safe and clean place to live, a good education, and everything else that whites have always taken for granted, while wholly or partially denying them to people of color, since the founding of the United States of America.

A Broken Justice System

People of color have always been “second class”, shamed for their “deficiencies”, blamed for allowing or even “instigating” discrimination, persecution, torture, imprisonment and death, all carried out by white figures of authority, who, in the face of confrontation or criticism, were protected by a justice system that targets people of color with severe and unreasonable punishment, while whites are the social center of attention, being showered with support, legal defense, biased police officers, attorneys and judges, and politicians, all of whom should be aware of the injustice of a system that is centered on racist treatment of people of color, and favorable treatment of whites. For the most part, the punishment for convicted felonies corresponds directly to whether the criminal is a person of color, in which case their sentence by judges and their treatment by law enforcement and prison guards would be severe; or, if the criminal is white, the sentence is much lighter, and the treatment of the criminal is much more humane.

Issues, Issues and More Issues

That’s to say nothing of the plethora of examples pointed out by the BLM movement of inhumane treatment, harassment, torture and murder of completely innocent people of color, just living their lives without bothering anyone, simply because of the color of their skin. Not only is it ridiculous, insane and irrational, it is completely wrong. It is wrong, for people of color, because they are the victims of a society that creates an atmosphere of anger, resentment, bitterness, inhumane and demoralizing treatment, violence, torture, rape, harassment and murder towards people of color. But it is also bad for whites, who, when people of color challenge the system of white privilege and white power and white superiority, constantly defend the inappropriate actions of the white authority figure, and blame the victim because of their race, even if the victim is innocent and the treatment is inhumane. Then they become angry, resentful, bitter, violent and insensitive to the injustice and unfair, unequal treatment of other people of color. It is really a vicious cycle that spirals downward, and finally bursts out into expressions of racist remarks, jokes and harassment, at the least, and abuse, neglect, abandonment, rape and other forms of violence towards people of color, gays, immigrants, women and, last but not least, other whites.

Whites Need to Listen

So, what can we do to change it? I believe the dialogue started by the BLM movement can be continued and really gain meaning in our personal lives by using this news as an opportunity to strike up a conversation with a person of color about what it’s like to be them, and to earnestly and sincerely listen, without interruption, or feeling the need to defend oneself, or ones race. This is a wonderful opportunity for healing, of the expression of compassion for that person, and empathy for their feelings about how all this stuff affects them in their daily lives. In this way, we can learn to see each other as real people with dignity and respect, encouraging each other, fighting for each other’s rights, and maybe surrendering some of those destructive tendencies we are so used to taking advantage of, white privilege, white power, and white superiority. Let it go. It’s worth the risk. 😊

A Religious Background

Well, let me say first off that I do have a long religious background. I was raised in the United Methodist Church in Miami, Florida. The interesting thing is, being raised in this church did not interfere whatsoever in me keeping an open mind and resisting stereotypes and prejudice, as is possibly the case in some places. After all, Miami is a metropolitan city and a virtual melting pot of ethnicities and an international gateway to people from all parts of the world.

Although I was a child, and like a child, I took part in teasing, cruel jokes, and other immaturity typical of children all the way through adolescence and even young adulthood (and some for the rest of their life), I have learned to think for myself on most subjects, simply by intellectualism, reading a wealth and variety of literature, and by meeting a variety of people from all walks of life, all of whom usually dispel any stereotypes I held onto, even if just a little bit in the back of my mind.

I think we all have prejudices and stereotypes. In some ways, it is a survival instinct. We try to separate the “good” from the “bad” and those who are in “our group” from those who are not in “our group”. It gives us a sense of safety and security, even if this sense is mostly a delusion. I think all minorities and groups who are persecuted by society benefit from “circling the wagons”, so to speak, in order to get support from those who are of like minds, hearts, and bodies, and gaining power from being in a group.

Now, I say all this right off because I really think that, although religious groups can do these things, and maybe some of them do, I don’t think they are really any different than any other group in as far as whether or not they are religious. Now that’s not to say that if they are made up of people who are already very prejudiced and stereotypical, that they won’t reflect those traits in their religious group, but the prejudice and stereotypes do not originate from the religion.

Coming from a religious background as I have, I must say I have learned a lot of very good lessons through the church. I’ve learned to care for the hungry, the homeless, disaster victims, those who suffer from the ravages of war, those who are persecuted because of their race, sex, religion, etc. And yes, discrimination does still exist in our world, and in the church, and this problem is mostly due to one thing: reverence for the canon of scripture.

Scripture contains some pretty harsh things said against homosexuals, and even worse, these things have been blown way out of proportion by our culture in America and across the world. Homophobia is rampant everywhere. That is a challenge for today’s society that still must be overcome.

I want to end with the greatest thing that religion, my religion, has taught me. The man, Jesus of Nazareth, was the greatest man that ever lived. Anyone that has any doubts should read the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These four books will give four different, sometimes overlapping, perspectives on who Jesus was, who he claimed to be, and what he means to Christians. I can tell you in short that Christians believe Jesus to be the Prince of Peace, Holy Lamb of God, Son of God, sitting at the Father’s Right Hand in Power and in Truth. Christians believe that in dying on the Cross in complete innocence, Jesus paid the ultimate price for the sins of the world, thus enabling us all to attain everlasting grace and peace. Salvation is something that is hard to comprehend without faith, but basically it is the attainment of forgiveness for guilt and condemnation that we earn by falling short each and every day of what we could be, what we were born to be, what God created us to be. With salvation and God’s grace and forgiveness, we can come a little closer to becoming his vision for our lives.