[I have had this draft sitting in my cue ever since the Baltimore riots. I’ve felt so conflicted to post it and after McKinney and now my beloved Charleston I cannot sit on it any longer. Pray for peace, friends.]
Sometimes I ache and feel like crying when I read the news, see videos and hear the frustration about what is happening. For far too long people have tried to make right previous wrongs, only to find that we haven’t really made a tremendous amount of progress. Why is this? What gives?
In college I took a course called “History of Jazz.” Not having a very good foothold in jazz music I was assuming I would be listening to B.B. King, Dave Brubeck or Al Hirt all day long and that would have been just fine with me. Instead, we learned about the very beginnings of jazz… the call and response of the songs on the plantations and their origins… the new instruments that once had their roots in Africa… the improvisation that had not existed prior. And let me tell you that I loved every stinking minute of it. My entire musical horizon had expanded even further with new loves in latin jazz, bop and a better appreciation for the old standards.
In class we watched a video, I think it was “‘Round Midnight,” about a black saxophone player. He traveled to Europe to perform in the jazz scene there in the 1950’s and appreciated being loved for his music and his skin color not being a barrier for him. I recall also reading similar attitudes of other jazz giants of that era. In a book titled “Incidents of a Slave Girl,” Harriet Jacobs wrote about how being in Europe was immensely more freeing and different than even being in the free north during the age of slavery. So, after the recent incidents in now Baltimore (and even more recent, McKinney [and now Charleston]) it has had me thinking about why Europe is different than the United States. Why can’t we overcome this race issue?
I have the luxury of working with someone from the continent of Africa and he has spoken of the racial struggles there which are vastly different but they exist, nonetheless. In his country it is more of a situation of the land had been taken away from the native Africans and the white farmers reaping the monetary benefits of the land (man, that story sounds familiar). Fast forward to the 20th century and black leaders try and right the wrongs but the blacks don’t know how to farm or do business. Additionally, the government was corrupt and violent beyond all our understanding. The farms have since been given back to the white farmers but 10 years ago and even now it’s not a safe place to live. In that country you speak out against the leadership and you will be killed, which I am amazed at in 21st century living.
Anyway, it’s spurred me to do a little light research on the matter in our own country and what I can come up with is this: slavery has ALWAYS existed. Pick up your bible. Pick up a history book. The Jews were slaves to the Egyptians. Muslims have been slaves to Christians and Greeks have been slaves to Turks. There have been varying degrees of treatment of slaves and from what I’ve read, some European countries enslaved other people with such different rules that it “ended” differently. For example, in other places where blacks have been slaves, the children were free. Slavery was sometimes more like indentured servitude, serfs (cue medieval Europe).
I’m certain that if you open any history book you will find many a sad story taking place in another country about slavery, but google “Madame LaLaurie” and you’ll get the drift as to the level of disdain some people had of their American black slaves. Fast forward past the Civil War when slavery was abolished and the “separate but equal” standard of life existed until the Civil Rights movement (nearly 100 years later), to all the wrongs done to try and right the first wrong. Heck, my parents grew up when “Division Street” really was a division street. How do you retrain both sides to accept one another and not breed their fears and prejudices onto their children?
Our society has created (on purpose or not) such a wide gap in education, wealth and quality of life between blacks and whites. Entitlements are not a problem shouldered only here in America (you’ll find this in Europe and race has no bounds to it) and is something that a large portion of the black community has been led to believe will work for them. I read a book for school once called “Savage Inequalities” that heartbreakingly described the physical conditions of the structures in which the black communities have been forced to learn in (sewage overflowing on the basement level, having to cross dangerous railroad tracks to access the school, leaky roofs, etc) and how these conditions affect the learning environment. … Not to mention the issue of nutrition and home lives that are such a struggle that school is more than just a place for learning.
Given the way the system has been set up this racial tension will continue to exist. There is and always will be until the end of time. There’s been too many wrong doings to overcome previous wrong doings and so many entanglements as results of that resulting in prejudices from all people of all colors.
There are many, many people of all colors who stand up and say, “I worked hard, I made it, I do not understand what the big deal is.” Well, there is a lot of “big deal” that so many people just will never understand and I think it requires having an open mind. It requires people who have had it easier to acknowledge, God bless I have had it pretty easy (I am one of those people, by the way). It requires people who have had to work hard to still even acknowledge, “This was so hard! It shouldn’t be that hard for people!” Rather than, “if I can do it, you can do it!”
I think it was the lyrics to B.B. King’s “Why I Sing the Blues” when I was a child, that really got me to think about the vast differences of life between someone in my world in middle-class America and someone living in a different part of town. If you are so inclined I would highly suggest listening to this fantabulous song.
I have no real conclusions in this blog post. I have no answers because I do not believe that as a whole we will overcome this issue. I think this boat has been steering so badly for so long that eventually it will sink or run aground. The only way that the boat will correct itself is if society imploded and the only thing that mattered was teamwork necessary for survival. Race would know no bounds them.
Let me at least say this, however: I think it goes without saying that if someone considers themselves a Christian then they shouldn’t consider themselves superior to another because of a difference in skin color, zip code, social status, etc. A step further, obviously, would be to extend your heart to your brothers and sisters. I get that there are vast cultural differences at times, but we are bigger than that. WE are bigger than these things. When we make our way to the beyond, there won’t be these things to divide us so wouldn’t it be nice if we could experience each other’s souls right now? Take one of your closest friends or someone you’ve met that you find so intriguing to talk to or someone that just pours their heart out to you… what if you didn’t take the chance on them because of some difference? You wouldn’t have that connection. You wouldn’t know them. You wouldn’t LOVE them. How sad is that?!
Let’s remember where we came from, where we’re going, and to follow the very simple rule that Jesus laid out for us. “Love one another as I have loved you.”