A week ago, I met with the board of a local fire station to discuss my concerns with a racially insensitive event that was scheduled to take place on May 14 in our area. I left that meeting with the sad understanding that many White Americans feel unjustly threatened by minorities.
Earlier today I had an insightful conversation with an elderly Black woman at a store. It drove home the point that many minorities feel that the White majority cannot comprehend the realities of what it means to live as we do. This Black woman expressed her fear that a racially motivated hoodlum will shoot her while walking her dog.
“White people can’t understand what it’s like to be us,” she said. It was this comment which solidified the sobering reality that had haunted me since my meeting with the Fire Company’s board.
American society has crystalized into an “Us” and “Them” mentality.
This is dangerous for everyone. Like a mousetrap with easy-to-spot cheese, this ideology is convenient—and deadly.
On Saturday, a shooter in Buffalo, New York targeted Black shoppers. This is America’s latest incident in a long list of racial tragedy. In his alleged manifesto Payton S. Gendron claims to support,
“those that wish for a future for white children and the existence of our [White] people.”
Again, there is the message that the White race is somehow under attack.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
As a minister and community leader, I am in contact with minorities in churches across the United States. Let me say point-blank that there is no mainstream social plot among minority races to “take over” America or hinder the future of White people.
While there are evil-minded people in all races/ethnicities, I can honestly say that all most of us want is to live in peace. To be given the same opportunities as others to pursue a good life. To not live in fear or have to continuously prove ourselves to be worthy of trust. I don’t believe this is unreasonable.
For some, this mistaken ideology stems from the fact that America is predicted to become “minority-white” by the year 2045. For them, the thought of not having sufficient representation in Congress or in the workplace is disturbing.
Let me point out that minorities have been dealing with that issue for more than three hundred years.
Change is here but change and threats are not necessarily synonymous.
Bringing things in perspective
To those American Whites who feel that their country is being threatened, consider the fact that this country was never intended to be ruled by one race. A quick glance at any history book will confirm that America was taken from its original non-European inhabitants by violence, deceit and targeted killings with the goal of White dominance from “sea to shining sea.”
It is time to move on. As long as the ideology that this country belongs to or should be controlled by one race persists, America will remain racially divided.
Minorities also need to be wary of the “Us vs Them” trap.
It’s true that most White Americans don’t need to fear police during their daily commutes. They don’t need to worry about being passed over for promotion because of the color of their skin or being falsely accused of crimes because of the amount of pigment that God gave them. I understand these realities. I live them each day.
But if we minorities allow ourselves to fall into the trap of considering the racial majority as a collective group that can’t understand us, then we run the risk of perpetuating social and cultural clashes.
So, how do we avoid the Race Trap?
We must each choose to see deeper than the skin. As I once wrote in a novel, “see the bones not the skin.” In other words, see the dreams, fears and hopes that your neighbor has instead of his/her genetic features.
For secular individuals, “seeing the bones” must be a conscious decision to go against bias and social judgments.
For those who follow Christ, it should be a lot easier. We must see others as human beings, made in the image of God to serve His purpose.
Let me give an example that does not center around race just to make this clear.
As some of you may know, I’m heavily involved in organizing relief efforts for Ukrainian refugees. I recently heard from one of my ministry contacts that some Russian Christians had taken in a family of refugees. I was overjoyed to hear yet another report of spiritual values overriding the political and emotional conflict that war brings.
These people—both refugees and hosts—weren’t seeing each other as Ukrainian or Russian. Instead, they looked at each other and saw brothers and sisters.
What if America could do the same?
What if we would see each other, not as Black or White, but as creations of God meant to work together to achieve a dream that is so much greater than the nightmares of our past?
Then we would take a long overdue step to truly being the United States of America. My prayer is that the recent tragedy in Buffalo will not simply be another reason for flowery speeches, protests or riots.
Let it be something truly meaningful—a time for communities and our nation to come together in lasting healing.