It’s Not Easy Being Black

After giving this article the title, “It’s Not Easy Being Black,” the first thing I’d better say is, I’m white. My ancestors are from Scotland, Ireland, England, and Holland. So, I have no experience with being black. And yet, after sixty-two years on this planet, I do have a few observations about life, and one of them is this: it’s not easy being black in America.

Today I posted this observation on Facebook. “It’s not easy being black in America.”

Before I clicked to apply the post, I already knew what the reactions would be. Some posted their reactions, most didn’t – but I know what the whole range of responses was. Some people nodded their heads sadly and agreed. Some people shook their heads and said, “Why does Bob post stuff like that?” Some people said, “How would Bob know? He’s not black. Why doesn’t he stick to topics he can speak about with real knowledge and experience?” Some people said, “Oh, great. There’s a white guy who thinks he’s helping us all by expressing sympathy, but what he says doesn’t change one little thing. Maybe his conscience feels better.” Some people said, “Well, it’s not easy being me, either. What about my problems? Why single out one group? There are lots of us with problems.”

Yes. You’re right. There are lots of us with problems.

And yet, there is a reason, right now, in America, why a white person (that would be me) needs to write a public article pointing out the obvious. There is a reason to single out one group out of all the groups with problems. There is a compelling moral need, right now, to talk about the specific problem, the painful reality, of being black in America.

It’s like this.

It’s hard to be fat.
But it’s harder to be fat and black.

It’s hard to be old.
But it’s harder to be old and black.

It’s hard to be female.
But it’s harder to be female and black.

It’s hard to be autistic.
But it’s harder to be autistic and black.

It’s hard to be poor.
But it’s harder to be poor and black.

It’s hard to be LGBT.
But it’s harder to be LGBT and black.

It’s hard to be unemployed.
But it’s harder to be unemployed and black.

It’s hard to be uneducated.
But it’s harder to be uneducated and black.

It’s hard to have cancer.
But it’s harder to have cancer and be black.

Honestly, I don’t know if I would be successful as a black. And by successful, I mean doing what I’m doing now – faithfully following Jesus, my Lord. I know that I would be severely tempted to fall into one of two traps.

Trap #1: On the one hand, it’s possible that I might just give up. The struggle might be too much for me. I might become a silent failure, sinking as deeply as possible into the dark background of America, rarely seen, rarely heard. My defeat, my resignation, would have logical and predictable outcomes. If I gave up, I would spend a lot of time being unemployed, receiving whatever handouts I could get from the government or individuals. I might console myself, numb the pain, and forget my problems, by turning to alcohol, drugs, or both.

Trap #2: On the other hand, there is that part of me that has learned to stand up for myself, to fight, to flail my arms wildly against all attackers, real or imaginary. There is something in me that says, “I would rather be punished for fighting back than sit quietly and accept mistreatment that I don’t deserve. If anyone is going to hurt me, by golly, I’ll give them a reason!” I can see myself becoming violent, bitter, full of fomenting hatred, ready to explode every time the smallest spark ignites my short, fast, fuse.

I stand in awe of the sheer nobility that I see in many black people. They are the ones who avoid the two extremes that I fear would grip me. They are the blacks who are simply, plainly, kind to me. I don’t mean quietly subservient. I mean genuinely nice. These are the blacks who extend their warm friendship to me from the moment of first meeting, before they know how their friendship will be received. These are the blacks who take a chance, with every new encounter, even several times a day, choosing to initiate their interactions with every new person they meet with a positive regard and with an optimism about the relationship that might develop.

I’m not sure I’m that strong.

But I’ll do what I can. I’ll follow Jesus, and I’ll regard you as Jesus regards you, no matter who you are. And I’ll speak. I’ll speak out, because Jesus speaks out. I’ll speak, because silence in the face of evil, is evil.

–Bob Young
[8/14/2017]

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Publicly Reject White Supremacy

There’s a difference between calling yourself a Christian and actually following Jesus. Jesus didn’t say, “Be a Christian;” he said, “Follow me.” Many terrible, evil things have been done by Christians, but that’s not to say they were following Jesus.

Nazis And Christianity

“Some Nazis, such as Hans Kerrl, who served as Hitler’s Minister for Church Affairs pushed for ‘Positive Christianity’, which was a uniquely Nazi form which rejected its Jewish origins and the Old Testament, and portrayed ‘true’ Christianity as a fight against Jews.” (See Source 1)

“During the First and Second World Wars, German Protestant leaders used the writings of Luther to support the cause of German nationalism. On the 450th anniversary of Luther’s birth, which fell only a few months after the Nazi Party began its seizure of power in 1933, celebrations were conducted on a large scale by both the Protestant Churches and the Nazi Party. At a celebration in Königsberg, Erich Koch, at that time the Gauleiter of East Prussia, made a speech in which he, among other things, compared Adolf Hitler with Martin Luther and claimed that the Nazis fought with Luther’s spirit.” (See Source 2)

The majority of historians believe that Hitler was not a Christian, but he had no qualms about using Christianity to further his aims. “Hitler publicly claimed he believed in Christianity and an active God, and in one speech, he stated that he held Jesus in high esteem as an ‘Aryan fighter’ who struggled against Jewry and Jewish materialism.” (See Source 3)

Ku Klux Klan And Christianity

The KKK has presented itself as a Christian organization, adopting the symbolism, language, and rituals of Christian churches.

“Additionally, the cross was henceforth a representation of the Klan’s Christian message.” (See Source 4)

“Although members of the KKK swear to uphold Christian morality, virtually every Christian denomination has officially denounced the KKK.” (See Source 5)

Summary

The activists who endorse the beliefs, philosophies, and policies of the Nazis and/or the Ku Klux Klan do not follow Jesus. They may lie by calling themselves Christians, but they are not Christ-like. Supporting or endorsing these groups in any way, including silent acquiescence, is a rejection of the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

 

–Bob Young
8/12/2017

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Source 1: Steigmann-Gall, Richard (2003). The Holy Reich. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 13–51.

Source 2: Wikipedia article: Religion_in_Nazi_Germany, which cites several sources.

Source 3: Wikipedia article: Religious_views_of_Adolf_Hitler, which cites several sources.

Source 4: Wade, Wyn Craig (1998). The Fiery Cross: The Ku Klux Klan in America. USA: Oxford University Press. p. 185. ISBN 978-0-19-512357-9.

Source 5: Perlmutter, Philip (January 1, 1999). Legacy of Hate: A Short History of Ethnic, Religious, and Racial Prejudice in America. M.E. Sharpe. p. 170. ISBN 978-0-7656-0406-4.

The Walking Dead

We build walls and fences to protect ourselves. People can cause us so much harm, and it doesn’t seem to matter if we love them or not. In fact, it doesn’t even seem to matter if they love us – because love can falter and grow cold. Yesterday’s lover is today’s tormentor. And so we build fences. We declare, “Yesterday’s lover may be my tormentor today, but I’ll not have tomorrow’s tormentor. No one else is allowed into my heart, ever.”

The decision to build a fence around your heart may not have its origin in a failed romance. Maybe it started when you were ostracized or ridiculed or bullied at school. Maybe it started earlier than that – sometimes, even our parents, poorly equipped for parenting, damage us and cause us to withdraw into a shell that we mistakenly believe brings comfort. The comfort of the fence, wall, or shell is a false comfort, though. It’s only comforting because of our sense of hopelessness, because of our conviction that no relationship can ever be worth the risk of repeating the pain of the past.

But let me try to explain what the fence really does…

A friend of mine shared some pictures he took of an old cemetery from the nineteenth century. Some of the gravestones are surrounded by fences. I was struck by one picture in particular, which shows a closeup of two gravestones inside a black wrought iron fence.

Here’s what I immediately noticed:

The fence was designed to keep people out, but it did nothing to keep out the weeds.

“Only the Trees Remember” by KD Musick

This is what happens when you build a fence around your heart. You keep people out, yes. But, the weeds still grow. Saddest of all? Your fence keeps out anyone who might help you pull the weeds. If you can’t pull the weeds yourself (and there are weeds in your heart that you cannot uproot), then the weeds will grow, and grow, and grow some more.

Jesus said, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead.”
(Matthew 8:22 and Luke 9:60)

Jesus knew that sometimes there is little difference between the living and the dead. Maybe you know, it, too, from personal pain. Maybe your inner dying is a secret you never share.

Friend, Jesus knows betrayal. He knows pain. He knows what it is to have love repaid with hatred, to have healing repaid with injury, to have generosity repaid with – nothing! – instead, the ones to whom he gave only took the more.

Jesus shows us how to respond. Like Jesus, open your arms wide. Continue to love. When rejected, he went to the next town, and the next, and the next, and tried again to build relationships, to give love away, to make a profound and lasting difference in the lives others. Jesus doesn’t give up on the ones who hurt him. He hasn’t given up on me, and he hasn’t given up on you.

Jesus said, “You go, and do likewise.”
(Luke 10:37)

Friend, don’t stay there. Don’t stay there, inside the fence, dead, fertilizing the weeds with your decaying heart. Jesus invites you to live again, to tear down the fence, to love again.

–Bob Young
[8/6/2017]

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