I think the best thing about having a blog is the spontaneity and honesty of a post. I’ve been told by a lot of really good writers—including a few professionals who shall remain nameless—that serious writers never print anything without thinking it through. Personally, I don’t believe that. Sometimes, my best work comes out of whatever happens to be on my heart in the moment. It took me years to build up the courage to share my personal thoughts with the general public, and now that I am comfortable with expressing who I am through my writing, I try not to follow the advice of what others may think. I also try not to care too much about how my message is received. You can’t please everyone, after all. Someone’s bound to be offended by what’s written or said. And with that, I’m ready to talk about it. You don’t really need to ask what “it” is.
By now, if you don’t know the name George Floyd, you’re in a coma in some hospital; or you’re part of the problem whether you want to believe that or not. Yeah, it’s really that simple. Even the Amish know who he was, and are actually showing support. Racism isn’t new to this nation. It’s always been here, since the first colonists arrived, and forcibly took the land from its original owners. Facts…as the cool kids like to say today. Chances are high that if you are a man or woman of color, you have or definitely will experience some form of racism—subtle or blatant—in your lifetime. Racism didn’t just magically appear with the murder of George Floyd. The sad reality in the black community is that he’s the latest high profile victim. That statement doesn’t diminish the importance of what happened; it doesn’t blanket the significance of the impact on Mr. Floyd’s family who have to go on with life without him. It doesn’t soften the hurt of an entire race of people who have to once again bury their collective feelings and get on with the business of life. No…that statement is our way of life. It keeps happening. I don’t think a lot of my white friends and family truly understand that kind of hurt. It.Keeps.Happening.
The first time I was called a nigger, I was too young to understand the pride of my skin tone. So when it happened, and because I was surrounded by so many peers who were the same color as the kid who spouted the slur, I felt ashamed. I never told my parents. I buried it. Just about every time after that one, when I faced racism, I buried it…deep. But I want you to understand I didn’t just get it from white people, you see. Over my lifetime, I’ve been called many things by my own people, because of my wife’s skin tone. I’ve been told I wasn’t black enough; or I hated myself so much, I had to go out and get “one of them”; or (this is the one that NEVER gets old) I’m the whitest black person ever. The point here is that racism isn’t exclusive to the white community. People of all races believe in it. People of all races wield it like the weapon it was designed to be. It happens to hurt me personally as a black man, living in a country built on it.
Honestly, I believe the church is struggling to deal with this. Don’t get me wrong, and don’t take anything out of context. I believe a lot of good pastors out there in the world are really trying their best to address the issue of racism using God’s Word, as they should be. They have a difficult task ahead of them. I pray for my own lead-pastor constantly, because he’s the shepherd of a diverse congregation. I can see how many pastors are overwhelmed or frustrated with the continued division plaguing the world despite their best efforts. “How in the world did the church of Antioch do it,” I imagine many of them asking God. The problem isn’t God obviously. I think it may be difficult for some pastors to truly understand how hard it is for some of their congregation to find—and hold onto—faith when they (the pastors) haven’t lived the life of someone perpetually discriminated against because of the color of their skin. It’s hard for them to fully empathize with our—my—deep hurt. While I understand the message of “Give it to Jesus, and He will heal” that message doesn’t always know how heavy that burden really is for some of us.
This past weekend, I watched DJ Jazzy Jeff do his usual live set, from his home studio. But this session was different. Jeff labelled it “Resist” and for the first few moments of the set, Jeff simply sat behind the turntables, played a Donnie Hathaway song, and broke down in tears right there on camera. Man…I felt that. Thousands of miles away from this brother who doesn’t even know the name Ennis Smith, I really felt his pain. That pain was deep. As I wiped my own tears away, I remember thinking, “I’m so tired of this happening to us.” In that moment, I remembered the first time I was called a nigger; and I remember the first time I physically fought back. From my own basement, I was with Jeff. Jeff was with Dr. King in that moment spanning time. Dr. King was with Malcolm. Malcolm was with Colin. In that one moment in time, every black man who has ever experience some form of systemic racism throughout time’s history was with Jeff; was with Ennis; was with LaDon; was with Steven; was with Eric; was with Maurice; was with Dave; was with Shunbe; was with Marlon; was with Van Alan; was with Kovan, was with…∞
Family, we can’t just turn it off, and bravely hand it over to the Lord. It’s exhausting. It’s especially hard for us, because when we try our best to give that pain—that deep pain—to the Lord, we’re quickly reminded of its continued existence with another fresh incident. And just like that, the hurt is back in full color. Do I now have to seriously worry about jogging in my predominantly white neighborhood? Do I have to worry about the validity of the $20 bill in my pocket? Do I have to even reconsider participating in any form of a civil and peaceful protest? I don’t personally doubt the Lord; let’s get that straight. I just find it extremely disappointing that I have to see, hear and experience another instance where a man who looks like me is treated less than his peers of an opposite color. It gets old. Jesus’ timeframe is not the same as my own. I don’t doubt Him. I struggle with patience.
The irony of the backlash of the George Floyd incident is that just a few short years ago, Colin Kaepernick used his celebrity platform to stage a personal protest against this very issue, and America at large refused to listen. America at large labelled him an uppity negro; a spoiled and entitled NFL Superstar who should be thankful for his place in the world. He was cast out of his profession because he stood up for and against the very oppression that killed George Floyd. Today, social media is flooded with photos and stories of some of those very same people who shunned him for his stance, now kneeling in agreeance with his original protest. Instead of joy over this turn of events, I feel anger at the fickle behavior of the born-privileged. This newfound disdain for racism is suddenly appalling to many folks who have never experienced it before. It’s not new to me, or to people who look like me. The photos are nice. They make for good fuzzies. But the question beckons, are people—ALL people—finally ready to do something real about erasing it? Or is this just another thing for people to get behind for the moment.
One more thing. America, since you’re now on the bandwagon, you owe Colin a sincere apology.