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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

What I'm Missing About Being Black In America

Not long ago, I was a conservative firebrand. I argued against every left-tinted idea you could think of, no matter how reasonable it might be. The introduction to Thomas Sowell's "The Vision Of The Anointed" perfectly described how I felt: progressives think they're better than anyone else, and they'll demonize anyone and anything that stands in their way. They were the Anointed, and everyone else was not. There's plenty of that still around, and it can be true of many progressives. Harmony and progress are not on the agenda.

But in these latter days, I have begun to intentionally reflect on what it must be like to be black in America even now. In the first place, to a white Republican, the legacy of slavery sounds like a guilt trip from another entitled leftist, who wants power over me, my family, and my friends. Truthfully, my friends, this is our initial thought. And to be frank with you, even in this moment, I don't have a lot of warm feelings toward Democrats and progressives. I was silenced, shamed, called names, and forcibly indoctrinated in college. Whatever romantic notions you have about the university, they need to die. It's worse than you could imagine. Not in every place, and not in every moment, but this ideological echo-chamber does exist. I would add, to make a long story short, that I grew up as an abused child in a broken family, and by 22 or so, I wasn't going to take anything from anyone. Left, right, center, didn't matter. I was spoiling for a fight, and I started plenty of them concerning politics.

You know, you might run over some people, and make some bad arguments, in a rush to be heard, in a rush to be right. Politics is pretty polarized, if you hadn't noticed. And how many African-Americans do we know, truthfully? And if we're completely honest, we got pretty sick of being lectured by people whose moral philosophy was defective. Even to hear about police brutality or systemic racism from a black perspective seems like capitulation, surrender to the forces of evil. No, progressive neighbors, it's not an exaggeration of how Republicans feel about you. And more to the point, we'd start wondering why individuals aren't responsible for their own destiny. Self-reliance. Initiative. Discipline. Overcoming obstacles. You get the idea.

We might have been sensitive to the obstacles of African-Americans when we were children, but as we saw it, we've been made to feel bad about these and other things our whole lives. The answer for us was the blackjack of Abe Lincoln, and MLK. Slavery was bad, but...

Do we know how bad? Truthfully.

Do we recall that the state of South Carolina put up the Confederate flag in 1962, right in the middle of the civil rights era? Was their message ambiguous at that time? And if I were black, just wanting a shot at a life, what message would I hear? It's perfectly commendable that the flag was removed, but 9 people were murdered in a church before it was. You might pause to consider that, before you go on about "losing our history." Maybe ours. But it may not be the history we want to keep and celebrate.

I know a man named Luke Bobo. He's a professor of religion, let's call him. I met him in seminary. A black man. From our brief interactions over the years, I know him to be warm, open, and forthright. If you were going to take a trip into some difficult things, you'd want to do it with him. And Professor Bobo pretty much says similar things to that which others might say. Others we'd be much less inclined to listen to. I'd better listen. If I can't hear it from a fellow-worker in the vineyard of Jesus Christ, maybe I'm not willing to hear the truth at all.

I read how he described voting--or really anything--as an African-American. He said he thinks about all African-Americans whenever he votes, and many other things. We don't think that way. You and I have that luxury, that privilege.

You know, I'm not going to confuse Colin Kaepernick for Rosa Parks. He and many others might actually be rich, entitled, and whatever else, to some extent. But Philando Castle wasn't. Sandra Bland wasn't. There are many more. Given everything, neighbors, you can respectfully take a knee. The virtue of patriotism will not fade out of existence. Against the backdrop of slavery, the civil war, Jim Crow, and everything else, I owe you at least respectful silence. And frankly, I don't want to affirm any message that says, "Shut up, stop whining, you're lucky to be here!" It might even be true, that these rich football players and others are fortunate. But for whom do they also speak?

My compassion and empathy speaks louder to me than my fear of "the Left." I'm sure that's a risk I take. But it's a risk I take for solidarity.

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