A few days ago, I was sitting in an insurance meeting when the speaker made a very subtle racist remark. The insurance man at my school was talking about identifying child abuse when he said, “You need to know the difference between a black guy on the play ground and a black guy at home.”
And I’m like “WHAT?!” (in my brain). I’ll admit, before Georgy Floyd, this type of remark might have not even registered for what it was, but in the moment, signals were flaring like crazy.
Thankfully, the remark was brought to the attention of the superintendent who called our insurance guy to talk to him about it. Turns out we were all wrong. The insurance guy was talking about identifying abuse, right? Over Zoom calls, words aren’t as clear, and our very kind insurance guy clarified that he had said “black eye,” not “black guy.” And this is where everyone exhales in relief.
First, I want to take a second to applaud my co-workers. Not only did they voice what I was too timid to say, but the superintendent confronted the man. In fact, he even made the remark, “I was worried we had to find a new insurance guy!” Our school takes racism seriously.
And that’s important, because we’re Christians.
This, sadly, has been a very controversial topic. What makes it sad is that while some people are throwing bombs and harming, or even killing, in the name of equality, others don’t even recognize that protesting is necessary. In my eyes, there are only facts, and the facts are extremely complex and nuanced.
Now I’m cracking my knuckles and saying, “Let’s dive in.” (I will be using Phil Vischer’s video entitled “Race in America” (Click link below to watch) as a basis for my history.) (And I know I’m using parenthesis like crazy and in ways I shouldn’t. Don’t judge.)
We must start back in 1863 when slaves were emancipated after the Civil War. Nine states enacted what are called “Vagrancy Laws” which made it illegal not to have a job (only for black people, mind you). These black people were collected up into the jail system and then forced to work- with no hope of being released. Ta da. Now whites had a bureaucratic system in place to enforce slavery in those states. Other laws were put into place prohibiting “mischief” and “insulting gestures” whereby police could also throw black people in jail.
In the 1900’s, Jim Crow was put in effect in all Southern states. With its motto of “Separate but Equal,” Jim Crow was anything but equal. The laws are jaw-dropping and extended from separate drinking fountains to public lynchings. If you aren’t familiar with Jim Crow, this is a fantastic website to scroll through. http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/what.htm.
In 1954, Jim Crow was ruled unconstitutional, but states did not immediately adopt the new laws. In fact, it took ten more years before the last of the Jim Crow laws were overruled by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Crow_laws)
According to Vischer, “The number one source of intergenerational wealth in America is home ownership.” He states in his video that the average black household has 60% of the income but only 10% of the wealth. Here’s why. In the 1930’s, the government developed a practice called “Redlining,” deeming a certain demographic as “high risk” for federally backed mortgages. In the 40’s, blacks could not only get a loan, but they were also prohibited from buying homes in white neighborhoods. Even black Veterans returning from WWII in the 40’s couldn’t get a GI Bill to get a mortgage.
Because of redlining, most blacks lived in the inner-city. At some point in the second half of the 20th century, factory jobs were moved to the suburbs, making it difficult for many blacks to commute because of lack of transportation. By 1987, only 28% of blacks had good, blue-collar jobs. “As unemployment increased, so did drug use. As drug use increased, so did crime.”
And thus began the cycle.
Here it is, 2020. And we are still seeing the perpetuation of a cycle that began in the early 20th century. A good friend of mine who is a police officer reminds me that the black community is five times more likely to commit a murder than a white person. (https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2018/crime-in-the-u.s.-2018/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-6.xls) Because of so much contact, they are at higher risk of being the focal point for police. And while this may be true, there are reasons for this that go well beyond what is happening at this moment. I think that generations of struggle are responsible for what is now coming to a head today, and there is still inequality and flaws not only in many government systems, but also in our society.
So what can we do? There are many systems that need to be fixed, and these could take years, if not decades to remedy. But what can we do on an individual level?
Here’s my conclusion. If you are reacting to the BLM movement with violence, please stop. You are only perpetuating the cycle of retaliation. Police are not the enemy. It is not black vs. police. It’s people vs. people.
If you are apathetic to the cause, please stop. You too are responsible for this cycle. Why? Because when people don’t feel heard or validated, they begin shouting. Consider your spouse or loved one. If they are presenting a problem to you, and you aren’t listening, they are going to get louder, eventually becoming angry and upset. Just stop and listen. Listen to the black people in your community and provide them support in whatever capacity you can. Almost everyone has a story of harassment, whether from civilians or police.
Next, we can ask ourselves what we can do in our own home. Education is key. Find out more about black history. What I mentioned is only the tip of the iceberg. This topic is extremely nuanced, and each individual has their own story. Talk to your kids. Explain to them that God created everyone- black, white, brown, and that we are all beautiful and made in His image.
My husband would kill me if he knew I was positing this, but he created an incredible website called http://www.sundaytosaturday.com. His heart is to educate people by curating information about different topics. He hasn’t publicized the website yet because he’s not finished, but he has a lot of information on the topic of race. (If you view it, you did NOT hear it from me. 😉 )
If you see racism happening in your own community, stand up for the inequality. (Unlike me,) don’t be afraid to voice your concern in a polite and gracious manner.
And if there’s any single one thing we can do, it’s to love and respect each other well. Love and respect our police. So many of them are serving to protect us. Rioters are going so far as to throw bombs at them or trap them in their building and set fire to it. They go to work each day, burdened and abused by people flipping them off and calling them names when they are good people, all while trying to uphold justice. If you see a police officer, please offer them a smile instead.
Love black people. If you see someone getting mistreated, step up to make it right.
With grace and humility, aspire to recognize ALL people as worthy of our respect and love.