Friday, May 20, 2016

An Idea About Race

It doesn't take a genius to see that race relations in this country have taken several giant steps backwards over the past few years. I have written several times in this space about the hopelessness I feel concerning this subject. I watched the violence in Ferguson and Baltimore and felt like there wasn't anything I could do about any of it. My progressive friends all clammer for more government programs. My conservative friends prefer more aggressive policing. Then the black lives matter movement showed up and both sides doubled down. It's a hot mess.

I suppose that one of the problems is that as a white man, my ideas on this subject come from a place which is largely unfamiliar to a black man. My life experiences have been different. Some would refer to me as privileged. Although I started out my life in a trailer park on the south side of Richmond, to many the mere fact that I was born white provides a giant asterisk to every success that I have enjoyed in life. Moreover, being born into a two parent family who read to me every night provided me with an unfair advantage over anyone not so endowed at birth with a stable, literate family. Because of all of the unfair advantages bestowed upon me at birth, reparations need to be made...from me, to those less fortunate. At least, this is my understanding of modern, progressive race theory. But, I'm no social scientist. So, most of this type of talk goes right over my head, right after it infuriates me.

But, I am a human being, and a Christian. The teachings of my faith make it clear that whenever possible, I need to strive to be a peace maker, and agent of reconciliation. To that end, I've been kicking around the idea of reaching out to a group of my former Sunday School students who are still in town. I'm going to throw a cookout, grill up some steaks. In the past, that always guaranteed a crowd! The group I'm thinking about would be a mix of several races, all solid young men trying to make their way in the world, but from vastly different backgrounds. I'm going to give them a summer reading project. I'm going to ask them to come together at my house once a week over the month of August until we get through the book together. The book is "Under Our Skin" written by Benjamin Watson. I haven't read it yet myself, but it comes highly recommended by several men who I respect. It's a difficult read, they say...challenging and tough, but worth the effort.

I'm not even sure this will do any good. These guys might be too busy, or maybe my time with them has passed. But, I feel the need to do something. There might not be a damn thing I can do about Ferguson and Baltimore. But, if it's possible to make Short Pump a little better, I've got to try. I might not even like everything I read in the book. Maybe our discussions wind up being arguments. But at least we will be struggling together to find our own solutions. Asking the question, How should my faith inform my thinking about race, is a loaded question, after all. Could be great, could be a disaster.