Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Seeing through these Black eyes

February, as everyone in the U.S. should know, is African-American or Black History Month. Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950), who is known as the father of Black History, believed that in order to participate effectively in American society, Blacks needed to know about their history, a history that, tragically, had been erased, obscured and ignored as a result of the evil of slavery and the racial prejudice and discrimination against African people and their descendants which gave birth to slavery and continued in slavery’s aftermath. Woodson believed it was necessary for all Americans to know the important and significant contributions that Blacks have made to America. I agree with Woodson. The need still exists.

For those who would like to know more about Carter G. Woodson, I have links here, here and here.

In the interest of Black History month, I’d like to do something different. I’d like to spend the majority of February writing especially from my “Black self”. That is, I would like to expose my readers to some of my thoughts as a Black, Christian man in America. My wife and sons are already familiar with my views, so nothing I’ll write will be news to them. I’ve talked about these things many times at our dinner table, while riding in the car, relaxing in front of the television or doing yard work. Nothing I will write is “news” to those who know me best. But to others, especially those who are not Black, much of my “Black self” remains hidden. In my opinion, wearing this kind of racial “mask” is necessary to smoothly navigate life in America. It’s a survival technique (In that vein, I would recommend you read the classic and eye-opening 1952 novel, Invisible Man, by the late writer and novelist, Ralph Ellison). However, masks do not promote understanding. This is why, in the interest of racial understanding, I would like to remove the mask and let non-Blacks see America and the evangelical church through these Black eyes.

I don’t think my racial views are all that unique among Black people—not at all. In fact, I think my views are pretty much middle-of-the-road. On one extreme, I’ve known Blacks who definitely harbor hostility and racism against whites. On the other hand, I suspect I’ve met a few Blacks who seem to have forgotten that they are Black (and, I don’t mean that as a compliment, by the way). I’m thinking of Black people who act as if they wish they were white, who look down their noses at people of their own race. In contrast to these extremes, I do not hate anyone of another race, neither do I reject my own race and racial heritage. Now, there have been times, because of hurtful racial experiences, when I have struggled with hatred against whites, and there have been other times when I’ve felt like turning my back in disgust on Black folks. However, as far as I know my own heart, at this stage of life I do not hate or feel hostility against anyone, and I love and respect (and like!) people of various races and ethnicities. And, I mean specific people, not just a nameless, faceless, nondescript group of people. Anybody can love people “in general”. I must give all glory to God because, more than once, I’ve had to pray for genuine love for people (white and Black) who’ve hurt me, and God has answered that prayer.

Most of what I have to write will be about Blacks and whites. I don’t mean to ignore other races or ethnicities, but the fact is, being Black in America has always been mainly about trying to live, work and relate with whites. So, please don’t take offense if I’m not talking about you; there will be something here, I think, for all to learn. However, there’s a history between Blacks and whites in America that goes back a l-o-n-g way. It is out of my personal experience, within this continuing saga of Black-white relations, that I will be writing.

So, I pray that you will bear with me. I pray that you will read and listen to what I’m trying to say, especially if you’re not African-American. I’m not trying to bash anybody or any group, but I’m concerned that the Church in America still doesn’t “get it”, when it comes to race. In particular, I think conservative, evangelical, Christian whites need to know what it’s like to be Black. You need to understand that not every Bible-believing, evangelical-minded Christian sees the world as you do. I’m going to try to share my heart. I pray that God will, in some way, use what I write for good and for His glory.

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