YOU BE THE JUDGE: MY WHITE LIFE SELF-EXAMINED (pt 1)

Given the powerful, pervasive, and persistent challenge and reflection facing our nation (and the world) in the wake of George Floyd’s death, I feel derelict if I simply ignore it on this blog.  It is not a story about homeless ministry, but no doubt matters of racial injustice and homelessness intersect frequently and persistently too.  Yet unlike the next holiday or news item, I don’t feel that I have some authoritative opinion the blogging world should read about with regard to Floyd’s story.  On the contrary, I am sensing more than ever before that I have more to learn, more to listen to, more to change than I ever realized before.

I do not consider myself a racist, and I never have.  I will defend myself against such a label if I need to, but of course that requires qualifying numerous statements.  I am quite sure that over the course of my life, I have said and done things that were hurtful.  I have laughed at ugly jokes, told ugly jokes, and encouraged this in others – to say the least.  I have been, and am sometimes even now may be, insensitive.  I will own those things for sure.  I will even venture to say that my insensitivity can, on some occasions, go unnoticed by me. which obviously raises questions about just exactly how far the limits go on my self-awareness.

But I also know that I am NOT a hater.

Like so many white people, I am quick to note that I have black, brown, red, and yellow friends and family.  People from these racial/ethnic backgrounds have my sincerest love and affection.  Likewise, I have experienced undue suspicion from law enforcement, come under unnecessary scrutiny – some of which was illegal even.  Not only that, but I have suffered criminal injury at the hands of black, brown, and red people on a few occasions in my life.  Thus, like so many other white people, I have treated all these things as opportunities for deeper insight into racial injustice, and I have felt that they both taught me AND demonstrated my non-racist ways.

But I am sensing now more than ever these are not enough to act automatically as a get-out-of-a racist label card (like a get-out-of-jail-free card (which, and this is ironic, maybe “playing the [white] card” so to speak)).

Still, my wife who is white, can attest (and gladly will too) that I can be insensitive to her despite my profession of love and care, despite my best efforts to learn better, and despite my record where on occasion I did exceptionally well by her.  But that merely parallels such sins regarding race (and questions my culpability with sexism while I am at it).  And I am more clear now than ever that even though I have a few experiences which deepen my empathy and which give me a taste of the experience my black friends and family face, they are not enough to tell the whole story or to give me complete understanding.

The fact is, I have practically no chance whatsoever of experiencing the injustice George Floyd faced, and I therefore go about my daily life not fearing it, not dreading it, not teaching my kids* about the dangers of it, and all that.  I do, on the other hand, go about my life not giving it much thought.

Until now.

Now it is with me everyday.  George Floyd has overwhelmed the headlines on my news feed.  Not to the total exclusion of coronavirus or all the stupid things Donald Trump did yesterday, but to the point where those other things have become after thoughts and footnotes.

This post is the first in, what I hope will be, a series of posts where I lay bare slices of my life which I believe impinge upon racial injustice and inequality.  I will tell stories – vignettes – from my personal experience where I believe I got things right or where I got things wrong (or some of both) and the lessons I learned from them.  Stories where I was victimized or where I hurt someone else.  Stories where I tried to learn, and what I think I learned while trying.

I will ask you, my readers (and I hope I get some black readers particularly, but maybe some brown, red, and other colors too), to help me see things from YOUR perspective.  Let’s talk.  I hope you don’t find me too easy to cave to your challenges, but I also hope you don’t find me closed minded or arrogant.  I want to make MEANINGFUL changes in my personal life and in my personal relationships which I hope will play their parts in the bigger scheme of things as society in general makes some changes.

And I hope there are changes.  I watched the video of Rodney King being beaten when I was a young man.  I was grieved by that waaaay back then.  To see George Floyd die the way he did roughly 30 years later lets me know we have not made the changes we needed to make, the changes I thought would be almost automatic just by the showing of that old video which sparked so much controversy so long ago.  Now people today are saying that change is eminent finally, and I hope it is.  But I believe it requires changes within me too.  It’s not enough to just be shocked and think, “Well, at least I’m not a racist.”  It’s not going to change automatically.  I want to play my part, and perhaps with your help that will even be a prophetic thing.

I pray God show us how to love one another truly, to show it, give it, receive it, and change the world with it.

Your feedback is welcome here.  All of it.  And if my white brothers need to judge me, that is welcome too.  Hit me with all you got.  Let’s get those demons out here in the open, name them, pray them out, work them out, and subdue them finally.

 

* My adopted children are not white.  Though they are too young at this stage, I do expect that in the future, I will have to explain, among the facts of life, that their color may be an avenue for injustice, and that they may well experience injustices their dear old Pops never faces.

5 comments

  1. Tim McGee · June 14

    Two of my three children are Asian. We spent time helping prepare them for the inevitable, unenviable position of being on the receiving end of racist behavior. And they have. From “jokes” to slurs to stereotyping, they have been reminded that they are not the predominant race in our town. I, being white (as is my wife), have taken advantage of what I know is White Privilege and forced my way into their schools to talk about how my children are different from most of the rest of their classmates. A well-meaning statement regarding “diverse cultures” means nothing for my children’s predicament. Culturally, they live in a white household in a predominantly white suburb and attended a mostly white school. Their difference is their race. Conversation is needed. Our distillation of color in presumed to be grand statements of diversity have been mostly a comfortable placation to issues of race. It’s time to talk. It’s time to act. It’s time to be better.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Agent X · June 14

      Like our society, my family is predominantly white. However, I have (and have had) relatives of other colors, mostly brown and red, but some black too. MOST of these have been inlaws, cousins, and step siblings. Now doubt that FAMILY connection has a way of broadening my imagination.

      But when they are my KIDS, it becomes particularly a sensitive matter. And the sensitivities go in all directions.

      When I was in law enforcement a few years ago, I worked with a young man whose ethnicity was brown (there are complications with this very sentence which I do not have worked out for myself, so please bear with me). Yet he told me he is functionally white. He was raised by white parents as a white kid and has virtually no insight into the heritage of his blood lineage. No language, no customs or food or other cultural connections at all. He seemed like a very sure of himself, confident young man, but he spoke of a disconnect that he felt.

      I worry about that too. That is PART of the injustice in this. My kids share the same mama, but they appear different from one another. One has quite a dark complexion – readily noticeable. I am barely equipped with cultural insights and seek help from some of the friends and family I have who are from those backgrounds.

      But of course, all the second-class treatment and/or the risk of maltreatment from authorities whether school, work, or law enforcement loom like a cloud on the horizon. That is the part where I get a little angry just thinking about it.

      BTW, I just recently watched American Son on Netflix. I recommend it. Great piece of art with which to center discussions. It features the mix of inter-racial family, white and black cops and the whole way round it highlights WE ALL have work to do. Though there can be little doubt those in power have the hardest work of confession and repentance to do.

      Like the lady in that movie, I shutter to imagine my son in trouble with THE SYSTEM. I struggle to imagine myself being patient and calm as a WAIT for justice. That is the scariest part. But the interesting thing is how it has this white man standing in the shoes of that black woman and looking around at the world. THAT seems like an opportunity to TALK at least.

      Thanx for sharing your family here. I pray your kids be blessed, and I certainly am by their Dad.

      Liked by 1 person

    • calhouns2013 · June 18

      Tim, it sounds like it maybe time to diversify your families experiences. Consider what it must be for your children to live in a “white household in a predominantly white suburb and attend a mostly white school.” This is the comfortable white norm that I believe must also change. We must become a more multiethnic people at heart.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. calhouns2013 · June 18

    X, this sudden rise in awareness of racial injustice has affected me deeply. I tried to work out my feelings in my latest post. It’s entitled Wounded. You can check it out if you like and we can talk about it here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · June 19

      I am looking forward to it. I want to be a part of such discussions and to be a part of getting things changed for the better.

      Feels risky. Feels necessary. Feels right.

      Liked by 1 person

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