Afterward, cold as I was and hoping to check a few things off my work list, I grabbed my laptop out of my car and walked into one of the restaurants flanking Moore Square. They opened at 11. It was 10:38. They’d unlocked their door but no employees were stationed inside. I walked in, greeting no one in particular with a lilt in my voice.
I looked up at the door and then it hit me.
I couldn’t know it absolutely, but I was confident: There was no way any of the black men I’d just spent the morning with could pull off what I had just pulled off.
I hadn’t made good on some exclusive invitation. There was no secret handshake. I simply walked in because I know in ways I don’t even know I know that I’m a white man, and hey, everything’s gonna be okay.
How could a white heterosexual male pastor have such confidence so as to tell this dear woman how to live her life, what causes her to be, what she must think and do, so removed as he is from anything like her existence? How would one attach Christ's - Emmanuel's - name to this?
And so I have become quiet in my opinions, and more vocal in my advocacy.
Much the opposite: there’s nothing as weak as ignorance.
This flat path I’ve walked has been comparatively steep for others in ways I’m still only beginning to discover at nearly 40 years of age. That path has taken strength I don’t have, and hasn't been required of me. So I'm persuaded the weakness is mine. It’s easy to think my job is to save a world full of victims. My race has perpetuated evil against others and so now my race must be the messiah.
No one is waiting for me to save them. See them, hear them, yes. But it would only be further ignorance, and arrogance, and weakness, to believe grown men and women are waiting for me to validate their existence and rescue them from my privilege.
I am trying to be more aware of my own assumptions and ignorances, like a blind man who only recently discovered I don't see it never meant it's not there. Voter rights, school funding, enforcement of law, incarceration stats, employment, profiling, targeting, etc, etc. It’s easy to dismiss when you’re not, and never have been, under the heel of much of it. It’s easy to get tired of hearing it like some fad has overstayed its welcome. Instead, I try now to really hear. I don't get political, nor do I wait for the government to do what Christ's body (i.e. an awakened people who can see things as they really are, who speak for those with less voice, not just those who don't sleep in on Sundays) is called to do. I listen, I consider my role, I wake to my ignorance and unintentional complicity.**
I try and really hear and see the frustrating and often times horrific experiences of women in a work place full of men unaware of their own level of unawareness.
I try and remember my answers and ideas come from a place not sharable for millions and millions of my human family.
I try and remember I don't know what it's like to not have it easier than most all human beings ever. Because I don't.
Most humbling, I try and remember Jesus gravitated to those who were rejected and marginalized. Rejected by those who could deftly apply Bible verses which made the rejection God’s. I try and remember Jesus called guys like me, who experienced privilege unawarely and insensitive to those in the margins, blind guides.
My friend said to me today true compassion is the creativity to imagine the experience of others. He's a black man. One asterisk in this culture? More? That's what I am hoping, to become creative enough to understand life outside my own, and in so doing actually broaden my take on what it means to live a human life, rather than just my comparatively easy sliver of it. To listen closely enough that ignorance and blindness drop like scales from my eyes. With this I will start to understand deeply that my brothers and sisters have had the deck stacked against them. So deeply will I understand this that, as it is with true compassion, I will feel the deck stacked against me. Because until the many become one, it's broken for all of us.
** Maybe it's me with the asterisks. Maybe I have this backwards. How would I know......
*** I hope you understand this has barely anything to do with money.