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Friday, April 25, 2008

Black in America

Okay, I'm confused. I have to admit that there's something I seriously don't get. I've grown up with racism being an issue in my country. I simply don't understand why that is the case. More to the point, I cannot comprehend the perspective that others seem to have this subject in. To me it looks a lot different than I imagine it does for most.

I'm about to say some things that are going to sound offensive to some. You'll find no apology for what I'm about to say though. It's sincere and I believe the product of rational thinking --- and questioning. (I've always believed that questioning is a good thing.)

Let's start with the definition of black here in America. Presidential candidate Barack Obama, for example, is described as black. He had a white mother and a black father. How does that make him black? Isn't he as much white as he is black? Others play the same card. Halle Barry, for example. She's a beautiful celebrity, a model. Even white men fancy her. She calls herself black. We call her black. Born of a bi-racial couple, why isn't she called bi-racial?

It seems to me that in times past, when black wasn't such a good thing, people wanted to be white. But now that blacks have a great deal of equality, being black is in. So even the white people want to be black. I don't get that. And the cynical side of me supposes that they are only black when it's convenient. What about the poor people who truly are black and don't get to choose? Isn't that what's really unfair?

I'll be 50 years old this year. I've grown up listening to the rhetoric on racism, racial issues, equality for blacks, African-American issues, etc. I don't think anyone could be proud of how America treated its slaves. Then again, when I read my Bible, I'm not sure that slaves were treated any better in Biblical times. And to be clear, God's chosen people had slaves back then. What is the difference? Did the Israelites sue Egypt and demand an apology? When slaves were freed, did they go around demanding justice for what had happened to them?

The question I'm really trying to pose here is whether or not we really have the slavery and racism issue in America screwed on right. Or do we have it out of whack? Can human beings expected to make a social transition any faster than we have made it since the slaves were freed here? It's a reasonable question. Where else in history did a society free all of its slaves and treat them as equals? How long did it take to accomplish that. Might our expectations be just a bit unrealistic?

Finally, I've been to Africa. I've seen how the African people live. For the most part, it isn't good. It seems to me that if their ancestors had been enslaved in America, those people today would be living a lot better than they are. Does anyone ever stop to think of that? Isn't it possible that this horrible slavery and racism struggle ultimately put the black people in this country in a better place than they would have been otherwise? (The answer is yes, by the way.)

I don't consider myself racist. In fact, I have deep commitments to and relationships with people of color in this country and in Africa. But I have to say that I am sick of racism being the trump card for everything in America. The reality check is that sometimes imperfect humans can only shed their biases and re-train their thinking so fast.

Are the black radicals in America willing to give us grace for that?

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