My Perspective of Ferguson...
I have battled mentally over writing this blog. I have even asked people I respect their opinion about me writing it. The responses have been as divided as the opinions of people in regards to the subject. It seems as though anything that is said is either taken out of context or has no content in regards to legitimacy.
My approach will be as raw and real as I can possibly articulate. Remember, this is coming from a white guy raised in the deep south, that area where confederate (rebel) flags were used on the roof of the inside of pick-up trucks. I spent the first 16 years of my life in “white hills” subdivision of Baker La. I never saw a “black” family live in our neighborhood but I did see one chased off. One vivid memory I have is of a phone call to my house from a guy who was in my 6th grade class. Simply put, I received a “whoopin” from my Father because the boy was black. Before, you draw conclusions on my Dad he was raised in the delta Mississippi during the great depression. The racism he taught was the one he learned as a child. His heart changed drastically after his conversion to Christ and His teachings at the age of 42. With all of that being stated as a preface, suffice it to say racism is no stranger to me in any shape or form. Ironically, I was introduced to full-time ministry as the road manager and armour bearer for a black evangelist, Bishop Carlton Pearson when I was 20 years old. I have been the Pastor of an integrated Church that is mostly African-American in San Antonio for 21 years. My grandchildren are all bi-racial and the five most beautiful kids on earth. My daughter is 16 years old and she is African-American. We adopted her when she was one year old. Therefore, this is a subject I am familiar with. I live integration I do not just “talk” it. I have seen things from all angles and perspectives in regards to prejudice.
Two of the most frightening times in my life had to do with race and Police. There was the day I was driving; I had my son in the car seat behind me (he was an infant) and my wife sitting next to me, we were on a road trip and came to an exit right outside of Atlanta. We were very hungry so I pulled off for some chicken. When I walked into the place to order my food I suddenly realized that I was the only white person in there. I proceeded to tell the cashier what I would like to order and she just looked at me with a blank stare. She offered no response. Then a voice came from a table in the corner of the restaurant. The gentleman stood with four other guys and said, “We don’t serve white honkies here, take your cracker ass somewhere else for food”. I remember thinking, “you aint fixin to talk to me like that!” After coming to myself, I walked backward all the way to my car with all five men cussing me out and making sure I was leaving. I was certain that I was about to get the beat –down of my life. My wife and child were my main concern. My heart felt like it was going to go through my chest.
Another instance that was a great challenge to me had to do with a Police Officer. I was pulled over for speeding. The policeman did the routine of asking for license and proof of insurance. After giving what he asked for I continued my conversation with the guy who was travelling with me and his wife. The Officer came back to the car after a very long wait. He proceeds to tell me to give him the keys to my car and when I reach to get them he reached for his gun. He asked, “What are you reaching for?” I said, “the keys sir”. He then tells me to step out of the car and pulls me to the back of the car very aggressively and begins to read me my rights as he grabs my arms one at a time saying to me, “put your arms behind your back”. I asked, “Sir, am I under arrest? And if so for what?” He refused to say why and told me he would talk to me once I was in the car. He then puts me in the car and asked if he could search my car. He goes back to my car and asked the guy and his wife for their license. He researches their identity, goes back to my car and makes them get out and stand in the weeds. He searches my car then comes back to me. He still has not informed me of why I was being arrested. By the way, it was 105 degrees outside and I do not know if you realize it but at least in this cop car there was no a/c in the back seat. Just hard plastic and Plexiglas. To say I was miserable is an understatement. Sweat was running down my face. The Officer finally stated my license had been suspended. I had received citation years before and never had a court date. Come to find out DPS had mailed my suspension notice to the wrong city. He did not care and remained determined to take me to jail. Eventually I went into a physical place that was scary to me. He had to call EMS and they took my blood pressure it was 170/120. He was persisting with the EMS techs working on me that he was still planning on taking me to jail. The techs became irritated with him and I finally ended up in the emergency room. I told the Officer time and again that I was a Pastor and this was a mistake and it certainly turned out to be one and no part of my own. He asked me at one point if I really thought he cared that I was a Pastor. It was a humiliating, embarrassing and very frustrating experience. The rudeness and lack of care was overwhelming to me. He was a white man that obviously had a bad morning and I felt that I was the one he was taking his frustration out on. My respect for his authority never altered regardless of him treating me like I had committed some major crime. As they were loading me into the ambulance I could hear him angrily saying, “When you get out of the emergency room I will be waiting to take you in.” After keeping me a few hours, I was diagnosed with a severe anxiety attack and a dangerous blood pressure reading. Upon being dismissed I discovered the officer “changed his mind.” I was relieved and extremely angry by this time.
It was a surreal experience.
Both of these situations only represent some of the stories I could tell you about what has happened to me in regards to race and Police. Trust me there are more, I was not “raised in church.” At this point I could segue my way into my feelings on all of this. Before I do let me quote one of my favorite leaders of all time. Martin Luther King said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” With that being stated you must know it is futile to continue reading if you do not have a passionate concern toward the goal of justice. If more people chose justice over prejudice or pre-judging we would live in a far more peaceful nation. You see justice is a word that is over used and misunderstood. Justice is treating someone fairly, adequately and with full respect and appreciation. It is something we desperately lack in our Nation. In both instances that I described to you there is no justice, no fairness and certainly no respect. At what point do I stereotype the black community to say it’s a color thing or do I stereotype all cops to be like the one who tried to arrest me? If I do that, I have at that point made myself as what I so despise.
America is a Nation boiling with a frustration that is a result of lack of proper training (in every area). The financial debacle, the unemployment, the education crises, etc…didn’t happen overnight. However, these and many other heightened pressures in our society are breeding grounds for racism, prejudice and lack of justice. There is perhaps no greater spokesman for justice than Martin Luther King. His thoughts have weaved their way into the minds of many in our Nation, if they could only land in our hearts…
“Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.” What a powerful thought - We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.
Let me begin to wrap this up by giving a look at this from another perspective. Interestingly enough my son said yesterday, “No perspective is perfect” and that is true. We all know that the most segregated day in America is Sunday, specifically Sunday morning. The day before for much of the year is the total opposite. Think of Saturdays from the end of August to the middle of January. Five months out of the year blacks and whites and every other color sit next to each other and cheer with each other for the boys on the field. These are stadiums that sit over 90,000 people. Old southern red necks screaming their lungs out for guys wearing helmets and if they saw the same guys on Monday at the corner store they would be watching out of the corner of their eye that is filled with mistrust and racism. Reverse racism is just as real. Saturday vs. Sunday and Saturday the look of integration is seen for at least a few hours. That’s right about the same amount of time as a really good Church service. See this bothers me! Why is it? Why is Sunday morning so segregated? I believe its because everyone that goes to church can run to their “safe-zone.” Where you can sit by your color and your kind.
If there is any institution that has missed it in regards to reconciliation and integration it is the church! Preachers talk one way and live another. We say love all men until something happens that disrupts our norm. I know because my mistakes and failures dislodged me from the circle of the perfect Pastors and they further disqualified me from their ranks in order to protect their image. No my brother as a man of the Kingdom you do not have the luxury of changing chairs because of preference, you must abide by the principle of love and forgiveness. It is this vacillating that has caused so much confusion. The beacon of light has become a flickering flame in a fog of rhetoric. Martin Luther King received a letter from religious leaders for saying much the same… his response came while he was incarcerated in Birmingham April 16th 1963-“but the judgment of God is on the church like never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Everyday I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust”
Finally, I must say I am disappointed just like so many of you. Saddened by what has happened in regards to justice. It is not fair that people steal from stores and not pay, it is not fair that the media pretty much decides the atmosphere and attitude of an entire nation, it is not fair that people can post lies about you on social media and its not fair that people who live in America can actually have no food. It is not fair when white people treat other races as inferiors; it’s not fair for Police to abuse their position. It was not fair that thousands of people were treated as slaves in Egypt for 430 years. It’s not fair that women get abused or that children are molested or that someone breaks your heart when you loved them so much. It was not fair that I did not get my chicken outside Atlanta and it wasn’t fair to be handcuffed and left in a car over 100 degrees for over an hour.
Where is justice when so much is not fair? Here is a fact; Life is not fair but God is. Fair left this earth a long time ago - “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.” - Romans 5:12. God is just - “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you” - 2 Thessalonians 1:6
God is fair. We just miss it most of the time. It is hard to see because perspectives are fabricating us and no perspective is perfect (thanks Dustin). Our perspectives have been influenced immeasurably by culture, media and so much more.
The protest will initiate some type of change in the way Police relate to people, especially people of color. However, the system will not change the heart. There will still be injustices and corruption in every area. What can we do? Pray, yes that is a posture that is scriptural and it works. How bout you? How do you pray? Is your prayer vindictive in its nature?
Let us try to live with justice being our heart and expression. I could go on forever; I’ll stop for now….Try to be fair…