Is It Because I Am Black?

I wonder if he just noticed what just happened.” I was on a recruiting trip at a conference and it was lunch time. My white colleague and I decided to explore the mall in hopes of finding a place to eat. After looking at the long line and the other restaurants we decided to eat at a place that served chicken and waffles. There was no line. A Caucasian girl was taking orders and preparing food. We ordered the same meal. Before we received our order of chicken and waffles she asked if we wanted hot sauce and honey. We were both are from the south so we said “YES” without hesitation.

I watched her pour the honey into one cup. The bottle of honey was almost empty. She squeezed the bottle until no more honey would come out. The cup was filled halfway. Then she went to the back to get a new bottle. She finished filling the first cup to the brim. Then she filled the second cup only halfway. Next, she started to pour the hot sauce.  She filled the first cup, but the second cup was only filled halfway. When I saw the unequal portions of the cups I thought “She is going to give me the cups that are partially filled.” I waited, hoping I was wrong.  Sadly, I was right she handed me the half-filled cups.

I walked away wondering if my white colleague saw what happened. I also pondered another question, “Was I given less because of my blackness?”

The Hovering Question 

Is it because I am black?” I ponder this question quite often. Often I walk into spaces where I stick out because of my darker skin tone. However, I imagine many other African Americans ponder this question as well. But situations like the one mentioned above always bring the question back to mind. My white colleague was dressed similar to me, ordered the same meal, but he received more. I don’t know the reason the girl gave him more, so I am just left with assumptions. However, this is not the case in other situations.

The Hovering Facts

Black people make up 13.3 percent of the population in America. We make up 37.7 percent of the prison population in America. Black people make up 38 percent of the people in poverty in America. More than half of black children in America are born in single parent homes. Twenty-four percent of the people shot and killed by police in 2015 were African American. The unemployment rate for African Americans is 7.9 compared to the 3.8 white unemployment rate. African American boys are perceived to be older and are not perceived to have the same childhood innocence as their white counterparts.

I know that is a lot of stats and you may be able to forget them. I can’t. I was the black boy who was assumed to be older. I have family in prison. I grew up in poverty and in a single parent home. I have seen the videos of African Americans killed unjustly by police. I have family members who desired a job but struggled to find one. These stats haunt me because those numbers have names and faces attached.

The Steadfast God 

I am troubled by the assumptions and stats, but I am comforted by the God who is mindful and cares for us (Psalm 8:4). My soul rests in the fact that His love and His mercy is never ending (Lamentations 3:22). The hairs on my head are numbered. He knows and controls the stats. His sovereignty is enough to calm my vexed soul. However, I still have questions.

Though the stats may hover and assumptions may be many, my God is still on the throne. He knows what happens because of my blackness and He will never give me less than what is good for me (Romans 8:28; Matthew 7:11).

 

Would love to hear others share their stories or thoughts….

 

What Can We Learn From “The Free State of Jones”?

 “The winds are shifting and you can’t fight it this time,” said Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). “There’s plenty left to fight for,” responded Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey). Newton Knight was the protagonist in The Free State of Jones. Knight was a revolutionary who cared about people, not profit. He felt sorrow when he saw young men dying prematurely in the confederate army and felt anger when African Americans were treated inhumanely. Knight was convinced there was plenty to fight for. His convictions resulted in him starting the Free State of Jones county and fighting for it. He fought not just for the county, but he fought for equality for his black brothers and sisters. Knight displayed three characteristics that are applicable in relieving racial tension today.

Knight Acknowledged African-American Humanity

    Number four, every man is a man. If you walk on two legs, you’re a man. It’s as simple as that” said Newton Knight as he declared the stipulations of being a part of the free state of Jones.  This was a radical statement for blacks to hear because they had been considered property, not people since birth.  In the movie, Knight was never seen as a person who treated slaves like an expendable resource.

    When his son fell ill and he didn’t have access to a doctor, he was told about Rachel, a female slave, who could offer him help. She fearfully came to his home and nursed his son back to good health. He treated her like a human, not a resource while she was there. Knight offered to fetch supplies for her when she insisted on doing it. In addition, when she was getting ready to depart he grabbed her hands, thanked her, and gave her a piece of gold. She perceived it as doing what she was loaned to do, but he saw it as an act of kindness displayed to his son by another human being. Knight perceived black people as individuals created in the image of God in a time where he could have easily developed the elitist attitude that was common among whites.

Knight Spoke For Them

    Moses Washington (Mahershala Ali) was a close black friend of Knight. There is a scene in the movie where Knight and his companions are celebrating a victory by roasting a pig. The white people started eating the pig first then the blacks got their portion. Washington was the first to retrieve his portion. While doing so he was asked by a white individual “Whatcha think you doing n****?” He continued to pick up his meat and then responds. It seems as though Washington was about to be a victim of a racial crime, but then Knight speaks up. He affirms that Washington has as much right to this meat as he does.

    Knight lived with his black sisters and brothers. He ate, slept, and worked with them. Once he was questioned about living in Soso, MS because a person made a statement akin to “isn’t that where all the n***** are?” He responded with a statement akin to“we don’t have any n*****.”  A statement that could have cost a black person his life. Knight used his privilege to speak on behalf of those who were still thought of as partially human.

Knight Acknowledged and Utilized His Privilege

    He was raised in a society in which he possessed certain privileges that were not afforded to his black companions. He exercised his privilege to protect them. When Moses Washington’s son was kidnapped, Knight accompanied his armed and angry friend. “They will arrest me, but they will kill you,” said Knight as he insisted on going with Moses to find his son. He went to court and bought back Washington’s son because he had the ability to do so. 

    Another example of this was the scene where he walks to the voting office with a number of blacks. They marched to the voting office singing “John Brown.” If they were alone they were more likely to be shot down in the streets. Although, Knight walked with them into the voting office and demanded a Republican ballot. He was the voice for his black family and as a result they each received ballots (which were not counted in the election). He utilized his privilege to benefit those who were marginalized in society.

The Fight Is Not Over

    This movie brought to mind the PBS documentary “Many Rivers To Cross.” This documentary displays how throughout history little battles have been won but there is a war still being fought. Laws and policies do not change the hearts of men. The sins of racism, partiality, and injustice are still present in this world. No human institution can eradicate them. Sin will not exit this world until Jesus enters again.

    Until then, we need to acknowledge that God’s image-bearers are victims of racism, partiality, and injustice. If we can not admit this we are naive to the power of sin in this world. Admitting that the people mentioned in the news, blogs, and statuses were people crafted by the hand of God before they were hashtags is the first step to making progress. Then we can truly “weep with those who weep”,” mourn with those who mourn”, and “rejoice with those who rejoice”. When we realize their humanity we will speak for them, not argue innocence. We don’t have to know all the facts, just one: God created them. The helpful utilization of certain privileges will not happen until we acknowledge people are worth being spoken for and need you to speak for them because sin hinders their voices from being heard. Coming to grips with the reality of God’s image-bearers that are dying and being hindered from being heard because of sin’s power in this world leads you to the fact that “There is plenty left to fight for” and the gospel is the only viable weapon in this war.