I watch the news, read the articles and browse the social media posts. Protesters with hands in the air shouting, “Don’t shoot.” Athletes wearing t-shirts saying, ” I can’t breathe.”
I admit that I am conflicted. I have friends who are black. And, I have friends who are police officers.
Not ever been in their shoes I can’t fully appreciate the stress that a police office faces every day on the job.
A couple of weeks ago I hung out with a friend who is a police officer. I heard his stories about stress on the job, encountering people who did the unpredictable and the scrutiny police officers are under these days.
As a white man, I will never understand what it is like to live life as a black man.
But I want to try to understand.
I recently met with some good friends of mine that I have known for over 20 years. They are black. They grew up in the 1960s and 70s. You know, the era of student protests on university campuses; civil right protests on buses and diners.
I wanted their take on what is happening today. Did it have the same feel as when they were young? Had things gotten any better for people of color?
We didn’t really discuss police brutality. Instead, we talked about black/white racial tension that remains today and what can help it improve.
I enjoyed our two hour, candid conversation. By the end, five words surfaced for me:
Fear is a powerful emotion. It causes us to do things that otherwise we would never consider doing. Fear typically causes three reactions—Freeze, flight (run away), or fight.
Traumatic experiences, whether our own or someone else’s and unfamiliar people or things can feed our fear.
My friends who are black encounter experiences much different than me simply because my skin happens to be white.
For example, anytime I am pulled over by a police officer (yes I have been pulled over) the only reason my heart begins to race is if I think I have an outstanding ticket. But for my black friends, their heart rate increases because they are not sure how this person approaching their car will react to the color of their skin.
Then for a police officer, they never know what they are walking into. They deal with bad people every day, and bad people do bad things.
Fear clashing with fear.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we all make assumptions. How a person dresses, what they drive, where they live, and yes, the color of their skin can and does affect the assumptions we make about that person.
One afternoon, after my friends moved into their new home in a predominantly white neighborhood, he was mowing his front lawn. A car pulled up and a couple got out. “Can we take a look inside the house?”, they asked. They assumed that the house was a model home and he was a lawn care guy.
Would they have made that same assumption if it had been me mowing that lawn?
Some people shouldn’t be trusted. But the color of my skin should not be what determines whether I am trustworthy.
Instead it should be my actions that determines whether you will trust me or not.
Why not at least try to understand each other instead of trying to change each other? If not, we will continue to live in fear, make assumptions and surely not trust.
Some things are and will always be different between a black and a white person. That is the nature of culture and people groups.
However we have many things in common too.
Why not enjoy both our differences and what we have in common?
What we need is honest and respectful dialogue.
Today’s culture seems to have lost its ability to have dialogue on challenging subjects. You don’t agree with me? Then I will either shout you down or not talk to you at all.
We talk, complain and vent within our homogenous groups—those who look like us or at least think like we do.
My friend admitted that over Thanksgiving several of her friends and family were sitting around lashing out against the privileged white people in America. Then she stopped and wondered what her white friends would think if they had walked in and heard what they were saying.What if I had walked in right then?
How many times have I been a part of or sat in on similar conversations among white friends or family?
If we ever want to see an end of racial tension, we have to stop b****ing among ourselves and begin talking with each other.
Are you one who is protesting in the streets, vandalizing stores and homes, obstructing instead of constructing? Please take another approach.
Are you one who prejudges and makes assumptions either fearing or hoping that some things will never change? Please put that mindset aside.
In some ways we have made progress since the 1960s. In other ways we have regressed. But, America continues to be a culturally diverse country. I believe that this is a good thing and a strength to embrace not be afraid of or fight.
We Americans are not the only who struggle with racial tension. Why? Our world is broken. It simply is not right. Yet, as a Christian, I believe that there is One who can make it right again. And He promises that one day He is coming again to make it right. But until then…
Will you join me in this dialogue? Leave your comment below! Just remember to keep it civil. I reserve the right to remove any comment I deem inappropriate.