The Race Card (My One Post about Race)

With regards to race, I have come to rest on two main truths:

1. There is both an individual manner and a collective manner to experience race.

and

2. If you have a heartbeat, you have the potential to be a racist. And there are many ways to be racist.

Let me break each one down, as candidly as possible…

1. There is both an individual manner and a collective manner to experience race.

Each race in America has both individual, day-to-day experiences as their race, as well as experiences shared with the remaining people of the same race. Those shared experiences can be at a community level, a state level, class level, political lean level, national level, etc. Both manners are necessary for statistical purposes. Some people make the mistake of assuming that their personal experience is the same for others of the same race, but that may or may not be true. This is why it is dangerous for people to use generalizations when discussing race, without the correct stats to back it up. Even our modern media can use “race baiting” tactics to make people conclude that a small collection of experiences is the majority. Whatever the race, you should be examining your community (the smallest collective you have easy access to), to see what the racial climate is like.

Having said that, it is easy for some to hide racist agendas on the institutional level (e.g. Job discrimination). Plus, people who have no local awareness of racism, will assume that racism does not exist, or that it isn’t a “big deal”. Many will assume that “the race card” is being used unfairly, and will experience frustration towards the “victimized” people group.

I have seen people compare their individual racial experience with an entire people group of another race. Example: “I don’t know why they need welfare, I’ve worked hard for everything I’ve owned my whole life and never got a single hand out. Those people are just entitled.”

Here’s the problem with that reasoning:

a. This person is making both racist and classist generalizations about that particular people group who are on welfare. This person isn’t just assuming that people on welfare are lazy and entitled, but that the people of that race (who are on welfare) are lazy and entitled.

b.¬†This person is also assuming that just because his individual experience was favorable (He worked hard and received the just due for his hard work), that EVERYONE’S experience will be the same. This is ideal, but naive. If we have learned anything from America’s history is that even though Lady Liberty welcomed many demographics onto her land, whom all had the same hopes and aspirations, not everyone has been able to achieve a piece of her coveted American dream. While it is honorable to teach others that individual hard work gets you success, it should also be taught that often times, the SYSTEM has uneven playing fields. Certain races teach each other to look out for those uneven places, not so we can sit and complain, but so that we can know how to survive and thrive IN SPITE of those places. The person who claims they do not exist are actually doing certain people groups a disservice.

If our nation is truly based on a free market and open, fair competition, I would rather win my place over the next man HONORABLY.

Okay. I hope you’re keeping up. On to #2.

2. If you have a heartbeat, you have the potential to be a racist. And there are many ways to be racist.

Inside, we are all the same. Historically, we were taught that blacks were born inferior due to the shape of the skull (re: Phrenology). Thankfully, we now know race to be both a sociological construct and a way to classify and experience shared culture. Some people promote a “racially blind” society, where they believe that if we would simply erase the racial lines, we would all see our similarities clearly and racism would thus be eradicated. Others feel that ridge separatism is the answer; that we should just stick to our own kind.

I’m of the school of thought that a balance should be achieved. That celebrating our differences, and seeing the beauty in each curl pattern and skin tone, will accomplish two things:

a. We will be amazed that we are all capable of great¬†things that are carried out in different ways. It’s the same as with the Biblical analogy of the Body of Christ. Some are feet, some are hands. Their differences in role and gifting are all needed for the Body. Unity does not have to equal uniformity.

b. We will recognize that we are all identical in our ability to commit the worst atrocities. We create a shared humanity by seeing that we are all human. I am amazed by how some people groups fight for equality, but will only fight for the best and brightest claims to being human. Here are a couple of examples: White Privilege exists because some Whites accept the benefits of their race but little of the responsibility that comes with it. And Blacks are infamous for being quick to distribute blame on a collective front, but take no responsibility back to their communities. We all hurt. And we are all responsible.

Going back to the two manners of experiencing race: we share responsibility on both individual and shared levels. If you never examine both manners, then you are only taking half of your responsibility. And you may feel that racism isn’t a huge deal, but it may be because you are only looking as far as your front yard. Look deeper. Look farther.

There is still so much to be done.

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Let Them Play

I’m reading the book, Scary Close by Donald Miller and it is jarring loose major parts of my life and thinking.

He tells a story of one of his breakthroughs that occurred while in therapy: speaking to his 9 year old self, who’d he had given the burden/responsibility of gaining attention and validation from others. His 9 year old self had the mindset that he had to be bigger and better in order to gain love from others. Also, this 9 year old represented his outer self; the persona he projected for others. There was also his inner self that existed, his true self, whom the author decided was about 35 years old. His inner self was at peace and okay with being alone most of the time, meanwhile the outer self was stressed and fearful.

The therapist told him to sit in a chair across from his 9 year old self and talk to him. Donald Miller said, “I also want to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry for pushing you out there in the world so you could impress people for us and fight for us and make money for us while I sat in here and read books”.

I paused after reading this and begin to cry. Looking across my bedroom, I stared at the wall and imagined the age/image of my inner self. She is 14 years old; bangs covering up her quiet, wise eyes, but sitting up straight for fear that others are watching. She wears baggy clothing so that her shape doesn’t show too much, and she’s picking at the sides of her jeans to help keep her from running off to her room; her place of refuge.

She sees me staring at her, so she straightens her back even more, and waits for me to speak.

“I bet you’re exhausted, huh? I’m sorry I let them put so much pressure on you. You’re not even close to being done being a kid, but you’re preoccupied with so many burdens right now. Here, let me take those from you. I know just what to do with them. Please, go off and play. You’re far from done playing.”

Those last two sentences resounded deeply inside of my heart.

Children find both expression and freedom when engaged in play. Imagine, the whole world is filled with turmoil and pain, but our children (the brightest and purest of us) actively seek Play. I had not reached the age where I no longer needed play to express my joys and frustrations. In fact, I needed play at 14 more than ever. It was stripped from me, and I was given adult burdens in its place.

A child who is unable to play is a traumatized child. They see the world with a different set of eyes, and without an adult to protect them, they are left to both understand and defend against this new world on their own.

This was a profound truth to realize because it made me understand why I interact with others the way I do. Why I still throw up a wall when I have conflict in my marriage. And why I still struggle with trusting spiritual authority.

I’m so thankful that God sees me as His child, no matter my age. And that He still encourages me to have liberty and joy in Him. I can cast all burdens to Him and truly be “as a child”. I still believe my days of play are far from over.

Additionally, my struggle fueled my purpose, which is to work with children. Provide them with an atmosphere where they can play freely, without judgement, and encourage their sense of joy and abandon. There are many children who do not have anyone to defend their right to play. Some who have placed adult burdens on to their shoulders and emphasize correct behavior over exploration and the process of becoming an individual. My heart of hearts is to “let children play”.

Their…our…lives depend on it.

A Way with Words

“You have such a way with words.”
“Hey, when’s the book coming out?”

Before I even thought seriously about becoming a writer, many of my friends and loved ones recognized my talent. Not that I don’t appreciate a compliment, but I had to ignore the acclaim to see if I loved writing as much as I appeared. So, I busied myself. Filled my life with other good, important tasks so that I didn’t have time to write. No one else knew that I was doing this. In a way, even I wasn’t sure of what I was doing.

And I realized that I was implementing only 40% of my insides to the world around me. I wasn’t able to articulate my creativity as fluidly in my other responsibilities/jobs. I consistently felt less than competent most of the time. There I was, surrounded by opportunities to create new projects and bring change to organizations that I work for, but I was clogged mentally. What’s more frustrating is that I knew I held a unique gift for words that could be useful in some way, but no steam or confidence to show it. For example, a particularly favorite task of mine is to help students with resumes/cover letters. Only because I get the awesome privilege to mold words. Every resume appointment that I had or anything remotely close revealed me as steady and focused.

Reluctantly, I admit that I whined in the beginning.

“in the end, the effectiveness of our creative process comes down to whether or not were going to whine or do the work.” — Blaine Hogan

Eventually, I realized that it was my own fault for crowding out my love for words with other, slightly less, but very important pursuits. Furthermore, these pursuits cannot keep me from writing unless I allow it. For me, the work involved holding writing as a priority for work, and not just as a needed hobby to decompress or maintain my sanity. I owed writing more of my efforts.

I have always wanted to explain an inexplicable feeling. My very first poem was written to express grief over losing my brother. I didn’t know any other way to help satisfy the pressure I felt on my shoulders. I had cried, prayed, and spent time with people I knew loved me. But the weight was too significant. Even though I didn’t receive full release (there is still a portion to the void left), I cannot duplicate the feeling I experienced when I place words to page.

In that moment, I knew exactly how I felt. I was able to explain my grief. And I felt at peace with God. That momentary clarity showed me that everything was going to be alright. If I had the strength to scribe my pain, it meant that I had lived through it. Life was still livable. No amount of pain could conquer my soul as long as I had this ability to communicate to God via pad/pen.

Not only did I vividly understand why David scribed most of the Psalms, but I felt why it was included in the canonical book we know as the Bible.

I had reached into my core and pulled out whatever I could get my hands on. Calm or tumultuous. Brimming with kindness or hatred. Purpose followed. Because I knew God had/would surround me with people who held unexplainable emotions/circumstances in their feeble hands. Would I be the one He would use to bring clarity to minds burdened by turmoil?

If this was so, then I would be need to be moved in amazing measures before I would use words to move others.

Which brings me to one of my purposes in life: Using words to help maneuver hearts through life; sparking lights of passion in those who simply seek to exist.

“You have such a way with words!”

Again, I appreciate the compliment, but this is more than a talent.