In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed wrote this –
“I don’t feel tired.” (Slavery hymn) I don’t know about you but I’m “sick and tired” of lots of stuff these days…but imagine yourself as a slave – you’d be tired. Really tired. But the slaves sang in the fields “I don’t feel tired. I don’t believe God has brought me this far to leave me.” Today let us remember that God has not brought us this far to leave us.
In today’s world, the streets have been substituted for the fields and the songs contain the phrases “Don’t Shoot” and “I can’t breathe”. What hasn’t changed for most of the African –Americans in the demonstration is the belief that God is still with them. Certainly, there is frustration and anger that the oppression of racism continues to exist, but there is also an abiding belief that God is with them and that things can and will get better.
The process of change in our society is frustratingly slow, but it is also inevitable when the change is to right some wrong direction that the society has allowed itself to fall into following. Some wrongs are more deeply ingrained than others and racism is one of the most deeply ingrained in America. It is fairly easy to see the contrast in relationships between races or ethnic groups when one travels to foreign countries, even countries as close as Canada. There is a natural acceptance of differences in people, rather than an unnatural fear or suspicion.
There is much said about this being a systemic problem, and it is. Our system reacts to the needs of the minority community and the bad behavior that those needs drive by cracking down, beefing up police presence and building bigger prisons. Our “solution” is to try to make the problems go away by putting people away – out of sight. We do not focus on rehabilitation of those we incarcerate, just on keeping them out of sight. We do not focus upon improving the schooling, and thus the opportunities, for minority youth and then wonder why they went wrong later, as so many had already concluded that they would.
Our national leaders take great pride in declaring the United States to be the greatest nation on earth, yet try to ignore that a significant portion of our population has been left out of that greatness because of the color of their skin. It’s not like we don’t realize that we have this problem (see the Pew Research Group report on racism in America of 2019 – https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2019/04/09/race-in-america-2019/). It is that, so far, we don’t have the national will to make the changes that are needed in or society.
Recently, Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, made a major announcement of an effort to make General Motors the most inclusive company possible and to work to eliminate racism in any form within the company. Maybe it will be the actions of business leaders, rather than political leaders, that will cause change in our society. If other major business leaders join Barra in the fight to eliminate racism within their companies, it would be a step forward to resolving the systemic nature of the problem. Enlightened business leaders see, and actually get, the benefits that they can achieve from a well-integrated and diverse work force.
Hopefully the anger and frustration fueling the peaceful demonstrations in the streets today will translate to real change in the upcoming elections at all levels, but especially at the top. We need real leadership, not egomaniacal showmanship and Tweeting at the national level. We need men and women in Congress and the Senate who will get behind real change in laws and programs that work to include everyone, not just incarcerate some. We need changes to our education system to focus on preparing and equipping the youth of today (of all races and colors) to be contributing members of society.
The good news is that as the old slave hymn said – God didn’t bring us this far to leave us. Perhaps had he opened that bible that he was waving around as a prop for his photo op, The Tweeter in Chief would have noticed that God didn’t say “when the looting begins the shooting begins”. Rather, he might have found the advice, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22:39). Show that loved for your neighbors of all races by getting out to vote for real change in November. The choices have never been more obvious.
As a funeral closing song, I like the old spiritual: “Soon and very soon, we’re going to meet the King.”