Black in America...

The past is not passed...

I've been following a mini-series on CNN lately: Black In America.

I'm an awkward white dude with only a few friends of color throughout the years, mostly during college, so it's hard for me to know how some of these larger discussions impact individuals in local communities.

One of my wife's friends says the series is "offensive" because it plays on negative black stereotypes. She and her brother think it feeds into misperceptions and generalizations, rather than illuminating them.

So issues of race, repression and inequality are hard to talk about. People rightly get offended, and folks understandably have many, many different vantages from which to view the problems. There is no single "Black Perspective" because Black America is not a giant, homogenous culture (even if white, suburban America is).

Nevertheless, I'm reminded of a book I read several years ago entitled The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks, by Randall Robin. Most striking for me, was the transformation of my personal beliefs, into full support of American reparations for slavery. I realize that even saying I support reparations may suggest a sort of arrogance - an elitist "sensitivity" to the "less fortunate" of society. I have a hunch (from seeing, firsthand) that many ultra-liberal, financially generous philanthropists enjoy their humanitarian efforts out of the inherent identification they are able to achieve: the opposite of them - the benefactor of the other.

So I contend for reparations in humility, in a sense of Christian justice and equity, and in personal responsibility - recognizing there is blood on my hands for what I have been given without merit, by virtue of race, upbringing, and luck-of-the-draw, alone.

My friend Adam says "white guilt" is the central reason most Americans want to vote for Obama - or vote as liberals at all. Whether that's true or not, (I don't believe so) it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. White America has blood on its hands, and we need to repent of an awful ot - and work to redeem amidst the mess we've made.

  • I'm convicted as CNN proclaims that 33% of black men will be incarcerated in their lifetimes.
  • I'm shocked to hear that black men, with no criminal histories, have the same chances of employment as white men who have served prison time.

No one can respectably argue that Black America would be the same today if slavery had not been the driving force of the early American economy. Today's African American community would not face the striking disparities it does if emancipated slaves had received, as they were promised, "40 acres and a mule." Can you imagine the impact of generations of black landowners - from 1865 to today - how that heritage would impact 21st Century USAmerican reality?

The Debt opened my eyes to this fact: the past is not passed.

We carry it with us. Sins of the father, passed down for generations. Past abuses haunting children, grandchildren, and so on...

Can't we do better than the de facto segregation that still persists in much of America today? I may not be articulating any of this in a progressive or sufficiently sensitive, nuanced way. But how does an emerging, postmodern, POST-COLONIAL Christianity better-approach race relations than modern Christianity, with it's striking racial divides, congregation-to-congregation?

We have to do better.

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