Friday, February 19, 2016
"Why Do I Need to Talk to White People?" asked a young Dominican.
This post was written as part of DOOR Hollywood's feed just under one year ago, as a throwback Friday post (just made that up): Keep up with the discussion on Twitter, here.
Over the weekend, Marvin (DOOR Hollywood Associate Director) and I got to speak with the men of Scottsdale’s Valley Presbyterian Church about #ReconciliationMatters. Marvin said something he often says that originated from one of our biracial Discerners: “why do we need to talk to white people?”
Meanwhile, we have an energetic and open group from Grand Valley State University here now, from western Michigan (which is my homestate’s Anglo bible belt). Some of them have asked, “who has to make the first step in improving race relations? Every time I try, it seems like people I speak to aren’t interested.”
There is injustice, surely. But I think I’m seeing efforts made on both sides…though both are hesitant. The Samaritan story keeps blessing me. The Samaritan made great efforts to cross the line. Jesus is asking the religious scholars to make great efforts in listening and receiving the story He tells. Will they? Well, no, because they killed Jesus.
So will we? I’m speaking to mostly white people, too, and so many times they (we) want to hide behind guilt, or are often not wanting to talk because we don’t want to be hit with guilt. We just never say anything so nobody can ever call us racist.
But isn’t the Samaritan story asking us to choose listening instead of guilt? Could the religious scholars receive the lesson about a hero from the other side of the tracks or not? Can we? Will we? We, as white people who enjoy benefits of privilege only granted to us, could choose to stay feeling guilty, or we could listen and seek first to understand, to empathize instead of sympathize, to find our commonness in being God’s children. And no: there is no use in feeling guilty for what my forefathers may or may not have done. But there is use in thinking critically about my current behaviors and attitudes. First, however, I need to listen.
So prayer seems pretty important. If not absolutely critical. And the other question is what Marvin and I are working on constantly: why do white Christian people need to listen to people of color? That’s the work we are focused on. That’s the door we are prayerfully and consistently trying to open, or keep open for longer than, say, the shortest month of the year. Maybe instead of taking the first step forward, we need to set a table that invites others in, and then just sit down and listen. And then pray, together, and wait on God to show us what's next. - Matthew