One of the major themes of our Cru15 conference was racial reconciliation / ethnic diversity. As Lori and I looked over the conference schedule, we noticed a breakout called #blacklivesmatter. This refers to the hashtag that has been used to speak of the disparity in treatment of black people, especially men, at the hand of law enforcement officers in the past year or so. Part of the reason we wanted to attend the event had to do with the fact that we have cared for two black foster children in the last year, and recognize that we know very little about what it is like to be a black person in our country.
The main purpose of this breakout was simply to hear the stories of what it is like to grow up black in the USA. It was heartbreaking to hear of the racism that my brothers and sisters in Christ have dealt with that I’ve never had to endure. There was one story that gripped my heart more deeply than all the others, the story of a father speaking to his son on the cusp of getting his drivers license.
Part of the driver’s training a parent must now give to a black child must include what to do if you are pulled over. There is the sad reality that many have been pulled over simply for a DWB (Driving While Black). One father shared how he told his son that if you are pulled over, pull to where there are a lot of people who can watch the situation unfold. You must keep your hands on the steering wheel, looking straight ahead at all times. Only when the police officer reaches the window do you roll it down, very slowly. Do exactly what they tell you to, or else he may pull you out of the car. Do nothing suddenly, for the policeman may assume you are going for a gun and shoot you. He told his son to swallow any pride or anger or anything but absolute submission, because his life may depend upon it. This broke my heart, because I never had that talk. Mine was simply, give respect to the police and you’ll receive it as well.
I do not write this to talk about how police act, or if anyone is responsible when pulled over or any of those things, but simply to show that there is an inherent bias against these young black men. It was a powerful time of listening to people who have suffered hurt, and some times at the hands of those who are supposed to protect and serve us.
There were also stories of people being told by their black family and peers to not come on staff with Cru, because it is a predominantly white organization that they thought would not understand what it’s like not to be in the majority culture. Their lives have been a different path than mine, and I hadn’t much—up to that point—stopped to listen to what their stories might be.
My desire is to be part of the solution that rejects the continuing inequalities of opportunity in our country. I don’t know what it will involve, but I think it begins with listening to people’s stories, making friends, and being an advocate for every person to be viewed primarily as a person of infinite worth, made in the image of God.