StreetLights On A Saturday Night: The Color Of Kindness
Kindness comes in all colors. Shouldn’t freedom, equality, and opportunity come in all colors too? It has been some time, March 17th actually, since I have given any Uber/Lyft rides. I miss meeting people in those rides and hearing their unique life journeys. That experience always helped restore my faith in humanity. With all that has happened and is happening in the world, that faith in people has been challenged again. More than any issue, and we have plenty to choose from, I am focused tonight on race. One of the benefits of being an Uber/Lyft driver is the diversity of my passengers. I often felt like the United Nations on wheels.
These last few years have been especially difficult for issues of race. We have seen much hate and fear. We have seen our own president spew hateful and racist language on an almost daily basis. Worse yet, black and brown people in this country have been marginalized and disadvantaged in ways we thought were being put behind us in the story of America.
A conversation, a true national dialogue is occurring and has been long overdue. We are in a unique moment for our nation. We, ALL OF US, need to use this moment for good, for progress. White people, we MUST work harder to understand the true racial inequities in this country. That means stepping outside of our belief system, our ideology. That means listening to black and brown perspective, learning black and brown history. It means honoring both the sacrifices of black and brown Americans, but also acknowledging current plight for people of color.
We cannot help or be a part of this conversation from our own white space. I am speaking now to my white friends and family who are outraged over people who kneel before the flag or protest systemic racism and police brutality.
That flag IS a symbol for our freedom, our national identity, 50 states united, and it IS something we honor as representing all those who have given their lives to defend it, to defend us. But when that freedom isn’t the same for all Americans, then the American flag isn’t living up to its promise. That means America isn’t living up to Its promise.
We cannot fly a flag that we hold so dear, because it represents free and equal Americans, if some of those whom we expect to honor it at ballgames and events don’t feel as free and equal as we do. Black and brown people love this country every bit as much as white people. I would argue they love it more because people of color have suffered so much more for the stars and stripes since before we even declared our independence.
We cannot continue to express outrage over flag kneeling, protesting and even the rioting (which is usually as diverse in the color of the agitators as the color of our citizens) and not continue the conversation as to why.
This is where white America is failing. We cannot be a contributing part of the conversation if our first comments are to express outrage and disappointment with how people choose to stand (or kneel) and be heard because they have and continue to suffer racial injustice, racial bias, police brutality, and feel marginalized under the banner that is supposed to symbolize equal freedom, justice, and opportunity.
My conservative friends and family continue to be unapologetic about being white and Christian and flag loving Americans. OK. You are in your white space and you refuse to give it up or step out of it. But why are you so offended by the idea that others, who don’t feel they have the same American promises as you should ask for it?
Show me a flag that truly represents a free and equal America, for people of all color, and I will show you a country free of protest.
We have a chance to change that. We, our generation, I mean those of us who are here now, we can and must find solutions together to end racism, racial inequalities and the gross imbalance of opportunity in this country (which goes well beyond race).
If you want to see an end to kneeling before the flag, to protests, to people feeling they must organize under a slogan that actually says black lives matter, yelling at them in outrage or condemnation about how, where, or when they should choose to be heard is not the answer. That is just white people living in their white space with their unempathetic white ideology.
White people, it is time to change the conversation. It is time we stopped requiring all these conditions of our brothers and sisters of color before they can stand and be heard. Moreover, we need to do more than just shut up and listen. For a brief moment after George Floyd was murdered it seemed like the whole nation was focused and listening. But that didn’t last more than a split second in our time and soon the familiar cacophony of racial division overtook the conversation again.
Even that moment fell short. More than just shutting up and listening, we need to understand. We need to engage. We need to recognize that to make this country live up to the ideals and promises, the freedoms we so greatly represent in our national identity, in our symbology, and in our flag, we must acknowledge that it will require white people to change. And therein lies the true issue at hand. We have a racial problem and it is white people who caused it, perpetuate it, and continually deny it. We need to acknowledge this. This is a difficult thing to do. But it is the kind thing to do and kindness comes in all colors. So life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness should come in all colors as well.
I want to add a few words to this conversation from the Christian perspective. Christ was an incredible teacher. He gave us a path to follow. But Jesus was also a very good listener. As Christians, as white Christians, it would behoove us to first listen, second acknowledge and respect our brothers and sisters of color. 3rd, only assume they love America too. Protests are the proof, not evidence to the contrary. 4th, with no caveats or criticisms, we need to ask how we can help. We need to be willing able to change our own beliefs, even just a little.
I began looking to the Bible for guidance on this. I believe I found it. Not surprisingly it all comes down to effective communication and not prejudging. Guess what, white America, we can do better. We must do better. We must be better listeners. We must find a way to get out of our own white spaces and stop first requiring others to come to us and act through our societal lense.
I found this excerpt as part of a story online about proverbs 18, written by:
Steve Watkins, Pastor
Trinity Bible Church
“Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” The Hebrew word that is translated opinion in the ESV is leb – which simply means, “heart”, “mind”, or “the inner person.” In other words, verse 2 of Proverbs 18 ascribes to the fool the quality of neglecting and despising objective truth in favor of believing what he wants to believe. His opinion may or (most likely) may not be based on any kind of fact or evidence. More likely, the fool’s “opinion” is a conclusion that is convenient to his own inner, self-serving feelings and desires.”
Let us not make conclusions driven by our own selfish, prideful, and myopic sense of what we believe we deserve. Otherwise we won’t see past our own “needs” and “rights” to even imagine what others might be going through. How hurtful our selfish, prideful foolishness can be.
“Verse 13 of Proverbs 18 reinforces this wisdom and points to the damage it causes, saying, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Jesus surely taught us, in the Sermon on the Mount, that the wisdom and Law of God’s righteousness applies not only to the outside of the cup of our lives, but most importantly, to the inside. Proverbs does not only condemn as foolishness the impulsive words that come out of our mouths, but first and foremost the impulsive conclusions of mind and heart that drive those words. The folly of verbalizing an answer before hearing comes from the inner arrogance of believing a conclusion before having all the facts, which is precisely the sin that verse 2 exposes. How often we give ourselves permission to do this! How often we elevate our own inner perceptions and instincts (formed by our own sinful tendencies toward self-justification) to the level of inerrancy, and then allow ourselves to form conclusions that become the basis for accusations that have no basis in fact, reality or truth.”
We said goodbye to John Lewis this week. He has been a true Kindness Warrior throughout his life. His kind and peaceful leadership came in all colors. He has given all of us a blueprint for peace and equality, as well as our marching orders to continue improving America and the promise of freedom and equality. Contrary to popular belief, kindness can be very difficult and challenging. But that kindness is forever remembered in living color. We are in a critical moment in our country. My prayer is that love and kindness should win the day…
For John, for all of us.
Peace be with you, Kindness Warriors. Keep the conversation going.
Checkout Byron Sanders
Byron Sanders is the President and CEO of Big Thought. He says he sees more people willing to engage than ever before and knows that real change and improvement can happen if we don’t shrink away from this moment. MORE: wfaa.com/equality Subscribe to WFAA: https://bit.ly/subscribetowfaa