Many of you know that I had the privilege of growing up in the inner-city of Chicago. I have invited many of you to try and find me in my third grade class picture that I have hanging on my wall (Hint: Mine is the only white face in the picture). Those thirteen years shaped my view of race relations in our country in a way that is different than anyone else I know, except for my brothers. As I watched the events of this last month play out, many thoughts swirled in my head wondering what words I could offer. Then I read what my brother Lee Ranney, who lives near Minneapolis, had to say. I can’t improve on his words, so I asked if I could share them with you. Here they are:
Today I had a brief conversation with an employee at a convenience store/gas station. The exchange with this young African American man went like this:
I asked him, “Are we finally going to get justice this time?”
“Is anything going to change?”
His response? “No.”
That’s where we are. After so many unnecessary deaths and acts of violence against people of color where the perpetrators go free, after 400 years of abuse, being treated as less than human and being victimized by laws and economic practices designed to keep them disenfranchised, there is no hope that any change for the better will ever come. How do you respond to the utter hopelessness felt by many in this country? Now is not the time for platitudes and catchy slogans. Now is the time to commit to working for that change that many think will never come. It starts with justice. But that’s not enough! Pick one:
Work to change the criminal justice system.
- Work to change law enforcement attitudes and practices that discriminate against the less fortunate.
- Work to change access to economic advancement for everyone.
- Work to completely eliminate discriminatory practices in real estate.
- Work to ensure that the disenfranchised not only have equal access to health care but also the assurance of equal treatment.
- Work to eliminate food insecurity.
- Work on your personal encounters and interactions with people who are not like you. Treat them the way you would want to be treated (I think I read that somewhere).
- Above all, work to bring hope back to the hopeless.
The above list is not exhaustive. If there is something on your radar that has caused you to become aware of discriminatory or dehumanizing practices, speak up. Take action. Make a difference where you are.
You may be asking, “Why is this Old White Guy so worked up about this?” This OWG grew up in the Englewood neighborhood on the south side of Chicago (look it up). Let’s just say that I was easy to pick out in my class pictures. As such, I became aware at an early age of the struggles of my black friends and their families. That knowledge became a part of me, and I have carried it with me all my life. I have many good memories of growing up where I did (which included some trials and troubles along the way, but that’s life) and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
It allowed me to internalize a perspective on life that you don’t get from reading a book, watching a TV show or a movie or listening to a podcast. It’s not just what I’ve learned. It’s who I’ve become.
I’m not a Democrat. I’m not a Republican. I’m not an evangelical, fundamentalist, liberal, socialist or communist or any other ist. I am a human being who loves God and wants to follow Him to the best of my ability. That’s why I’m so worked up about this. Won’t you join me?
Jesus said ‘I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison (read oppressed) and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:35-40)
Pastor Steve Ranney