A wise man once said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men”. Yet some 100 years later, our world is haunted by the very ignorance that Frederick Douglas so passionately fought. A leader, writer and orator who led the abolitionist movement in America’s adolescence has, in many ways, fallen on deaf ears.
We are ignorant and ignorance kills.
I was on a bike ride the other evening. I came upon the neighborhood park and what I heard chills me to this day. Approaching a group of elementary boys, I expected the typical baseball banter and crude jokes that is the backdrop of an 8-year-old, testosterone-driven discussion.
Instead, I approached misguided echoes of parenting, and progress gone awry. I approached a slap in the face to the values this country is founded on. It chilled me, but it did not surprise me.
“My parents hate Obama because he’s black,” the loudest boy said. “Mine, too,” the others replied.
A homeless man with a long history of mental illness was gunned down in Los Angeles by LAPD a few days back. Details are still surfacing, but the fact remains: Ignorance kills.
What I am about to say may ruffle some feathers, and that’s precisely what I’m prepared to do. You do not have to wear a white hood to be a raging racist. You do not have to elicit profane hate speech to twist an impressionable child.
Children are not born with an inherent distaste or skepticism about their peers. Racism is an ugly seed that is planted in their youth. It poisons the innocent love for others and imparts a web of hate. As to when or where this hate will surface is only a matter of time, but replacing a curious perspective with a cautious and crude lens distorts the beautiful reality that we can very much achieve.
And if we’re ever to beat the racism that destroys our culture, we’ve got to reconsider what we’re instilling in our children.
Our culture is broken. Police shootings and civilian distrust are the tip of the iceberg. They’re symptomatic of a parasitic cancer that spreads from misguided and jaded adults onto the next generation. The tragedy is that most people I know think this racism is a thing of the past. They think people different than themselves bring their demise upon themselves, voluntarily.
I’ll walk you through it. You don’t have to hang a man to leave him hanging. You don’t have to cut a man to cut down his worth. You don’t have to fight to hurt someone’s pride. No. Racism is a crude lens that distorts reality. Profiling puts people in boxes. Profiling is a stigma. Profiling perpetuates an unjust fear. This ignorance kills, whether it’s a bullet or a slow stagnation of empathy and equality.
I’d argue that if there’s one thing I know in life, it’s that hurting people hurt people. Truthfully, it’s pretty obvious that racism injures society on both fronts. This ignorance kills the judge and the judged. I find our lack of progress in the arena absolutely repugnant.
Here’s a little history lesson: Tupac released the song “Changes” in 1992.
The lyrics could have been written this morning…
As a society and a country we can invent pocket sized computers, we can send average people to space, we can 3D print a lemur doing a handstand but we haven’t figured out how to love our neighbors. Oh sure, if they dress like us, talk like us, hold down a steady job and attend our Super Bowl party then everything is groovy. But patriotism falls flat when it spits in the face of others. The only walls that exist in America are the ones we build inside her every day.
Stop mutating minds. Stop blaming them. Look in the mirror and love. Pray for the hurting. Evil deeds cannot exist where there is peace. Pray for new eyes and serving hands. Audit your daily reactions to the the people you encounter. Why do you shudder? Why do you favor? Why do you resist? Did you wake up and form these opinions of others some unfortunate morning or are you a byproduct of a broken culture?
It doesn’t matter if you wear a badge or serve fries. It doesn’t matter. Nobody on this earth is qualified to disqualify the worth of another.
The truth is in your face. The Selma movie, Ferguson, an NWA documentary… they’re all the latest iterations of the very hymnals expressed by enslaved Americans. History is repeating itself.The shackles may look different, but our thoughts have the power to free or enslave our neighbors.
I hope you choose the right path.
May you choose to love everyone. May you embrace anyone. And may you prune yourself from the shackles you place on others.
And if you don’t know, now you know.