Growing up as a kid, when I would fall and get a scrape or cut myself somehow, my mother would apply a band-aid to my wound. But not BEFORE she kissed my boo-boo, washed the wound, and then applied some antiseptic ointment to keep bacteria and other nasties from infecting the wound, further agitating the wound, and preventing it from healing properly.
I’m sure many of you had the same kind of experience when you hurt yourself as well.
Had my mother simply and callously applied the band-aid without the kiss, the wash, and the antiseptic ointment, and then told me to “walk it off”…I might have found myself taking much longer to heal, seeing ugly scars forming, and honestly feeling like my mother probably didn’t care that I had hurt myself, to begin with.
And yet, this is exactly what we as a nation…especially those who have no genealogical connection to slavery or have skin tones that would draw the unfortunate and unjust treatment of other fellow citizens…have done with race relations.
As a nation we had centuries of slavery, and then a civil war, and then segregation, and finally the civil rights movement…and through it all, we simply and (perhaps even callously) applied band-aids made of money and laws to the racial wounds in an attempt to try and cover up and fix the deep wounds that were applied to the black community, and ultimately to this nation as a whole.
And then we have the audacity (knowingly or unknowingly) to sit back and fully expect that the black community would somehow just “get over it” and “move on”, and “walk it off”, and just go on with life as if the previous couple hundred years bore no weight or had any implication on their souls…I mean…after all…we have passed laws so they could use the same bathroom and drink from the same fountains as white folks and we have given them money to help them rebuild….right?
Isn’t that enough?
In short…no…it’s not.
Remember my story about my mom putting on my band-aids as a kid?
Remember how she didn’t simply apply a band-aid and tell me to walk it off?
Remember the love and care and devotion she showed while lovingly and gently kissing my wound? And then carefully and lovingly washing my wound? And then carefully and lovingly applying ointment to my wound? And THEN finally applying the band-aid?
It was, after all, a process, right?
It was a process born out of a love for her child that she took careful steps to patch me up.
And yet, we have not shown the same care, kindness, love, grace, and diligence when trying to patch up broken hearts and wounded souls between the white and black communities.
And shamefully I must admit – I didn’t really grasp this for a VERY long time.
But through the loving kindness and patience of a brother of mine who was on the other side of this conversation as a black man – he has helped me to step back and try to examine the situation from a different perspective, through a different set of eyes, and try to do my best to engage in some self-examination to see where I personally missed the mark.
So, where does this leave us?
Who can address this issue?
I think the church is in a prime position to facilitate the healing necessary to see race relations become dramatically shifted toward the positive. The church has the only key and answer to this….but it is going to require that the church, especially the white segment of the church, to recognize and acknowledge that we have an issue that needs to be addressed.
We have to stop believing that money and laws have somehow repaired hundreds of years of injustice perpetrated on a people group.
We have to recognize that the church has done poorly in addressing this issue over the years.
So where do we go from here?
I think there are 5 steps we can at least begin with to start the process (this is by no means “exhaustive”…just a place to start):
1) Recognize there is a problem – I mean really recognize it. Don’t just speak the words. But, connect with brothers and sisters in the black community and talk to them. Engage them and try to understand their view and perspective. Get in their shoes. Walk 10 miles with them, and then some. Admit that that you may have subconsciously ignored the issue because consciously you assumed all is well.
2) Engage in open and respectful dialogue – It doesn’t help to start the conversation off with “facts” and “figures” and “he said/she said” and attempting to debunk assumed myths of racism. Both sides have a context in which they were raised, and both sides need to understand the OTHER side’s context to better understand each other and move forward. We have to be willing to be open with people. It may mean risking offesnse. It may mean risking the loss of a friend. It may mean a lot of things. But we cannot allow the fear of these things coming to pass to prevent us from attempting to engage in open and respectful dialogue with one another.
3) Put aside the political labels – racial issues and injustices are NOT, I repeat…ARE NOT a liberal or a conservative issue…they are an American issue. And as such, we must stop labeling each other as “liberals” and “conservatives” when discussing these matters. This dehumanizes the process and boxes everyone in as if only one party over another has adequately addressed this issue…when neither party in fact has.
4) Don’t give up on each other – The conversations are going to get intense. Trust me…I’ve been there. BUT, do not under any circumstances give up on each other. Press through. Push through the walls. Strive to understand each other. Be tenacious about understanding each other. Desire it. Want it. And like anything else in your life…chase after each other. Just whatever you do, don’t give up.
And finally (and most importantly)…
5) Seek the face of God – As I mentioned, I firmly believe the church is the only entity in this entire nation that has the key and answer to the racial woes of our nation. The democrats don’t have it. The republicans don’t have it. The black panthers don’t have it. The KKK doesn’t have it. The ACLU doesn’t have it. The NAACP doesn’t. Al Sharpton doesn’t have it. The church and the church alone has the key to healing the hearts and wounds of the racial divide in our nation because we know the only one who can fix it…God. And as a church, we need to begin to seek His face on how we can address these racial issues within our churches, our families, our communities, our cities, our states, and ultimately our nation. We must be in prayer, and in the word, searching the mind of God as to what He has to say about these things and follow His lead.
So let’s just commit now to stop trying to apply band-aids to the racial wounds…and really begin to nurture and care for these wounds; desiring and working together toward healing and full reconciliation.