14 books – part 3

[Note: if you have not read Part 1 & 2 of “14 Books,” allow me to encourage such now, as it will provide necessary context.]

As we come to the end of this incisive series, sharing aspects learned in pursuit of racial and ethnic diversity and harmony, we conclude by loosely focusing on next steps. Let me offer a spoiler alert from the onset: I don’t, won’t, and can’t have all the answers. In fact, none of us do; that includes all 14 books.

While no book was therefore “the answer,” so-to-speak, it was helpful to read the work of Dr. George Yancey, the professor/sociologist who specializes in race/ethnicity and biracial families. In “Beyond Racial Gridlock,” Yancey lays out four common models in dealing with racism: colorblindness, anglo-conformity, multiculturalism, and white responsibility. What I appreciate about Yancey’s approach is that he is incredibly respectful of all; he makes zero attempts to rattle the reader. He concisely, logically lays out the roots of each model, its strengths and weaknesses. I found myself not angry at the models’ beholders; rather, I found myself with increased empathy for how a person came to believe what they do. Empathy builds community and changes culture for the better.

I had a similar response to Jodi Picoult’s masterful “Small Great Things.” Told in first person, the fictional account weaves the lives of Ruth, Kennedy, and Turk — an affable, African-American labor and delivery nurse, a naive, white defense attorney, and a militant, male white supremacist. The beauty of the book is that the focus isn’t on hating who doesn’t think like me; the key is understanding them. Understanding is the key to knowledge. Knowledge also changes culture for the better.

If empathy and knowledge change culture for the better, how can we glean more? Shouting at another doesn’t help. Antagonist social media posts don’t help. Supporting barely-majority-passed legislation doesn’t help. Each of those creates resentment, hostility, and/or potentially more injustice.

Which leads us to today. Easter Sunday. A day celebrated by hundreds of millions across the globe. That gets my attention especially here, reminding me once more…

  • Each of us is created in the image of God.
  • God does not choose people on the basis of any ethnic distinctive. 
  • When Jesus came and died on the cross some 2,000 years ago, he also put to death any thought of ethnocentrism.

When Jesus invites us to “come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,” he isn’t appealing to any singular ethnic group. He isn’t speaking to a sole political party. In fact, as a follower of Jesus Christ, one of the things that majorly gets my goat is how each party takes turns thinking God would be a card-carrying member of their side.

Racism is no doubt an issue on which we as a nation are weary and burdened. We need empathy and knowledge. Reverence for God is the beginning of knowledge. God is the only One whose moral code consistently calls us to love another as ourself. He is the only One who doesn’t provide a hypocritical loophole in why it’s ok to withhold love or justice from someone.

I thus conclude seeking the sacred is the only hope for lasting solution. It’s the only avenue that doesn’t create resentment, hostility, and potentially more injustice. Grateful for the perspective of the 14 authors, piecing together their nuggets of wisdom, and holding it up to the plumb line of my faith, I thus humbly encourage the following next steps for persons of all color and creed… how to build harmony in our God-designed diversity…

  1. Ask another’s story… Listen well. Get to know others. Build relationships with those whose life experience is different than your own. Ask good questions. Ask some more.
  2. Lead with compassion… If we aren’t kind to another, why would they want to think/be like us? Why would they ever believe we have something wise to offer? Compassion is attractive, friends. Demands and shouts are not.
  3. Sit with the uncomfortable… Some of what we learn will feel awkward, maybe painful; we may not want to believe it. But stay put. Wrestle with it. Don’t deny someone else’s reality.
  4. Resist pride… The pride of white supremacy, black power, intellectual analysis, anti-intellectual scorn, loud verbal attack, and the pride of despising silence. “Where pride holds sway, there is no hope for the kind of listening and patience and understanding and openness to correction that relationships require.”
  5. Build empathy… No doubt understanding the feelings of another is step one to loving another as ourselves.

This series ends, but the work and growth continue.

Happy Easter, friends. No doubt there’s much to think on.