The Dividing Line

Founder's Note: This blog post was originally submitted on early on July 7th in response to the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, before the tragic events unfolded in Dallas, Texas. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of those affected by these senseless murders.


I didn’t want to do it. At first, I was able to resist. I was able to overcome morbid curiosity, and allow my finger to swipe away the images. Death. Suffering. Blood. Guns.

Blacks.

But what was I avoiding? More importantly, why did I feel compelled to avoid these overwhelming images? A voice in my head, ever quick to justify willful ignorance, told me I was trying to keep my mind clear. It convinced me avoiding these videos would be a moral thing to do. The right thing.

It’s all a lie.

Moments ago I watched two black men die. Even as I compose that sentence, I wonder, “Do I use black? Do I say African American? What can I say?” The moral side of me wishes to engage in the raging dialogue. I want to be a voice of reason and social justice, but as I sit in my big house, with my big garage, my beloved cars, and look upon acres of verdant countryside, my white skin fills my view. I see it there, covering my legs in a level of privilege I wish I could deny. Never will I know what it’s like for this skin, this inescapable bag of flesh, to deny me the right to exist, safely and securely, in a world unwilling to admit its deep held prejudices.

I’m guilty. My hands are stained in the blood of the innocent and oppressed. I’ve denied it for years. I’ve argued bitterly that I’ve received no privilege. I grew up poor. I was in integrated neighborhoods with friends sporting a cornucopia of colorful pigments. I had black friends, Puerto Rican friends, and Mexican friends. My public school was even more diverse, but there were always more of us.

Yes - us.

My mom locked the doors when there were black guys on the corner. She was afraid of black neighborhoods and of the black kids on my bus. Not because she was a racist, far from it. My parents found Christ in a black church. Their low-paying jobs had them on equal or lesser terms with many black men and women, so there’s no latent racism here. I’ve had two black bosses, one a homosexual man, the other a woman. I’ve prayed with and hugged an HIV positive black friend. I’ve had crazy black lady prayer meetings in my house, where I played with black kids and black friends in the neighborhood, and yet the car doors get locked. The tension increases. The judgment rages. The divide widens.

So here I sit. Afraid.

Before getting to the guts of the matter, I’ve had to compose two paragraphs to alleviate my white guilt. Look at it up there. It’s obnoxious, “Hey, look at me, I’ve had black friends, so I’m cool. I can talk about this.” It’s frustrating. As I stew in this frustration, I realize now for the first time, what it must be like every day, every hour, every minute for a black man or woman in this country. For the first time, the privilege of being white is fractionally stripped away and I feel indignant. I feel offended, “This can’t be happening to me, surely not me. I wish to speak openly and freely, but I feel my skin color may affect how I’m perceived. Being white, in this context, could be dangerous.” This realization exposes me. It exposes real wounds that have never healed.

So today, instead of ignorance, I choose to immerse myself in the suffering. I want to bathe in the pain and drama and let it burn away the clouds surrounding my numb eyes. If I choose ignorance, if I, in fear, deny what I know to be true, I might as well be holding the guns. I might as well be burning the crosses.  I might as well be holding the whip.

I encourage you to open your eyes. See the painful images. Let them hurt you. Let the tears flow. Shed your skin, and for a moment, the most fleeting of moments, inhabit the skin of a black woman watching her black boyfriend slowly die. Imagine your daughter, your black daughter, was in the back seat as the bullets riddled a man, a black man, in the front seat. Imagine in the chaos you don’t know where your daughter is, you don’t know if your boyfriend is dying, and you don’t know that you’re not next. Imagine if all this was happening because of the color of your skin.

I’ll never get it. I’ll never understand, but today I refuse ignorance. Instead I choose to try. Can we just try?

Together?

Speak up. Open your damn mouths. Our silence is damning. Our ignorance is inexcusable. This will divide families. This will destroy friends. I say embrace the divide knowing courage also divides. Courage divides the healers from the destroyers. Courage divides love from hate, but it is fear that divides black and white. Chose courage. Chose love.


Christian is an aging lad living on a couple acres in Northern Kentucky. He
is a proud father, a reluctant distance runner, spirited driver, and
purveyor of mediocre blog posts. He is best known for his constant search
for the six fingered man, as well as wild and inaccurate statements. Many
claim his sarcasm is a coping mechanism used to distract readers from his
hatred of writing bios. You can find more of his writings at
ThirdOptionMen.org!