People of color have known all too well and long that being discriminated against is not easy to accept or address. I poignantly remember an early Saturday morning drive to the church several years ago and being stopped by a police officer in a neighboring municipality.
The officer’s initial question was, “Is this your car?” The question raised several concerns while I was reflecting how to respond and should I respond. My initial response, “Good morning, sir, I know that is not your first question to me,” startled the officer and he quickly addressed the issue at hand. I had not come to a complete stop at a stop sign. His assessment was correct and I could not argue that point.
I suggested that if I had violated a traffic rule, he was right in ticketing me. However, the ownership of a Lexus driven by a Black man early on a Saturday morning, in a municipality that buttressed Mountain Brook was inappropriate and his insinuation was profoundly disturbing. It was suggested by the officer that I pay more attention to stop signs and come to a complete stop. I was free to go with that warning. It was my hope that our encounter was a teachable moment for him. It was for me as well and a vivid reminder that no matter where I am, I am a Black man, a man of color.
African Americans are often followed around in retail stores; looked suspiciously upon whenever and wherever we are; profiled while driving; stereotyped based on where we live, what we do, how we dress, how we talk, and how we act. It is hard being Black in America. As we saw with President Trump’s comment about people of color from Africa and Haiti compared to people from Norway, it is hard being Black anywhere.
On a visceral level, I understand the anger that is being expressed by so many. Any of us who have been discriminated against at any level should understand it. Yet, understanding it is not enough in today’s social, political, and religious climate.
The blatant actions of those who easily discriminate against others must be challenged. Dr. Martin Luther King’s life was taken because he refused to be silent in the face of inequality and discrimination. We, too, must raise our voices, speak our truths, and stand in solidarity with others who may not have the power to speak or act. Equally so, we must empower and encourage them to raise their voice and claim their truth.
As Christians, we follow the example of Jesus. The Beatitudes (Matthew 5) is a wonderful call to stand for and with those who are maligned, ostracized, and discriminated against.
Last week it was the Haitians, Africa, and people of El Salvador. Tomorrow, it could be any of us. Never allow anyone to pull you down because of what is inside of them. We were created in the image and likeness of God. We are somebody! Amen.