Meet Me At The River
Race Around the Globe
You’ve witnessed it. You’ve heard it. You’ve lived it. You’ve experienced it.
Racism. It has become increasingly mordant and vitriolic. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives do not appear to be working. The prayers of religious people have not united us. And the evil-doers appear to be gaining a stronghold.
I am disheartened by the many instances of racial discord and violence among God’s people. Some recent events in the news include The Bachelor’s “after the final rose” racial incident; the British Royal Family rift around race and colorism; and most recently and most egregious, the Atlanta spa shootings of Asian American workers.
You are invited to read and to ponder what I have written hitherto. I may not have all of life’s answers around racial conflict, but I offer here some thoughts on what we must do. It is my hope that something written here will spark a much-needed conversation around race and the sanctity of human life. This is a call for peace in a hate-filled world.
Songs of Protest
I was born by the river, in a little tent
Oh, and just like the river
I’ve been running ever since…
- Lyrics from “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke
These lyrics are from a song — “A Change is Gonna Come” — written by the late 1960’s gospel, R&B, and soulful artist, Sam Cooke. Cooke wrote the song as a civil rights protest, in similitude to Bob Dylan’s protest song, “Blowing in the Wind.”
Dylan asks multiple questions that are relevant today:
How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man? . . .
And how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see? . . .
And how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, and how many deaths will it take ’til he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind
- Lyrics from “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan
Cooke, a Black man, is said to have been ashamed that a white man, Bob Dylan, wrote a protest song before he did. Although Cooke was famous for his pop music, his roots began in the church. Cooke became quite active in the civil rights struggle, having suffered racial slights and injustices during his day.
Today, America is still wrought with racial strife and violence. I am deeply, deeply saddened by this week’s metro Atlanta spa shootings. As you know, this was the latest in a string of egregious acts of violence directed at Asian Americans across the U.S. Images of elder men and women being pummeled, pushed, or beaten have peppered TV news coverage and circulated throughout social media in recent weeks.
My heartfelt condolences are extended to the grieving families of this week’s shootings, and to the entire Asian community.
More than 50 years since Bob Dylan’s and Sam Cooke’s protest songs were written, why has America not found the answer to healing the racial divide?
The Religious Question
Reports have indicated that the perpetrator of the spa shootings was “a deeply religious person.” Yet, religion did not mollify the suspect’s angst. Moreover, religion has failed to unite people of diverse ethnicity. Despite a plethora of authoritative books, sermons, and commentaries on the issues of race, social relationships have become more contentious than ever. Where lies the answer?
My brothers and sisters, we’ve got much work to do. Galatians 3:26–29 says there is no divisiveness in Christ Jesus. “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:29) As Christians and believers of the faith, we should be able to go to one another and connect with one another on the basis of our humanity. We should be able to love one another and help one another in times of crisis. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we should very simply, act like it!
Let Justice Roll Down Like Water (What We Must Do)
It is time for a change! Oh yes, a change is gonna come! But what must we do to save humanity?
I offer for your consideration these three thoughts:
- Have conversations over a meal. Let me begin by stating that I have heard the weariness of friends and colleagues regarding reconciliation “talks.” Many are tired of talking because it appears to fall on deaf ears. The problem is that racism and white supremacy are propagated through systemic strongholds. Racism is sustained when white supremacist systems are allowed to continue unchecked. Rarely will an individual admit to being a racist. But inviting a person of diverse ethnicity and/or gender to break bread over a common table might lend itself to a fruitful conversation. We can learn from one another when we spend time with one another. (I once asked an older white woman— during a diversity training — what changed her perception of Black people after she admitted to harboring racist attitudes in her youth. She said, “Spending time with them!”)
- Challenge institutional practices and systems. I have visited many websites of companies, corporations, and institutions of higher learning that include DEI statements, policies, or departments. Yet, when I look at the executive or senior staff, none are persons of color. How does an institution promote diversity, equity, and inclusion when the optics are homogeneous? Unless people are willing to look critically at institutional or corporate cultures that allow racist attitudes and practices to prevail — and to talk about it — nothing will change. Normalize the hiring of persons who do not look like the status quo. Trust me, there are qualified persons of every hue and ethnicity. You just have to look for them and invite them in.
- Look inward and change your thinking. Admittedly, this is probably the most difficult of the three. Who among us would readily admit to being racist? Probably not many. But, we all must face our inner biases and weaknesses. We all have them. None of us is perfect. Be honest. What stereotypes do you think of when you consider an ethnic group outside of your own group? Is it fair? Is it racist? Is it sexist? Is it ageist? No matter how egregious or innocuous, we have them. Look deeply inward and get rid of them. When we spend time with someone — as suggested in #1 above — we can grow towards this changed thinking.
I believe DEI initiatives are helpful, but attending workshops is only the tip of the iceberg. It is going to take a deeper dive into our own consciences. We must change our thinking and our motivations for action. We must insist on seeing our fellow brothers and sisters as the created beings that they are — created in the image of God. Every one of us is worthy of life and worthy to live freely! Whether red, yellow, Black, brown, or white, we are God’s children! We are one humanity! And we must live in peace with one another on this shared earth!
A commentary on Galatians 3:29 in The Interpreter’s Bible offers a beautiful metaphor. It says, “All colors and races meet in him, as the rivers meet in the sea.”
In other words, all races and ethnicities meet in the One and True God. Indeed, we are all like rivers flowing from the Creator. All of humanity flow from God and to God, for we are created in God’s image.
What we must do, then, is to come together as one! We must meet one another at the Source of our creation! Let us pour into the lives of one another with love and compassion! Let us see one another in the beautiful image of God — for it is in Him that we are created!
Since we all flow as water from One Source, then I challenge you to meet me at the river. Meet me at the river where we all meet in the Creator’s image. There is a river of justice that flows from God and to God through our humanity! Meet me at that river where “justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream!” (Amos 5:24) Meet me at the river where we can flow in unity despite our diversity. Meet me at the river, for that is where I believe a change will come!
It’s been a long
A long time coming
But I know a change gonna come…
Then I go to my brother
And I say, brother, help me please
But he winds up, knockin’ me
Back down on my knees
Oh, there been times that I thought
I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able, to carry on
It’s been a long
A long time coming
But I know a change gonna come
Oh, yes it will
- Lyrics from “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke
NOTE: In previous articles I contemplated what it means to claim Christianity today? Is religion used as a tool for violence, or is religion the promulgation of peace? You can read it here:
Peace or Conflict — Which is Our Natural State?
On finding common ground in the midst of diversity
Likewise, in the following article, I talk about the act of simply loving our fellow sister or brother. You are invited to read it here:
Finally, this is my first Medium article where I discuss a lack of diversity among faculty in political science departments.