I didn’t feel qualified to write this post until I realized that if I don’t, I am part of the problem. I live 700 miles away from the turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri and don’t have celebrity or expertise to give credence to my words. I didn’t witness the shooting of yet another young black man by a white police officer, nor did I shoulder the weight borne by the grand jurors tasked with bringing justice to an emotionally laden situation. No, I am safe here with my blonde-haired, blue-eyed daughter–far from fear, far from protests, fires and looting.
But while prejudice in this country was once largely perpetuated by blatant forces like segregation, hate speech, and outright bigotry–now it seems the major culprits are more subtle:
- ignorance- the forgotten fruit of the seeds of hatred planted decades and centuries ago
- supremacy- the deeply rooted idea that “I” can be better than “him” or “her”
- political correctness- which causes us to believe that diplomatic words can somehow mask arrogant hearts
And perhaps, the worst of them all …
- silence- knowing that something is not quite right and sweeping it under the rug anyway (because looking the other way is easier, and stopping to help build a bridge toward change is just too inconvenient)
*This is not to say that flagrant forms of racism do not still exist today, only that it has learned to hide, convincing some to believe there is no problem.
I am guilty of shrouding my own prejudices in silence. I have camouflaged them with socially acceptable words. I have also experienced ignorance first-hand as the mother of a child with a rare genetic disorder:
- There was the time the Dairy Queen lady looked at my then 1-year-old in 3 month-sized clothing and asked, “What’s wrong with her?”
- Or when I tried to explain to a family member about Olivia’s diagnosis, and she replied that “it must be because her dad is part black and you are part Indian.”
- Then there was the lady who walked up to me without ever meeting me, looked at my daughter, and said, “It takes a special kind of parent.” (As if Olivia is a burden that only the strongest among us could bear.)
- Finally, there are the people who ask me if I am going to have more children, only to cast a disapproving glance when I don’t automatically start talking about adoption and selective embryo implantation. (After all, knowing about the 25 percent chance of having another child with the disorder and getting pregnant anyway would be irresponsible.)
Do people not realize how much that way of thinking works to devalue the life of the child I already have? I’m thankful for the certainty that I have of my daughter’s worth in the eyes of God and for the many wonderful people who remind me again and again.
I’m not writing to defend policeman or victim, white or black. But Ferguson is the flashing arrow pointing to a problem we all need to recognize. The emotional pain that so many face is the symptom of a disease we can no longer ignore. It’s the tip of an iceberg that may appear harmless to some but is evidence of a greater threat–one with the ability to capsize communities and countries.
We have believed a lie.
The lie tells us that our worth is found in the things that make us different: race, nationality, social and economic status, skin color, personality type, strengths, weaknesses, talents, and a host of other things.
We take the things that make us unique, and stack them up against the qualities of those around us. Then, we do the math to compute our own value and theirs. Whether we come up short or look like the cream of the crop, we are doing a disservice to ourselves and to the world.
Because diversity is the product of the endless creativity of the Master Artist. God never runs out of inspiration or makes something that is sub par.
My worth is not found in what makes me unique but in the One who uniquely created me. So there is no room for comparison, no platform for one creation to lord over another.
We were ALL created in the image of God.
We have ALL sinned.
We are ALL equally unable to overcome sin on our own.
We have ALL been offered a way out in the person of Jesus Christ.
If ignorance and supremacy are a gaping wound, political correctness is an inadequate band aid. The only cure for prejudice is truth spoken and embraced.The truth is that the only name God raised high is the name of Jesus. In that name, we are one:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”–Galatians 3:28
This verse is just one sample of God’s determination to tear down the walls and hierarchies we have built.
While we should recognize the beauty in our differences and even celebrate them, we must not use differences to judge ourselves better or worse than others. The all encompassing, in-discriminating love of God is equally available to all.
Things will change when everyday, average Americans like you and I choose to stop price-tagging ourselves and each other according to the differences we see. We will learn to give and receive real love when we recognize that diversity is the beautiful signature of ONE Creator, and that we have value simply because He chose to give us life.
Tolerance isn’t enough. Neither is being politically correct. Every person is a PERSON. Each one deserves the worth given him or her by God–the value that gave life and continues to offer unconditional love. When we fully invest our hearts in the worth that only God can give, we’ll be motivated by love to step beyond convenience–bearing the pain of another as our own and sharing in joy too.