Dear Black people, Dear White people

Dear Black people,

To be blunt, we White folks don’t feel what you feel.

Our hearts aren’t ripped from our chests when a Black man is killed by law enforcement. When a Black man is choked to death on a sidewalk, shot in a convenience store parking lot, shot to death at a traffic stop, shot to death for reaching for his wallet, shot to death for shopping, shot to death because the orange tip was missing from a toy gun, shot to death by a rich White guy playing Deputy Dog, shot to death for trying to stop his own car from being stolen, we are empathy empty.

We don’t seem to feel parental compassion for a teenage son who sobs “Daddy!” at a press conference, or little children, mothers, wives, girlfriends left with a void. In our rush to assign blame to anyone except the one or ones who actually caused the death, we look for any factor that provides justification: he was selling loosies, he was “resisting arrest,” he had pot, he had a rap sheet, he didn’t follow directions, he had an attitude, policing-is-hard-work-you-try-it, and on, and on. It’s as if extrajudicial execution is appropriate for any crime at any time, including those for which time has been served.

Most White people are strong believers in justice because most of us have never experienced systemic injustice. We’ve never lived in places where the county budget was financed largely by traffic citations and court costs levied for years on minority populations. We’ve never been falsely accused, wrongfully arrested, lost a job because we could not afford bail, forced to plea-bargain to a crime we didn’t commit to avoid losing our kids to the state, then lose nearly everything to pay costs we never should have incurred.

We don’t share the concerns about law enforcement so many of you have. We don’t have to have “the talk” with our kids. Many White people–and most of us in suburbia–have never had a negative experience with law enforcement. We know police officers. We go to church with them. The LEOs we know are honorable men and women.

We’ve been taught since childhood that the police are our friends, they are to be honored, respected and obeyed. For the most part this holds true throughout our entire lives because we never have any contrary experience. The percentage of White people shot and killed by law enforcement each year is not a blip on the radar of our lives.

When many White people hear of a person being shot and killed by the police, their automatic response is, “He must have done something.” Many, if not most, White people believe people get arrested because they’ve done something to get arrested. Most of us have never been handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser.

Most White people simply don’t have the framework to process what you experience when yet another unarmed (or legally armed) black man is killed by law enforcement.  We don’t feel what my friend Dan calls “corporate lament.”

Dear White people,

We are the majority culture, and we have been since the founding of this nation and the New Home for Indians Project. None of us living in the United States have ever been part of a racial minority in the overall demographic. Being the overwhelming majority is all we know.

The majority of the United States Senate is and has always been White.

The majority of the House of Representatives is and has always been White.

We had 43 White presidents consecutively, will soon have another, and our Black president is half-White.

For 240 years the majority of our governors, state legislators, country sheriffs, deputies, police chiefs, officers, principals, school teachers have been White. When I was in public school even the majority of the “cafeteria ladies” were White. In twelve years of public school I did not have a single Black teacher, less than a dozen Black classmates.

Our pastors are White, our scout leaders are White, our Sunday School teachers are White, as have been our friends, our friends’ parents, their friends and their friends’ parents.

We’ve rarely if ever been judged by the color of our skin, have long since stopped being enslaved even to a minimal degree, saw few of our ancestors victimized by the Convict Lease System, were on the top side of Jim Crow laws, and, until recently, were the lesser arrested and sentenced in the “War” on Drugs. Systematic injustice never bothered us; we put the systems in place.

We’ve rarely if ever been victims of redlining, poll taxes, literacy tests for voting, stop and frisk, or racial profiling. White guys married to Black women do not get stopped by law enforcement so she can be asked “Is everything alright?”

If you think all this time in the majority has resulted in a bias-free living experience for all Americans, think again. And again. And again.

Is there any chance that being so long in the majority has shielded us from things many Black people (and other minorities) experience? Is it not a possibility that what they feel is as legitimate as what we don’t feel? That their tears say things our dry eyes do not?

Dear Jesus Followers,

Yesterday morning as the story of Philando Castile was starting to spread, a friend asked:

God have mercy on us! When will it end!?!?

In truth, it may never end.

But, we’ll get closer when those of us in the majority stand with those in the minority and say “Enough!”

It will get closer when those of us who claim the name of Jesus, who pray for His kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven put action to those prayers.

It will get closer when we stop acting like “Obey the governing authorities” overrides “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

It will get closer when we weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. When we empathize with the fear behind a Black mother’s eyes when she contemplates her son growing up into manhood.

It will get closer when we understand the multiple levels of complexity in places like South Central L.A., Baltimore, and Chicago’s south side, rather than thinking they should be like Bugtussle, TN, population 25. When we stop foolishly raising issues we think Black people should be addressing (Black-on-Black crime, urban crime, fatherlessness) while ignoring other issues they are raising.

It will get closer when we study how corruption, failed schools, gang wars, and economic deprivation affect entire areas and hundreds of thousands of lives. When we come to grips with the fact that people cannot work where there are no jobs, and that in far too many instances Black drug dealers get rich off White drug users but only one group usually lands in jail.

It will get closer when White followers of Jesus are intentional in befriending minorities at work, in our communities, and at church. When we listen to them. When we learn from them.

Dan, quoted above, continues:

So a word for my friends of majority culture who have a legitimately hard time processing why times like this are such a big deal to some: Can I urge you to consider what many are experiencing in their souls through tragedy like this. It’s not just a conversation point to be debated. It’s not just something trending on social media. It’s all too real and it’s the stuff of nightmares keeping many up at night thinking of their own families as the system they’ve been taught to trust seems to have failed them once again. It’s something evil happening in their community at a horrifying rate. It’s systemic injustice that has devalued the lives of an entire community of people.

And particularly for Christians, a suggestion to mourn with those who mourn in empathy. We would never tell someone who has lost loved ones in tragedy that the ways they’re mourning are wrong or need to be better thought out. Imagine how you would want others to treat you in your time of family mourning and do the same to others, especially those you consider your family of faith.

Pray how you may be a person of peace and healing in a time so rife with chaos and division.

Note: My capitalizing of White and Black is atypical and done in this post, specifically, for emphasis.

Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.

  • Revolucion1280

    Is this a new trend in Christianity? To back the BLM movement that is run by a cop killer? The problem with this whole narrative is that so far 509 people have been killed by fatal force, 238 white and 123 black. The narrative isnt backed by facts. Its backed by feelings and its backed by white people so rich we cant even fathom how they spend their days in the lap of luxury. I’m disappointed in the lack of insight Christians are showing in the last few days. BLM is a joke, there is racism, thats a fact. There was racism in the bible too but as Christians we are called to try to be understanding of ALL people not just the one that “feel” they matter more than other ethnicity. You know what that does? Build division, which is SUPER anti-Christian. Are you (writer) even aware of all the tweets and FB posts APPLAUDING the shooting of the cops in Dallas? You sir are a symptom of watered down theology. Love isn’t acceptance, love is looking at harsh realities and choosing to still show Christ like discipline in the name of love. Your most appalling statement is this one “It will get closer when we stop acting like “Obey the governing authorities” overrides “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Foolish! Yes! Obey the governing authorities and also love your neighbor!!! Why would you claim otherwise? That is foolish, foolish to the point that it costs people their lives already to do contrary to that!

    • martyduren

      Loving people and listening to them are not trends new to Christianity.

      • Gooniard

        It takes guts to look beyond the rage, to look beyond the immediate harms. Are there grieving hearts beyond it? I am not ashamed of being a whitey (by the grace of God I am what I am) but sometimes I wish I could be a human chameleon, to help black people out of a long dark tunnel of evil, for those who are willing to get out (and true, some may not be, but it is not ours to speculate yet what numbers would be involved or what their fates on earth would be).

        Physical lives lost are indeed a tragedy — souls lost are, however, an even worse tragedy, and Jesus tells us so. I see the “look at physical lives lost” and raise it a “look at souls lost.” We stand in danger of being a nation of spiritual zombies if we can not, or will not, do that. Could it be that the current events are an alarm, a warning?

        • David

          I agree and in my agreement I’m engaged in helping my brothers in need!

    • Gooniard

      You might note that the self-chosen constituency itself of BLM is quite mixed. Not all wish nothing but harm on their fellow citizens of different color. Not all are blindly following everything that one pied piper is espousing. Are you being foolish when you deny the first and greatest commandment, and the second one like it, their place? Judge for yourself! Even civil order only exists in order to serve that. We can NOT pretend things are normal (well ok, they may BE normal, but shall we say, desirable as a long term state) when we are letting God slip away from our midst, because we refused in our own self-avenging anger to embrace Him and then embrace what He grants us the power to embrace.

      I fault the “liberal” movements — not because they want to be liberal, but because they are trying to gin up grace without God, and as a mere human effort. This is impossible.

      This war will be won, if at all, on our KNEES.

  • David

    That presentation and conclusion is pretty much tore up.
    I figured you being a pastor that you would know the answer to your version of the problem for either lumped together group you are speaking to is: the gospel.

    • martyduren

      To question the gospel is the answer. It helps to have conversations so we can get to it. Nothing I suggest is contrary to the gospel, but flows from it.

      • Gooniard

        Yup… and then listen to it for the answers. We might be surprised as we find that what was old, is new again.

      • David

        You are definitely flowing from a different gospel. I guess we do agree on that part. To make your sweeping assumptions and grandiose inclusions on either side and against the government isn’t, in my opinion, the way to present a gospel in life conversation. The guys I get to love & teach a weekly bible study to are in prison. They are of all races and all guilty. The gospel to them isn’t that all pastors & Christians are getting it wrong since they haven’t done time since a lot do think they are worthless and most haven’t done time. And the gospel isn’t to write a letter to the inmates and tell them all that the gospel is that they aren’t guilty for their actions because the situations in life made them sin and it was not really them doing the wrong thing. The goodnews of great joy to all peoples is Christ. And if Christ is the Prince of peace and the compassion that loves others then perhaps the letter to both should bei about the hope in Christ and our feet that help their lives.

        • martyduren

          David-
          There was a typo in my answer. Instead of “To question the gospel is the answer” I meant “No question the gospel is the answer.”

          If you want to continue to question my faithfulness to the gospel, have at it. You’re wrong in your assumptions and conclusions, but feel free to keep going.

        • David

          I’d ask you to Reread your piece.
          When I talked with you a few years back, I believe you are trying to gospel in life and don’t have a clue how you walk out your compassion for humanity. We are actually following an idea on property you presented at the meeting to better proceed in kingdom things. But if you can’t look at the loaded piece you put out there and see a swing and a miss, well I guess we may have wide differences in how the gospel is appropriated. Anyway, I hope I didn’t offend you and invite you to come join in what we are doing up here in Okla trying to reconcile people to Christ and thereby to each other.

        • martyduren

          You accused me of not teaching the gospel and I’m not supposed to view that as offensive. Ok.

          I’m glad things are going well for you.

        • martyduren

          Let me also say, David, that you have accused me of believing a “different gospel.” Your words.

          It seems, then, that you believe you preach the true gospel and I preach/teach a false gospel. Biblically speaking there is no other option.

          Under Paul’s admonition that means I am anathema, or cursed. If you are to be biblically faithful, you, too, should consider me anathema.

          You have arrived at this conclusion without asking me what I believe about the Godhead, the divinity of Christ, the atonement, the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, nor any soterioliogical specific.

          I’m at a loss as to how you can so blithely come to such a strong determination based on the post above.

        • David

          I guess another gospel was poor choosing and I apologize. Perhaps a non appropriating one in my reading of your piece. I don’t know your life but I know you just articulated the gospel well. My assumption is you do live it but I am no writer and definitely no blogger. I should leave it to such as you & in so doing, try to say:
          The gospel is for the poor in spirit and those whom the Lord has blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly realms in Christ our Lord are granted favor to labor by faith thru the Spirit which does work by love.
          Btw: I believe we both know, it is The gospel of God , again sorry.

  • Gooniard

    We are all now like running sores of sinfulness before the Lord. Each pointing finger of blame seems to have several pointing back.

    The test began in the Garden. Would we let Him keep us constantly apprised of good and evil, or would we pretend to know it all? The bible tells the sad story of how that turned out.

    And I see it below, the catcalls, the mocking of “a new trend in Christianity” followed by yet another mischaracterization. The carousel of sin.

    Folks! The only real answer is to lose your troubles in God, and then help your neighbor on the basis of what God has given to you and done for you that you never deserved. Oh, we deserved to stew in our sins till we went to hell! That’s the only thing we could deserve. But the whole idea of our deserving anything never was God’s notion. God’s notion was to give grace to us. But the idea of our deserving something was the devil’s, and then became ours by choice. God then addressed us on that basis, knowing full well that it would be a failure and that our only right choice would be to come back to Him repentant, willing to lose our sins in His forgiveness and gain loving righteousness in His grace and love.

    Go ahead and issue more catcalls. I don’t care; I am beginning to see where the Lord is. I don’t agree with every single thing in the discourse that opened this discussion, but I do see it touches on some points germane to all humanity (of all colors). And certainly we can’t miss that love needs to be a two way street; God does not excuse “minority” just because it is “minority.” Any more than God excused Israel, the smallest of peoples.

    “Gooniard”

    • martyduren

      Approve.

      Marty Duren
      404.431.4581 (cell)
      615.251.2188 (fax)