There’s something that has really impacted me in recent days and has really caused me to sit back. And I just want to share with you this conviction and actually, the sense of call that I am feeling. This is the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. It’s the 50th anniversary, this year 2013, of the March on Washington when Martin Luther King did his famous sermon of “I Have a Dream.”
This is a time to stop and look at what’s going on in our country. And I just got through reading Michele Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow. And I have to be honest with you, not only after reading this book but being in close conversation of many of my African -American friends; we have some issues in our society that we have to address. And my prayer is that Virginia Baptists will step up to the plate and engage in some very needed dialog right now.
We’re experiencing in our society one of the largest mass incarcerations of young people, particularly black and brown. And their whole futures are being ruined with these incarcerations. It’s a time right now where there are more black and brown young men in prison, now, than were enslaved in 1854.
It has reached a critical mass, millions and millions. And nobody’s paying attention to this. When we stopped declaring war on poverty, we declared war on drugs and we essentially declared war on these young people. And something has to be addressed.
We need to come back and talk about the race issue, not by ourselves. We need to do this with the African-American conventions in Virginia. And we need to be entering a dialog on how do we speak to this crisis going on in our neighborhoods all around us.
It’s breeding all kinds of violence. And they have no hope. They don’t have good schools. They don’t have job opportunities. How do we begin to address that as Baptists across Virginia? And we need to come at this race conversation afresh.
I was talking with my good friend from Jamaica who now lives in Falls Church and he was telling me that we don’t even understand race in this country so how can you deal with racism.
He said he went to the doctor’s office for a first appointment to setup a relationship with a doctor in our country. And he was to fill out the form in the doctor’s office. He didn’t even know how to fill it out because the question was “what was his race?”
He said, “How do I put a race in? I am Jamaican. That’s not a race. That’s a nationality. Who am I? How do I fill this form out?” So he put down the only thing he knew how to put down. He put HUMAN. He is part of the human race.
The doctor came in and laughed. He said, “You didn’t know how to fill my form out did you?” He said, “No I didn’t.” He said, “There’s only one race, it’s the human race. Now there are many ethnicities but there’s only one race.”
We need to come back and revisit this race conversation. Too many are being shuffled aside in our society, and we cannot accept that. Jesus does not accept that. He wants us to find a better way.
I want to challenge Virginia Baptists, let’s pick up this conversation but let’s not do it alone. We don’t have the answers by ourselves. Let’s do it with our African- American friends. And let’s really offer some better solutions, in the name of Christ, than we’ve been offering.