An Inside Look at Black Privilege

I recently saw a post by a Facebook page that promoted conservative news. It claimed that white privilege was a myth created by the Democrats in order to demonize Conservative Republicans in the mainstream media. It shared a chart made on Microsoft Paint that showed the number of activist groups created for African-Americans versus the number of activist groups created for white Americans. The black side showed about two dozen organizations. The white side showed none. Their logic was that because of the high number of activist groups in support of minorities, that black people have a good deal of privilege- not white people.

Instead of arguing with this statement, I’ve decided to embrace it and take a look at the privileges I have as an African-American. These are things that white Americans do not have the privilege of receiving, and I’d like to talk about them all in order to create a balanced dialogue. So here is my list of five things covered under what I like to call, “Black Privilege”:

 

1.) Store clerks and mall staff following me throughout a department store.

I have the honor of being accompanied by security guards and workers doing inventory when I walk into a clothing store. They just make sure I don’t steal anything. They do it in a way where they go unnoticed by most white customers, but they follow close enough behind where I can still feel their breath on my neck. Comforting.

2.) Being mistaken for Dayquan.

White people will never have the honor of being mistaken for Dayquan. Yes, I know my name is Joe, but that’s part of the fun! Whether it’s Dayquan, Rashad, Jermaine or Will Smith, I always seem to get mistaken for someone I have never heard of before and that has a suspiciously “urban” sounding name. I’m probably super similar to them in the way that we’re black. It’s fine.

3.) Getting my own sidewalk to walk on.

Many white people love giving me and other black friends of mine their very own sidewalks. In fact, if I’m spotted walking down the street by a white man and his dog and we happen to be on the same side of the street, he’ll usually cross over to give me my space. And if they can’t get off of the sidewalk, they’ll just pick up their phones and pretend to text. So considerate.

4.) I never have to be offended.

If I ever hear anything remotely offensive and/or racist, and I begin to speak up about it, I have the assurance of a white friend telling me that it wasn’t racist. If I didn’t have someone telling me not to be offended or that something wasn’t racist, I might actually take offense to jokes made in poor taste, or even something a certain political leader has said.

5.) I never have to remind myself of times when I have been mistreated because of my race.

I mean, it happens so discretely and at such a frequent rate that I don’t have to tell myself it happens. I just get to live my life and experience it first-hand. These moments are just given to me as free-bees.

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After looking at my list of five examples of Black Privilege, I hope you can see that Black Privilege is real. While it’s important to be thankful for the rights that all Americans get to share, I think it’s also important to take a look at these unspoken rights that won’t be covered in the Constitution. I didn’t ask for these privileges, but I have them nonetheless. I’ll try my hardest to not disrupt the rest of society.

Fear: the Silent Dictator of America

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or in some cave in a remote village on some desolate corner of the world, you have seen a headline within this past week about political figures misusing their platform, police brutality, Black Lives Matter gone awry, or an ISIS-related bombing. In other words, our world is falling apart, and this country isn’t off the hook. All of these headlines have divided the U.S. into several pieces and we cannot collectively read from the same page. We watch the news and then jump on social media, sharing articles that claim that Leader A is trying to create a dictatorship in America, and that People Group B are trying to rape and pillage the innocent. We scream at oppression and unwarranted violence, and then insist that everyone involved in Career Path C is corrupt and ready to kill at any moment.

Blame is thrown around like a football. When stuff hits the fan, finding someone to blame brings momentary comfort. Because of this, when we hear a leader blame a group of people that we want to blame as well, we feel relieved. Our fears are then justified because someone with power is afraid of the same thing. And then we think to ourselves, “Well, great- as long as this person is in office, Group B can’t take over our country, and we’ll be safe and secure and free.” What we fail to realize, though, is that regardless of who we vote for, and regardless of who we choose to be for and against, we’ve already bowed down to something that has crippled us as a nation. We’ve bowed down to fear.

The reason that blame is so easy to shift and that political leaders are so easy to idolize is because we’re afraid. We see terror and violence on TV and we associate a small percentage of the world population with a much broader group of people. We see misled African-American teenagers and young adults assaulting taxi cab drivers and people on buses, falsely in the name of the Black Lives Matter movement, and we associate the criminals on TV with Jackie and Jordan walking to the corner store. Many women clutch their purses tighter, and men guard their children as any given group of African-American teens pass them by. And if a black man walks into a bank or a convenience store with a hood, or a hat, or even sunglasses- forget about it. And this fear isn’t new. This has been around since the formation of this great country of ours, but we have failed to talk about it effectively, and we have failed to listen.

We hear about mass murders and shootings at the hand of ISIS, and we see radicalized Muslims being plastered all over the news, and suddenly, we can’t look at our Muslim neighbors down the street the same way anymore. Even hearing a name that seems to be of Arabic origin gives us anxiety. In the same way African-Americans are avoided at public events, so are Muslims. If someone even looks Middle Eastern on the bus or the train, many people are quick to watch their every move just to be absolutely sure that they’re not going to blow the whole thing to pieces. Seeing the loud and outspoken few do so much damage in the world has prevented us from seeing the beauty that many American Muslims have to offer.

We are terrified of who our next president might be. We are so afraid of the impending oppression to come from any of the candidates that we scream in our loved one’s faces about how we have to choose blue over red, or vice versa. We stand behind a candidate, not necessarily because we agree with what they want to accomplish, but because they’re “the lesser of two evils” for whatever that actually means. We settle for the “lesser evil” because we are afraid. It has become common language to choose evil. In what world is it okay to actively choose evil? I’m not saying that any of the candidates are evil, and I’m certainly not saying which is better, but if we truly believe that the people attempting to lead our country are terrible people, then why are we willingly choosing them?

We choose out of fear. Fear is the reason that many black people cannot walk their kids to school without getting the cold shoulder from strangers. Fear is the reason that we accept language that demeans an entire group of people in the name of national security. Fear is the reason that we support leaders that we don’t even trust. Fear is the reason our world is falling apart.

This has been a very difficult post for me to write, because I, too, am afraid. I, like everyone else, am uncertain about the future of our nation. I, too, am concerned about the direction the world is heading in. I, too, wonder if the next big tragedy will hit close to home. However, we cannot let fear have the last laugh. We cannot let fear be the reason that we accept hatred and distrust into our daily lives. I cannot recall a time in our country’s history where fear has led to anything productive. Look at the Red Scare. Look at the Jim Crow laws. Look at the Japanese internment camps. We need to live in love in our every day lives. We need to make decisions about our country out of love. There is no fear in love. In fact, I read somewhere that perfect love actually removes fear.

I’m sorry if I sound like a hippie, and I apologize if you think that some issues are more complicated than simply loving people. I respectfully disagree. When we act out of love, we begin to see people as people. When we act out of love, we learn to show compassion and we uncover empathy. We learn to feel for the outcasts and minority groups as well as the politicians that grace our TV sets. Yes, it is hard, and yes it is scary, but I believe that love has the power to cover offenses and to drown all of our fears, even if our love is not reciprocated by anyone else. It’s not about what you can get out of the world. Sometimes, it’s about what you can contribute. Contribute kindness. Contribute compassion. Contribute care. But above all else, contribute love.

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1 John 4:18

 

Body Image: Men’s Best Kept Secret

Sex sells and everyone is buying. For years, billboards and magazines have been shaping the way that young women view themselves. Many teen girls feel pressured to look skinny, sexy, and seductive because that’s how most women are portrayed in the media. More and more young women struggle to see themselves as beautiful because they don’t quite fit the mold that has been created by American advertising companies. This is a problem that has plagued the hearts and minds of countless women in the United States and across the globe. Contrary to what the world may like you to believe, this does not stop at young women. This problem also extends to men.

In the same way that women are being negatively impacted by the excessive Photoshopping of actresses and super models, young men are being shamed by the idolization of hypermasculinity in the media. In other words, boys are being pressured to have six pack abs, raging hormones, and an appetite for destruction. Most men in the media are portrayed as fearless, emotionless conquerors who drink for sport and manipulate women. Advertisements and television shows tell us that it’s acceptable for men to be stupid, and they encourage crude and inappropriate behavior from boys. In addition to this, shampoo and body wash commercials seem to only feature men who work out four times a day.

Men are expected to look good all the time, be confident, to be obnoxious, and to have an unquenchable desire for sex. Between Calvin Klein ads, testosterone fueled action movies, and reality television, men are receiving poor signals about how they should walk, talk, look, and think. Does this sound like a healthy formula for fully functional men? Does this sound like a description for a generation that will be prepared to run the world? To me, this sounds like a recipe for disaster.

The irony of this all is that even though the media would like you to think that men are strong and stone-faced, the reality is that many men have low self-esteems and are self-conscious about the way they look. Yes, I said it. Men have body issues too! In fact, the only reason why there are so many alpha-male characters in our movies, television shows, and magazines is that the people who put them on a pedestal know that most men wish that they could be them.

So why aren’t men speaking up about this more? It has become shameful for a man to not be portrayed as powerful and dominant, rugged and strong. We are so insecure about being insecure that we tend to shut down and pretend like we are 100% comfortable in our own skin. The reality is that men are just as broken as women. More and more young men struggle to be satisfied with what they see in the mirror. Young boys are pressured to “man up”. Crying is discouraged, yet lashing out has been made acceptable. We can’t be too skinny, but we also can’t be fat. We’re expected to be tight and toned, and to wear our hormones on our sleeves. Those are a lot of unrealistic expectations, but guess what? They don’t make you a man.

Being a man isn’t about being the strongest, toughest, womanizing piece of junk in the room. Real men show integrity, take responsibility, and show respect. Being open about your insecurities doesn’t take away your “man card”. Monsters are only monsters in the darkness. Once you shine some light on them, they turn out to be folding chairs. Men, can we turn our monsters into folding chairs? Can we just admit that we’re broken instead of spending our lives trying to live up to the hype that the world has made for us?

No servant is greater than his master, so let’s stop serving lies and stereotypes. Serve life, love and truth. God designed men to be leaders, so let’s stop following the emptiness of action heroes and playboys. Let’s lead by example and be the men who God created us to be. Dance if you’re a dancer, and paint if you’re an artist. There’s more to life than cold beer and biceps. Don’t be the man in the magazine. Be the man you were born to be.

2 Corinthians 12:9

 

 

An Empathetic Response to the Transgender Bathroom Debate

There has been a lot of talk about which bathrooms transgender men and women should or should not use, and unfortunately, a lot of the talk has been fueled by fear. If you frequent social media, you will notice a large segment of the population demanding that transgender women stay away from women’s bathrooms because they are just using their gender identity as an excuse to see women in a vulnerable environment. Even more saddening, the majority of the population using this type of language has also been Evangelical Christians. As an Evangelical myself, I had to ask myself, is this actually a Christian response, or is this simply a result of a homophobic culture now being exposed to more and more transgender men and women?

I hold a traditional view of the Bible, and I believe that all sexual activity outside of the marriage between one man and one woman, is sinful. Howeverwhen I think about the animosity online from Christians and conservatives towards the transgender community, I wonder if sex even has anything to do with it. The biggest fear that seems to have spread is about the safety of women and children in public bathrooms, especially within schools. Many are afraid of sex offenders having free range to dress up as the opposite sex in order to have access to potential victims. I wonder how easy this is to actually do, at least within the context of a high school or a middle school.

If someone decides to act upon their feelings in high school, and wear clothes that are associated with another gender, they immediately put a target on their back. As the awareness of sexual minorities in our communities have increased, the level of bullying in our schools has remained consistent. It is still very difficult for LGBTQ+ students to feel safe in their own places of learning, especially in bathrooms and locker rooms where there is minimal adult supervision. In middle school, I was bullied for not being the most athletic, cool, or masculine guy in the locker room. I have been physically and verbally attacked simply for not always fitting into the societal gender roles assigned to young boys. How much worse must it be for students who are openly transgender?

Contrary to what many Evangelicals believe, sexual orientation cannot be chosen. No one wakes up and actively decides to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. For someone to decide to follow through with the way they feel inside and be openly transgender in high school, they would have to be completely convinced of their orientation, or otherwise, they would be putting themselves through years of torment for absolutely nothing. Transgender youth are often shunned by their peers, disowned by their families, and bullied at school. No one wishes that upon themselves. And if your response to this is something along the lines of “well, why can’t they just wait until they graduate to come out?”, I would challenge you to think about who the victims are in this scenario. It is not a transgender student’s fault that someone in their class feels disgust for another human being simply because they don’t understand. Even outside of the classroom, and into adulthood, the transgender community is not to blame for the discrimination and violence against them. As people, we are all worthy of love, regardless of gender, race, religion, and yes, even sexual orientation.

If you are a fellow Christian reading this post, please remember that I love Jesus, and trust Him as my Lord and Savior. It is because of His great love for me, that I feel compelled to write this. If we as Christians hold tightly to the love, grace, and mercy of God, then who are we to withhold that from anyone else, simply because we have a difference in lifestyle? Jesus shared meals with the poor, the tax collectors, and the homeless. If He had the ability to show compassion for the marginalized people of His day, then we certainly have the capacity to show love and mercy to the marginalized of ours. And if your response is to say that conservative Christians are being discriminated against in America for their traditional values, I would challenge you to research Christians in Iraq, in Libya, and in North Korea. I am not yet convinced that American Christians are the victims of a culture war, taking away our rights to believe and proclaim what it is we stand for.

To anyone who in any way identifies with the LGBTQ+ community, especially to anyone who identifies as transgender, I am sorry. As a Christian who also identifies with the LGBTQ+ community, my heart is in pain. It hurts to see sexual minorities being pushed further away from the church because of fear-driven misconceptions about them. In the words of the famous Christian speaker, Jefferson Bethke, “The church is not a museum for good people, it’s a hospital for the broken.”

I will not tell you that you’re not allowed to disagree with me. But, please allow me to challenge you and ask how as a Christian, are you demonstrating the love of Christ to the LGBTQ+ community, especially to the T part of this acronym?

Matthew 25:35-40