Maybe you felt it; that gnawing, uncomfortable sense that some of those people outside your sphere may be right, while some you trusted and listened to are wrong, and worse, they lied to you. In a more heightened way, dominant, privileged people sense something has changed. It’s in the air. We have no power over it. It frightens us. That fear is to some degree like Adam and Eve’s instinct to cover themselves. It acknowledged a truth they so notably failed to walk in.
I want to give you a picture. Once, driving from our home near a middle school in Alabama, I made a right turn. Across the street, a forested area was filling up with many Black boys, who rapidly moved toward a focal point. Felt like a fight. I looked through all those boys and trees, got a glimpse of a single white boy with a bloody face. Not good.
I left the car, walked toward these school boys, maybe ages twelve to fourteen. They were extraordinarily respectful to me, and without a single word, right in front of my steps, this crowd calmly opened up, moving aside to the left and right of me as I walked directly to that bloody faced white boy.
When I got to the center, there were two more white boys who looked like scared little rabbits. I grabbed the one boy by the arm, said “Come on,” and started walking him out. The other two followed right along. Not a single word to anybody. As before, the crowd just silently and calmly opened up in front of me.
But part way out, the bloody face white kid began to open his mouth and talk tough to these Black kids all around us. Maybe his pride was wounded. He spewed provoking words. I jerked his arm, said, “Shut up and walk,” something like that. I had no real context for the moment, but his mouth helped explain it.
Every day, white Americans are told that our power is eroding. The prospect of non-dominance bewilders and frightens us. It threatens the sense of entitlement we enjoy and deny. For some, it triggers a more desperate need to assert control, manifested in malicious Karening, aggressive talk, cherishing anger without cause and stockpiling weapons in secret wall spaces and basements. That white kid in the woods? Maybe we see our situation a bit like we are him. In our story, we are victims at the center, threatened and hopelessly outnumbered by approaching “others.”
That is the wrong picture. The reality is a Black face is in the center, bloodied, outnumbered by us and threatened in America for generations and centuries.
Let me ask a question: What if God treats America the same way we treated Puerto Rico after the hurricane? I’d say we need mercy. A lot. And we should start by owning everything that is true without reservation or excuse.
Could it be that the Spirit of God has walked through every aspect of these facts and our history? In spite of our efforts to conserve this imbalance, could it be that God, Himself, is bringing Black and Brown people forward to safety, to equity and freedom? It would change America as we know it, but it would be right and good and better. We should not fear or oppose, but stop our foolish talk and get out of the way.
What if the Spirit of Truth has walked into your secret fears of exposure and accountability, to where you are right now? What if God wants to take a gentle hold of you and to walk you out of America’s here to a better and safer reality? A place that is actually not built on fear, or lies or greed, but on respect and even love for your neighbors? Lord, get us out of here and take us there.
By Frank Robinson