After the tragedies this country endured last week, Senior Pastor, Dave Rodriguez, wanted to get a better understanding of these senseless acts of injustice, racism and hatred. So, he connected with Marc, a member of Grace who understands what it's like to be a Black man living in America. If you missed the first part of the conversation, read it here.
Marc: You know, at one time I thought it was a subconscious comment on everything and I kinda let it go. I didn't think there was any way it could've been connected. Shrewd yet sensitive to things going on sounds about right. I know it would be a lot easier to play the dove role, but that's not going to work.
In some ways, I can connect pre-1994 genocide Rwanda with our country now. There was a lot of dehumanizing going on before everything totally fell apart. Hutus used words and environmental behaviors and restrictions to wear Tutsi downs for decades. We aren't near a genocide in the physical sense, but we definitely have to guard our hearts and minds from things that could plant the seeds of dehumanization. I think that being passive socially leaves us increasingly vulnerable to things we know aren't right. Going to Rwanda, meeting survivors, hearing stories...that drives a lot of why I feel it necessary to speak and act against racism and any manner of divisiveness. There was something about being in Rwanda, in those memorials, seeing the true bottom effect of human divisiveness. None of our nearest friends and family believe we could ever get to that here. My stance is that we already have been there in some ways, we just don't have the mass casualties in a short time span. But from the founding of the earliest to colonies, how many people have we lost to racism and other things? Our country's plight versus Rwanda, no they're not the same. But the genocide started in people's minds.
I want to make sure I'm clear though: I don't think a genocide is coming. I really don't. But I do think that we have an environment that supports dehumanization of others, which gives way to supremacy complexes and prejudices of all kinds.
Dave: Dehumanization isn’t too intense a word. It is the heart of our struggle. You are less than me. You are not as important as me. I am worth more than you…and so on. Dehumanizing starts with superiority.
Heard this yesterday…recent research shows that when it comes to racism, whites think things are good but getting worse and blacks think things are bad but getting better. I’ve been mulling that over. Frankly, I don’t get it. How on earth can anyone think things are good? And how on earth can anyone think things are getting better? Here’s the report in case you missed it.
Blunt honesty here…I have found myself so very aware of the color of skin since last week. It hasn’t made me patronizing (I hope)…but maybe a little more engaging than normal. I’m wondering if this is going to be temporary…just thinking out loud.
Marc: So, I don't know how anyone thinks anything is good or getting better either. I would say we are on the downward trend, but they didn't call me for the survey. I think you'll be aware as long as you choose to be. I believe the awareness is a choice for us to make. I've found that I'm less concerned about what people think of what I have to say lately, which is ok for me but could create some friction with other people.
Dave: About things getting worse…I just had a conversation with a young (late 20s) white guy who is simply agonizing over this whole thing. Had notes of despair in his voice and wondered aloud about a lack of hope. He feels trapped in the middle. He knows he wants no part of a dismissive view that downplays the reality of racism yet told me he feels like maybe the young leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement would say to him “you’ll never understand”. He said with emotion, would someone please “try to help me understand.” Any thoughts for him and others like him?
Marc: I guess he will understand to an extent. The same way I only understand other people's experiences to an extent. There are parts of things he may not ever truly understand but to me that's because a great degree of understanding is experiential. We are all missing some understanding because of that. But I guess, wisdom is meaningless right? I have read Ecclesiastes literally for years over and over hoping to make sense of that one piece of it. So what if we understand everything about it, I guess? We still have to move with a spirit of love and reconciliation and do something. The whole "faith without works" tension comes to mind too. I guess I totally understand being Black and what that means in America but that understanding is not the cure. It's ok to say "I really don't totally get it but I'm here, what can I do?" I think that's ok right? I mean I don't understand being pregnant, but I still made myself available to my wife when she was.
Dave: Love that analogy! And I am totally sure that Lauren would say you did exactly that! But, can you expand on something…is it a form of patronization for a white dude to ask a black dude “what’s it like to be black?” Is that cool? Should it be something that is self-evident if you just pay attention to reality?
Marc: There are parts that are self-evident so some of it would border on patronizing. It depends on who is asking, why and where and so on. But it's a fair question. I would probably follow with "what do you mean?" since there's a lot to it.
The conversation is not over. Read Part 3 here.