This is a hard topic as a white man who has never experienced the brunt of racism. I sometimes cringe when my white friends try to lead the charge in improving racism making it their story. It feels like Pat Boone leading the March on Birmingham and then recording a song about it. It would feel wrong and commercial. Being white it would be easy to say something “enlightened” like we should see past color and love everyone for there is no race.
I do know that there is racism. I do know that we have problems in North America regarding race. I do know that I have white privilege and that includes my spiritual and philosophical approach to life. I have no solutions and I admit that I am blinded by my own ignorance. I know that I don’t know, but I also don’t know what I don’t know.
When I was a Progressive minister I thought I had a firm grasp on so many things. I had an idea of who God was and how He worked. I understood marriage. I knew about race relations, human trafficking, gang issues, poverty, homelessness, hunger, recovery and a great many other things.
Then my marriage collapsed. Not too long after that my church would fall apart. My ideas of love and how God and community worked were shattered and I was confused. Then I spent almost three years at a taxi company and everything else collapsed under the weight of reality driving a taxi in the gritty urban jungle at night.
I saw some of the homeless outreaches I used to fund and support as a pastor toss homeless mothers with toddlers out into the street at 2 am. I saw a homeless friend die of exposure because she was too high maintenance for the shelters to deal with. I got to know prostitutes and gang bangers and drug dealers and addicts and abused spouses on a different level. In that new understanding I realized how little my understanding was and how ignorant I was. I learned that some of us social justice pursuers were at best, doing little that was effective and at worst, hurting people and committing gentrification.
The institutions I was not only a part of, but a leader in, were wrong. The lessons I taught and learned were wrong. Up was down and right was left and I got angry. I got angry at myself, the authors of the studies and books I read, and the God I believed in. I decided it was easier to tell all of those things (including myself) to take a long walk on a short pier. For the first time I understood the anguish of the teacher in the beginning of the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes when he cried “Meaningless! Meaningless! All is meaningless!”
I got very dark and very hard. It took almost losing everything, including my life, to wake me up to the fact that life mattered and just because I did not have answers to the questions of life does not mean I should give up.
I found myself waking to love and in love found not only peace in the mystery, but a new resolve to act and to walk in love without having to define it and understand it. In that is also an honesty to have difficult conversations, to grow, to challenge myself and to change as needed when I am not walking in love’s path.
We have to deconstruct all that we know and believe to find what is real. I do not understand God. I do not understand love. I do not understand my own spirituality. I certainly do not understand the causes and solutions to the problems that ail this world. But I readily accept all these things and walk as best as I can through this world relying mostly on the divine and love to guide me, even though I do not understand them as a human mortal.
I believe that this may also be the first step in resolving race. Admitting that we do not know and deconstructing what we think we know and believe until only rubble remains. Only then, can we be in a place with no walls remaining to be able to see, and love, the world around us and perhaps understand. If we cannot understand, we can at least love and that is a good place as any to start.