27 - An Open Letter to Black Men from a White Man
|Written by Patrick Morley|
|Wednesday, December 10 2008 09:42|
A Black/White Friendship
I could never understand why black men were so angry. It was through Tom and, later, other black friends that I learned about the active and passive racism all black men feel daily. I'm truly sorry, but I simply didn't know. I had no reason to consider how black men might feel.
It was only through personal relationships that I came to see that a black man can't live three days without understanding how white people think because of the employer-employee relationship, the landlord-tenant relationship, and the vendor-vendee relationship. Also, I learned that because blacks feel they can't break through a "glass ceiling" in the worlds of commerce and politics, the frustration often leads to deeply felt anger. Even after eighteen years of friendship, Tom and I were still learning these kinds of things about each other.
The Black/White Fellowship
Anyway, the next day I came home for lunch and the black woman who helped clean our home, Merthie, was there. This was particularly awkward because Merthie lived on Parramore Street, the sight of the disturbance.
I said to her, "Merthie, how long do you think it's going to take before we can all learn to live together?" She shifted uncomfortably and said, "Oh, I don't know."
Then I asked, "Well, Merthie, what keeps you going?" She shrugged and said, "Oh, I don't know."
Finally, I asked, "Well, Merthie, where do you get your hope for the future?" Bent over by the years, she shrugged again and said, "Oh, I don't know." And then she walked into the next room.
I closed the door behind her and wept bitterly for the next half hour. I prayed, "God, this isn't right. What can I do to help?"
In the moments that followed an idea came to invite twenty black men and twenty white men to attend a meeting. The idea was not to try to change Orlando, but to try to change ourselves. Then, as Tom would say, as we became to each other what we wanted our city to become, that would create a model so attractive that others would want to be part of it.
We would meet one Saturday morning each month from 8:30 AM to noon, though we rarely ended on time. One month we would have a smooth meeting and I would think, "He loves me." But the next month things would get cantankerous and I would think, "He loves me not." But here's the point. We all kept coming back to the table. We were committed to change.
Now, why have I told all this? Because I didn't want you to think what I have to say to you is "off the cuff" or that I have no idea about what I'm talking about. I didn't want you to dismiss what I want to say as the half-baked thinking of a johnny-come-lately do gooder. I have paid some dues. Now, here's how I'd like your help.
A Word For Whites
Oh, I've heard the arguments:
• "But, I'm not a racist. Why should I have to apologize?"
• "I'm not responsible for what my father and father's fathers did."
• "Why can't we just get on with the positive program?"
But I have the Scriptures to back me up: Nehemiah 1:6, 9:2; Leviticus 26:40; and even the words of Jesus in Matthew 23:29-32, "Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!"
A Word For Blacks
One day the thought came to mind, "Tell black people that it's time to move from 1st Corinthians to 2nd Corinthians."
You may recall that Paul wrote 1st Corinthians because a man was involved in sinful behavior. Paul told them to put the brother out of fellowship. But, when he wrote 2nd Corinthians he said,
The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him" (2nd Corinthians 2:6-8).
You see, I have talked with literally hundreds of white men who have tried to reach out to African American men. Not a mere casual effort, some of these men have tried earnestly and repeatedly to break through. But because of years of distrust most black men have been unwilling to reach back.
Here's the real problem. Because of the intense focus on racial reconciliation in the 1990s, a whole generation of white Christians are willing to break with the past and learn how to be reconciled with their Christian brothers of color.
But because of constant rebuffs, I fear that many if not most of these white Christians are on the brink of giving up. That would be catastrophic.
You can see the vicious cycle. Blacks say, "They'll never change. There must be another agenda. You can't trust white people." Then, rejected, whites turn around and say, "Oh well, I tried. I guess they just aren't interested."
And so, my black brother, here is what I would ask you to do. Forgive me, and forgive us. You hold a powerful tool the power to forgive. Yet, if you don't forgive you bring trouble upon yourself because it is sin to withhold forgiveness (see Luke 17:3-4 and Matthew 6:14-15).
Let's both take a step. When a white Christian reaches out with a repentant heart, reach back. Forgive. Comfort. Reaffirm your love. Isn't it time to move from 1st Corinthians to 2nd Corinthians?
2. Blacks: Has there been a white who has made an overture toward you that you rejected? Should you forgive that person and reach back?
3. Blacks and Whites: Take the Three-Week Reconciliation Challenge
If you are serious about racial reconciliation, invite one person of another color to meet with you once a week for three weeks with no other agenda except to get to know one another. You can do this over lunch, breakfast or coffee. Begin by asking each other to share how you each became followers of Jesus Christ and what God is doing in your life today. Discuss this article. Exchange information about each other's families, work and other interests. If you are making progress, continue meeting with your new friend. If we all take this personal step, we will help bring about the kind of reconciliation that is in the heart of God.
Business leader, author, and speaker, Patrick Morley has helped men and leaders think more deeply about their lives, to be reconciled with Christ, and to be equipped to have a larger impact on the world.