Am I a coward?

Posted by Kevin |

So I read this post by Eugene Cho yesterday, engaging the first speech given by the first African American Attorney General, Eric Holder. In his speech, Attorney General Holder said 3 things that really challenged me:

1st - Our country remains "voluntarily socially segregated."

2nd - “Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,

3rd - "On Saturdays and Sundays, America in the year 2009 does not, in some ways, differ significantly from the country that existed some 50 years ago. This is truly sad."

I hate that he is right. Had I still lived in CO and heard this, it would not have resonated with me. I would say that "there is still some segregation, but not to the extent Mr. Holder is accusing." I would probably even accuse him of playing the victim of the past and be frustrated by his pessimism of the present. But, I didn't think that or accuse him. It resonated with deep convictions in my soul.

I've lived in the Motor City metro area for 3 years now and have seen and heard things I thought to be archaic - things we all learned were ignorant and empty in our American History classes of our high school years. Areas where white people aren't wanted, areas where black people aren't welcome, subdivisions being 'infiltrated' by Indians who don't maintain the same standards of landscaping, the feeling that I should be afraid and suspicious of every black person I pass on my walk 3 blocks from my secure parking garage to my secure work building. I honestly hate the suspicion I feel when I gas up at the station across from my work, the one thought to be 'dangerous' - but then a white guy was car jacked at gun point by a black guy and all suspicions are validated - and then everyone was right. I have never seen an American city that looks so war torn, destroyed by the air raids of white flight and neighborhoods ghosted by ghetto indifference. I have never felt so far from living in America as I do in the Motor City, because it is not the America I want.

I want to believe in the dream and something that transcends all this racial history - a history I didn't help to write, but a future I long to be a part of. I never enslaved anyone, but I know my ancestors did. I've never hated someone for the color of their skin, but I know family members who do. Yet, perhaps I am a coward because I have not fashioned my life, or positioned my home or diversified my circle of friends to embody that which does resonate deeply within me. I work with mostly white corporate people, I live in a mostly white neighborhood and I have mostly white friends. Perhaps I am a coward. Too harsh? Maybe. I know I didn't move 60 miles outside of Detroit to get away from the African Americans that make up the majority of it's populations. We had family out there, found a great house (at a then great price - since lived to regret that) and it was far cheaper than where we were living. But, I could have moved to Detroit for those same reasons, not as close to family but far closer to work, far cheaper to live.

So now I feel like part of the problem - and I'm left challenged by Mr. Holder's speech and must work to be the change I want to see. I am not satisfied by the status quo in our culture and churches.

Related posts, "The King had a Dream," "The Down Side To Freedom of Speech [Part 1]," "A Church without a Box?"


sharkiepatronus said...

I think he (and you) make some really valid points. I was raised to be "color blind" by my parents. But I am slowly learning that putting up this facade of indifference is not the way to bridge the gaping divide that, even if we pretend not to see, is still there. It is only through embracing that yes, there are cultural differences, and acknowledging that they are a valuable and neccesary part of our cultural makeup that we may be able to begin to truly build a permanent bridge across that gap.

Kevin Davis said...

Stacey - word. Quite unintentionally we pretend it doesn't still happen or still exist - yet it is all around us.

The Running Golfer said...

Kevin, you might as well have described my life here in South Africa in this awesome post.

I too am a victim of a past I had no control over. Today however I must suffer the consequences of that in everyday life. Jobs get marked BEE, which means I mustn`t even bother applying cos it is purely for the previously disadvantaged. I accept that. I mean if it wasn`t for President Mandela and his forgiveness, I would probably not be here today.

All my friends are white but I do have a lot of black acquaintances. We live in different suburbs, we drive different cars, we do different things, we eat different food.

Thanks for posting this. It`s incredible to know that a society like yours, still struggle with a lot of the same issues a young democracy like ours struggle with.

Kevin Davis said...

Francois - I'd love to hear more about Mandela and his forgiveness from your perspective.

Carrie said...

I read Pastor Cho's post yesterday. I found it thought provoking. I also identified with the comment that basically said, how do you 'address' racism when you live in a place where it isn't a daily issue? ...which is kind of what you are saying too.

My family is from the West Side of the state - not a diverse place unless you count that some folks are of Irish and some of German descent. I've lived for most of 20 years a place we settled because we had family there but it is very homogenous. I really need to figure out how to raise my children with a more diverse experience.

Not to diminish the race issue, but I really believe there is also huge socio-economic discrimination and prejudice in our country. I have definitely experienced that type of marginalization and pray that I can reach across that divide. I think we need to be very aware of that as a church (and I think we are).

allie said...

This is such a complex subject.
One wonders if it would be such a big deal if the social and economic difference between the groups were not so great.

Then maybe people wouldn't be so concerned about who mixes with whom.
Its just bad both ways when one group is so obviously worse off than the other.

In SA, as Francois has said, we face very similar things and are far newer at trying to sort things out.

I find that this dichotomy: I have black friends and the colour thing is not an issue to them or me
One on one we are fine.

But the en masse thing is different.
I think there is mutual fear and distrust when we think of "blacks" and "whites" as generalities, don't you?

To get an idea of just how complicated the subject is, even around our deeply respected first president, Mr Mandela who is loved and admired around the world.
And rightly so -
Just go to UTube, and type in "Mandela singing" and have look at those mixed signals.

Its the message thats being sent to the simple people that is the problem: I am not saying that I believe that is Mr Mandela's intention.

At the end of the day, our hearts show in the daily round of interactions with people of all and any colour, don't you think?

But its good that the question is being grappled with and not swept under the carpet.

I have a feeling that it might see quite a lot of daylight under your new government. . .

N8'sSpace said...

I think this country has majorly changed since 50 years ago. I also don't think being color blind is a way to true diversity. I think fully seeing each others differences and embracing them, is the path to acceptance. Plus I care about culture...especially when it is about food.

Ryan Billings said...

Yes ;)

Bob Smith said...

N8 - I could talk for an hour on this subject and not say waht you just did - Amen

Kevin Davis said...

Carrie - the socio-economic is huge too.

Allie - since I don't speak whatever language that is, it is hard to believe.

N8 - well said.

Ryan - you're a coward! [in the snide voice of a 5 year old]

Bob - I thought you were going to let us in on your Police perspective - but N8 did say it well.

kiki said...

I read his post as well and agree with him to an extent. I think you are too hard on yourself for feeling those suspicious feelings when you are getting gas or shopping. I can say I have those same feelings and I’m married to a black man. I don’t think I am discriminating against his race for feeling that way though, I feel like I am being cautious. I don’t think we have the ability to change the world by letting our guards down in vulnerable situations. I think the real change comes when we feel completely secure, and make a conscious effort to welcome those who do not look like us, whether it be fat, short, black, white, disability, or whatever. When we welcome those people when they are visiting our church for the first time, or we see them at our children’s school or when we see them at a social gathering, I think that is when our complete undiscriminating love and acceptance makes and impression and a difference.

jesselcook said...

Have I mentioned this book to you? "Divided by Faith" by Emerson.


A very academic approach to this issue.

Kevin Davis said...

Kiki - thanks a lot for your perspective. And you are right, I was being intentionally hard on myself to force the issue, to force the an honest look at it. And you are right, we so often boil the race issue down to black and white - but it is really an acceptance issue of diversity (disabilities, gender, ethnics, socio-economic status, politics, etc). We need to be people of love and conviction.

Jesse - I think you mentioned it while you were here - but it is already on my 'wish list' at Amazon. Speaking of when you were here - when are you coming again? You sister needs you to visit man and you'll need somewhere to stay?

Anonymous said...

Kevin, this country IS NOT what it was 50 years ago. That is a statement based from a sad lack of understanding and historical perspective. But Eric Holder is right on one point. Many white people have become cowards. Not in the way he thinks but in the gist of the post.

You feel guilty simply because you’re white. You feel a need to justify yourself for; where you live, why you moved 60 miles away, how you think about life, whether your ancestors had slaves or not, and a need to separate yourself from your “racist family”.

It’s sad. You even say that you feel like “part of the problem” – what problem???

This country has always been a great country with a number of problems that we as a nation addressed & fixed. It is America that is great. America is the sum of its parts. America is not one man. America is not a “Diverse” Attorney General. America is not a president. I don’t care who he is. Diversity for diversity’s sake is recipe for disaster. Diverse, yet with a distinct & common American core culture is what “melting pot” signifies.

It is America that has made this progress, not one man. And this isn’t to be critical of Obama or Holder. It’s meant to show you the greatness of this country and add perspective. Do you know how many people have been taught over the last couple of generations how rotten their country is? And the reason this happens is because a bunch of multiculturalists got a hold of the public education curriculum and started tearing this country down on the basis of group victimization and how we’ve mistreated this group & that group. And that we don’t even really deserve to be here because we took this land immorally and unjustly. And so millions of Americans grow up as little kids watching Saturday morning cartoons and going through grade school, middle school & college being taught what a rotten place their country is.

This isn’t a criticism but Obama is the recipient of our progress. He’s the one who benefits from decades of it. In fact, that’s what had the Al Sharpton’s of the world upset. That’s what caused, black columnist, David Aronstein to write of the “magic negro” in an LA Time’s article. And this bolstered a whole discussion on whether Obama is “authentic” enough. And that discussion took place exclusively among Black "Leaders".

A president is not a pied piper. America is not a nation of cultists. And yet we’ve reached a point now where because of the election on one man whose father was black, people are now being told that magic occurred.

Again this isn’t a criticism but the inability to see truth. America today is level playing field as far as racial issues go. Perfect no, yet the street does run two ways. Real "change" will come when we are not afraid of call truth, truth because someone might think were being racial.

When everyone is an “American”, not “African- American, Hispanic- American”…just “American” then we'll have a country truly united.