Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Perception Is Reality, Pt. 4

This is Black History month, and since I was born during the Civil Rights movement in Memphis, TN - I was 3 years old when Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot - I thought I should share what I could about my family's personal reaction to the racism of the old South.

My father was a gunsmith, and, the day after MLK was shot, everyone wanted a gun, afraid a riot would ensue. It did not, and my dad decided then and there to only use his license privately for personal use. He did not want to fuel the hysteria.

My mother was so adamantly anti-racist that she left the denomination they grew up in due to the bigotry of her pastor. While we ended up going to an all-white church, not once did I ever hear any negative or derogatory comment about blacks there. [I'm old school, BTW - and so is the black pastor who ordained me - we say 'black' and 'white', knowing that in our generation, black was beautiful, black was a symbol of luxury, etc. I hope no one is offended.]

Since my mother grew up in the time of Jim Crow laws, after her 'full conversion' and dedication to Christ, she wrote a poem about her experience under them. She was a school girl.

Bus Ride ‘46

My thoughts had been on other things as
I hurriedly caught the late bus…
Quietly taking a seat, I saw
A lot more of them than of us.

Tired, discouraged, listless and dull
Why do they sway to and fro?
The straps at the top of the bus that they held
Were frayed from being used so….

I realized then that because of me
They couldn’t let go and sit down
I moved to the front as fast as I could
And was greeted up there with a frown.

The bus driver glared at his one white charge
The one white charge took the same tack…
Jim Crow appeased, the people sat down
And Satan laughed from the back.


by N. J. Carmon (c)2011


That was then. "Tired, discouraged, listless and dull.." wrote my mother.
"When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn." Proverbs 29:2

What does it mean NOW for black men and women to have a black President? Or when Condoleezza Rice was Secretary of State? When most of the top athletes in the world are black?

It means hope. It means a lot of perception was changed in 50 years. Say what you will about the distance to go, but a lot HAS changed, thank God.

We tend to become the people we are expected to become.
I'm sure there are a LOT of factors, but the way we perceive ourselves and how we are treated manifests in our motivations - or lack of - to succeed, to try to do well.
"When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?" Psalm 11:3

I believe that they way you treat a child and the expectations you have of him or her do a VAST deal of molding and crafting in their hearts and minds of what their actual potential IS. So many studies have been done on this and the results are stupefying. People can be 'brainwashed' using peer pressure and other familial/social factors to think of themselves as dumb, lazy, incompetent, smart, entitled, superior, etc.

I had my eyes opened to a very unusual Biblical passage because of this.

When God told the Israelites, who had JUST been freed from the oppressive regime of Egypt, that He would take them to the Promised Land and they would take it over because the former inhabitants had been incredibly wicked, you would have thought they would go "COOL! THAT'S what I'M talking about!!"

But even though they had SEEN God wipe out the Egyptian army, they balked when they heard how BIG the inhabitants were.

They considered themselves FAR too inferior to take such a land. "We seemed like grasshoppers to them - and in our own eyes!"

They had been brainwashed by abuse. It would take ANOTHER generation to rise up to their level of true ability.

Here's the relevant passage:
Numbers 13:26-33
26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”

30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

Numbers 14
The People Rebel
1 That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! 3 Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

5 Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. 6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.”


Did you see that the Israelites would RATHER have gone back to SLAVERY [their 'comfort zone'] than be free? They saw themselves as INSECTS?

They are not. They are people chosen by God. But on that day they failed to believe in their worth before Him.

I think we are now getting the TRUE messages and RIGHT messages to the Black community. (While I could not vote for President Obama due to his stance on certain issues, I am VERY glad to have a black President. Heck, if Condoleezza Rice ever runs for President, I'm voting for HER!)

But it took time. Sadly, the past does not disappear overnight.

And, like all injustices we have enabled in our country, let us not forget THIS time of American history, lest we repeat it.

Amen.

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