Until You Walk in My Shoes, You Don’t Understand Me
You have heard this quote before, “You can’t judge me until you walk a mile in my shoes?” Here is the entire quote.
“Walk a mile in my shoes.
See what I see,
Hear what I hear,
Feel what I feel.
Then maybe you’ll understand
Why I do what I do.
Until then don’t judge me.” –Author Unknown
The reaction to this blog series on race in America has been fascinating. Most of the feedback has been “thanks for opening the discussion”. Some of it has been from people who feel overwhelmed and have a sense of hopelessness. Some people just rejected the ideas as one man’s opinion. Since I don’t pretend to speak for black America, I understand. The rejection expressed by others was a rejection of this premise. “I heard black people say, I don’t know who I am and where I came from, and I turned out ok.” That response gave me a reason for pause and reflection. Then I was confronted with this revelation. We view life through our eyes, not reality. Our opinion is limited. That approach is a skewed view of life. Beginning with this point of view leads us to recreate truth in our image. Let me give you a universal example before I bring it back to race.
Back in the June of 1995 a song came out by Joan Osborne that was a pretty popular hit. “What If God was One of us.” Here are the lyrics for those who don’t remember.
So one of these nights and about twelve o’clock
This old world’s going to reel and rock
Saints will tremble and cry for pain
For the Lord’s gonna come in his heavenly airplane
If God had a name, what would it be?
And would you call it to his face,
If you were faced with Him in all His glory?
What would you ask if you had just one question?
And yeah, yeah, God is great
Yeah, yeah, God is good
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us?
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make His way home?
If God had a face, what would it look like?
And would you want to see
If seeing meant that you would have to believe
In things like Heaven and in Jesus and the saints
And all the prophets?
It is an interesting discussion when we try and get into the mind of God. I think if God is just a better version of people we are all in deep trouble. Humans can be moody. At times short-tempered. Humanity can hold grudges. We fall in and out of love quickly. When putting ourselves in the mind of God, we find out what Moses wrote to be true. We are completely clueless when it comes to the mind of God. Moses, who spent time with God wrote this, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” Numbers 23:19 (ESV)
I am saying all this to make a point. You can spend time with black people. You can have black friends. You can even live in a black neighborhood. All those things may make you more racially sensitive; they don’t mean you know what it is to be black. This statement is not a criticism, nor is a judgment. It is the reality. You can be empathic to the cause. You can attempt to be part of the solution. But the moment you say to yourself, “I don’t get it. It shouldn’t affect people that way.” You have gone too far. That is crossing a line from being a part of the solution to just adding to the problem. You are now bordering on becoming racially unaware.
You cannot understand us until you walk a mile in our shoes is a sweet sentiment. But at the end of the day, you can take off those shoes and go back to your way of life. We will always be black, and our reality is our reality. Whether you think it should be different is not the point. If you believe we should handle our plight differently, tell us how. When doors are closed because of the color of our skin, how do we just get over that? How can you help to be a part of the change? Listen to our story and don’t judge the decisions others have made. Don’t dismiss our pain because it is not your pain. You can respect our journey. Honor our struggle; the challenges are real. The mountains to overcome steep. The way forward treacherous. And often the situation looks insurmountable. With odds stacked against black people, you may understand why the fabric of our reality is tearing. Why the anger and resentment are seeping out into society. People need hope. Black people see little to no hope or relief for their situation in life.
It is my heartfelt belief that many people have good intentions, that they care about the racial divisions in our country. I also believe many have no idea how to help and where to start. And deep down many believe it is too far gone to save. Lord, I hope that is not where we are going. If we give up, the outcomes are bleak. The alternative is to leave things the way they are today and just hope for the best. Can our nation handle the possible results of future deterioration? Be prepared to see more riots, more funerals, more caskets until one or both races are extinct. When one group feels the bus of progress has not only left them but backed up over them first, those people stand and fight. America, hear the voices of those who feel left behind. They are crying out for justice. They are crying out for your attention. Don’t ignore them, acknowledge them. Reach out to them. Show them you hear and you care.
I am writing a Bible Study and a book on the topic of Race in America. The Bible Study concept in under review and hopefully will be ready for use by the early next year. As for the book. I am writing that now. Then will look to get it published. Join me in keeping this whole process bathed in prayer. Stay tuned and pray it gets approved for print.
The other posts in this series: