Do You Want to Walk A Mile In My Shoes?

lightstock_176411_xsmall_byrene_haney

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:
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/19/fearfully-made
https://revheadpin.org/2016/08/09/sorry-you-just-not-black-enough
https://revheadpin.org/2016/08/02/its-time-church-to-stand-and-speak-out
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/26/its-time-to-heal-the-racial-divide
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/12/how-guilt-feeds-racial-divison/
https://revheadpin.org/2016/06/07/diversity-in-the-church/
https://revheadpin.org/2016/07/05/dealing-with-race-in-america/
https://revheadpin.org/2016/06/21/how-to-see-beyond-color/

Advertisements

29 thoughts on “Do You Want to Walk A Mile In My Shoes?

  1. You’re absolutely right. I’ve faced discrimination based on age and sex. You’d be surprised at how many men or people younger than I am think I’m imaging things. I wish it weren’t true but I’ve no doubt that discrimination based on race, gender, religion and on and on is alive in America.

    Like

  2. Good blog.
    Race is always such an unnecessary issue. In South Africa things are just as bad, if not worse. Here white men struggle to find work and unqualified people get jobs and positions just because they are black. Because of the fact that our (white) forefathers had race issues our generation and our kids’ have to suffer because of it. Apartheid ended when my generation just started school so we know nothing about it, we got raised white and black together. But because the older generation has racial issues it is us that have to suffer. So the racial issue is a thorn in everyone’s side.

    Like

  3. Keith, I look forward to your book!

    Your blog has made me pray long and hard. I just don’t get why there are white Americans so opposed to affirming the experience of POC. I think long-standing segregation, and “the great white flight” has much to do with it– we live in our little white suburbias where the racial make up of our neighborhoods are not representative of the whole. Our kids go to school in districts where the student body is representative of our white suburbia, not of reality. And we are so divorced from the reality playing out, that we take an arrogant stance when we watch the evening news. I hate to say it, but I feel like those comments on your blog stating “why can’t we all just get along?” are actually saying “why can’t you just be white suburbanites, like us? Then all of your problems will vanish!” And, I may be wrong, but I think that pressure to silence diverse voices stems from our own buried guilt. When God calls us to serve Him, He sends us to those who need His love the most. And, if we are trying to live a life divorced from the reality of a fallen world, we are clearly not heeding His call. We’d rather ignore the pain of others, and make their suffering THEIR problem, rather than step up and take responsibility in joining those wanting a solution.

    If God wanted us to all be white suburbanites, then, that is what we would be (God forbid!) However, God loves diversity. Creation speaks to that Truth. It is humankind that prefers conformity, because conformity insulates us from the discomfort and pain of living in a fallen world. If God loves diversity, then those that love God should also love diversity. Loving diversity cannot pretend that you and I are the same… No! Loving diversity honors and protects the reality that you can borrow my shoes for a time, and I your’s, but at the end of the day, we both take them off.

    I thank God for your blog, Keith. Your posts have sent me into deeper thought and prayer on issues that have always been near and dear to my heart. My own exile in white rural America, instead of burying issues of racial disparities, have made them more obvious. I never understood what it meant to be white, and what white privilege was, until I came here. Turns out, God knew what He was doing when He dumped me out here;)

    Like

    1. Kristen, I appreciate your heart and your passion. You and my wife are giving me an idea for a future blog on this very topic. Thank you for all the prayers and support through all this. I will send you a signed copy of the book. Blessings. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Keith, Best of luck and prayers for the book!

    I’ll share this story and let you prayerfully make of it what you will. One side of my family is wonderfully mixed. The other side, that of my father who passed away when I was 18, is full of bigots. When I was 5, my grandparents put my brother and I in the back of their cadillac, locked the car doors, rolled up the windows and took us on a cruise through the poor sections of Milwaukee, where they made fun of the little “nigger” kids. I was appalled. All I saw were children like me. Not long after, I was at another family outing where racial slurs and hatred was flying. I stood up, my little fists clenched, and confronted it. My grandmother never forgave me. From that day on, I was a “little nigger lover” and trash to her. After my dad’s death, that same grandma disinherited me; and under fear of being written out of her will, the entire side of the family stopped calling and connecting. I apologize for the use of the n-word. Yes, it is appalling. Maybe when you feel the pain of the slur, you earn the right to speak honestly about it.

    My children do not know my dad’s side of the family. I have paid a real price for doing the right thing, and I have NO regrets about that. My big takeaway is that, when you stand arm-in-arm with anyone, you share the blows of their persecutions with them. I do not know what it is to be a minority race any more than I know what it is like to be a man. I do know what it is to be permanently outcast for taking a stand.

    I will stand arm-in-arm with anyone who cares enough to peacefully push for real equality. From where I sit, we aren’t even close.

    God bless you, my friend!

    Like

    1. Wow your story is so compelling and heartbreaking. I am God showed you a better path. I may ask permission to use share the concept of your story. There is hope even if you started out with a mountain of attitudes to overcome. God bless you for seeing the light even at a high cost.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. God has His own form of retribution. My life has been richly blessed in some amazing ways. I tried for a long time to make peace, but some people will never have it; and I am not willing to compromise on the truth and equity behind real brotherly love. Have a beautiful day, my friend!

        Like

  5. God is Good all the time. Humans are humans after all we can never compare to God, we can always try to be like him but it’s impossible to be just like him.
    These past couple of days God has worked miracles in my life and my husband’s, and still working through us may his name be blessed.

    Like

  6. You said, ” I also believe many have no idea how to help and where to start.” This is so true for me. But part of the reason is that sometimes (as a white person), I feel like I can’t win. If I show the side of me that embraces people of ALL colors, mention the fact one of my very best friends is African American, or anything positive toward the opposite race…it’s viewed negatively. Sometimes I feel like I’m treated the same as a bigot would be. I say that because I work in the school district for Milwaukee and deal with this on a regular basis. An African American parent will oftentimes develop an attitude toward me because they don’t like what I’m saying. If it gets to a point where I need a co-worker to diffuse the situation and the parent receives the same answer from one of my co-workers of their race, it’s received differently.

    Of course, I live in one of the most segregated cities in the United States. Only recently have I come to a deeper understanding of the struggle between the races, in light of the situation our city dealt with a few days ago when 6 businesses were burned down and police officers were injured by protesters. When it happens in your city, the spotlight shines brighter. It hurts to see my city in this turmoil. It hurts to feel like I can’t win. It hurts that people are treated a particular way because of their color. I feel pretty helpless. Yet I know that prayer can move mountains. So that’s what I’m focusing on.

    Like

    1. Hi Stephanie. I understand your frustration. I served as a pastor in Milwaukee for eight years and lived in Sherman Park. One solution I present is about developing an authentic relationship with people of other races one person at a time. I think if we are all striving to reach out. We can make a difference. This problem took over 200 years to develop. True lasting change will take time. But we do need to bathe this in prayer. The churches need to use their voice. And Christians need to model the love of Jesus. One relationship at a time is the only place to start. Hang in there. Praying for my former city.

      Like

      1. You make a GREAT point…one person at a time. I guess I’ve focused too much on a bigger picture when you’re right, it has taken a long, long time for this problem to develop. Thanks for putting this into proper perspective. And again, you are so right about bathing this in prayer. Thanks again for bringing these sensitive issues into the light!

        Like

  7. Two weeks ago, I took two young people on a road trip to the Biltmore Estate. The young man, age 26, had never been more than 50 miles from his home. He works at the local TCBY and had confessed to me months ago, when he saw my camera, that he had a dream to have his picture taken in front of a field of sunflowers. He wanted to be dressed in white to look like an angel. I told him I would take him to the Estate one day as they have a mile long stretch of sunflowers every year.

    A month ago, I sent him an email and set an appointment to make the two hour drive on a monday morning. I suggested he bring a friend as I had two free passes.

    When I got to the TCBY on the scheduled morning, he was waiting with a friend…a young woman. He was thrilled…as was I…because I had been unreachable for 10 days and we were meeting totally on faith. (The young woman confessed to me later that she came along primarily to take him to Atlanta because she did not believe I would show up and she knew he would be greatly disappointed.)

    We had an amazing day! It was pure joy for all of us: He was extremely photogenic; I got some great shots and then handed the camera to her. She took to it like a duckling to water. I have almost 300 photos to work on and get back to them. We had such a wonderful time.

    Why am I telling you this? Because the ONLY down side to our day was my catching sight of the looks given by others to my new beloved young friends. You see, they are African American; I am not. While there were other African American guests on the Estate that day, they probably received the same looks. Making matters worse, these two young African Americans were the focus of my attention and photography and we were having such a delightful time. When the restaurant manager asked if there were anything more I required, my young friend said he needed a box for his leftovers. The manager said, to me, that he would bring me a box. The manager never addressed my friend. This whole scene was not lost on my two young friends; we exchanged looks but nothing more was said because I daresay they are used to it and I refused to let such bad manners ruin our day. But I cry for my friends and their spirits. Being treated like that sucks. However, rather than making a scene and making things worse, I chose to continue to make the day wonderful for them…and it was. When I have time, I may post some pictures.

    By the way, yes, it is me. I dropped off the grid after being severely hacked. I suspect it was due to my outspokenness about certain matters. I have started a new site. I will try to reach out and be a good ambassador without drawing undue attention to myself.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s