The Other America

 
The Other America”

This was the title of one of Dr Martin Luther King’s messages during the height of the civil rights movement. As a pastor of a multiracial church for over 30 years, I quickly learned that my black friends and parishioners grew up in a different America than I did as a middle-class white man.
This was evidenced to me early on when one of my black friends, Shaddrack, asked me to go to a local muffler shop with him because he was having trouble with his muffler. I learned that the muffler shop was not willing to honor the muffler work they had already done, but when I arrived with Shaddrack, they were willing.

The Other America was evidenced in our youth group several years ago. Many of our African American youth came to youth group from the city and would be stopped by police almost weekly as they drove into our mostly white suburb.

It was evidenced to me when I asked some of our African American women what their greatest fear was. All of them responded they were afraid their boys or husbands would be shot. These were wonderful Christian women who loved the white community as well as the black community.
It was evidenced to me when talking to a black friend whose best friend recently married a black man and moved into a white suburb. During the past two years, her husband has been pulled over 40 times and asked what he was doing there.

How can white America help and not hurt in this turbulent time? We can listen to our black friends, co-workers and neighbors. We can, as Jesus said, love our neighbor as our self.

As I was writing this, a young African American man came walking by with his dog. I have seen him walk by before, so I said “hi, what kind of dog is that?” I then introduced myself. I think it must be a little frightening for a young black man to be out walking his dog in a community that is mostly white. I don’t and won’t know how it feels to be black in America, but I can do things to try and understand by listening and working to be an agent of reconciliation in a divided world.
I do this by frequenting my neighborhood minority owned businesses (one of my favorites is Renwood Cigar Bar in Euclid, it’s a black owned business frequented by mostly black patrons – and me). I talk to my black friends and neighbors. I go over to their houses (at least before the coronavirus) and have them over to mine. I try to place myself in their place the best I can and ask what I would want someone to do for me in this situation. We can invest at least some time and find out what historically has happened to the black community in America. As a church we celebrate Black History Month and intentionally invite minority people in our church to have a voice and presence in our community and in leadership.

We can live out 3 simple things God gives us:
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. “Micah 6

I have included some thoughts by one of my dear friends and Coworkers in Christ, Danelle Chappell, in response to a dialogue regarding recent events:

Rantings of a former preacher and assembled thoughts from various sources.
By Danelle Chappell
 
I start with a baseline of questions to help in confusing times:
•      What is Justice?
•      Do you see a person?

I thought a person was flesh and blood with the living breath God gave us with a finite amount of days and chance at forever with the resurrection. But what have others seen?
Some friends are asking, “Are we magic creatures? Are we Naruto with a nine tailed mythic fox in our belly button? Are we secretly inherited with the abilities of Samson? What is it about our existence that exudes such fear? It is apparent that bullets kill us. That choking kills us. What is it about our skin that makes us seem more dangerous than armed people – that takes so many with so much force? Are we fully grown as we become teenagers? Are we super Saiyans who at the full moon are going to destroy planets? What is it about us dying that doesn’t spark the questions, “Weren’t they a person?” “Who should die like this?” “Where is justice?””

The two greatest questions any religion or philosophy have to wrestle with are, “What is wrong with the world?” and “What can be done about it?”
 
Governor Dewine said in his Press Conference on 05-29-20:
“All of us have an obligation to speak out against injustice, to speak out against racism.
Speaking out against injustice and racist is even more important for a leader. Even more important for the governor. I missed that opportunity at yesterday’s press conference, and I regret that. What happen to George Floyd is tragic. To watch the video of his life being taking away second by second is horrific and will be seared onto every American’s mind until the day they die. What about the other officers? You watch the video and then you watch it again and see the other officers standing around and one wonders “What were they thinking? What where they doing? Why didn’t they do something?”
Fran and I look at life through the lens of a parent – through the lens of a grandparent. We thought “what if that were our son? What if that were our grandson?” While Fran and I felt sorrow and disgust of what we saw we cannot fully comprehend or imagine what an African American family must feel looking at the George Floyd video. “What does an African American mom think? What does an African American dad think? How do they explain/tell their child? What does the child think? What does the child feel?”

As a former prosecutor, and an attorney general, my thoughts are when I see misconduct by police officers “where was the proper police training?” Did they have the right police training? As we all know is not all about police training, but my mind goes to that in wonder. This officer’s misconduct validates any principle of human decency, but it also validated any kind of basic police training.
While I was attorney general, we made police training a priority. When put a primary focus on officers to deescalate difficult situations. We put an emphasis to help officers understand their own bias. To understand we all, even if we realize it or not, have some bias. We put emphasis on training with how to deal with those bias. We also put emphasis on how officers can recognize those with mental health problems. There were not indications in this situation there was a mental health problem, but the point is there are three areas we feel were very important. We have accomplished a lot of these areas in Ohio but not enough and we must do more.”

Danelle:
What is wrong in the world? What can we do to about it?
For years now at various degrees I have had conversations of sadness, fear and anger. Conversations teaching young people how to encounter police. Conversations with older black women saying we have to protect our men again. Conversations with friends who are scared to bring their children with them – especially if they are going somewhere they need to wear a mask. Not just because of Covid, but for fear of them being murdered. We’ve talked about tactics such as voting, protests, and awareness training. Celebrities have gotten involved to bring light and attention to the topics. Innovative grass roots operations have sprung up. We said “Black Lives Matter”. Professional sports players took knees to make a statement. Folks wore shirts. And we looked on as we see people die. PEOPLE DIE!

If a person can repent and a Nation is made up of people, can a nation repent? Can we reconcile with each other? Can we repent and reconcile to one another, turning to each other and saying I see you as a person? Can we then then reconcile ourselves to fix our Nation?
What’s going on now in our Nation can be a lot if you’re just now plugging in and being flooded with things or its not consistently part of your world. Hell, it’s confusing & traumatizing for those experiencing it and are completely plugged in. For us.
 
More from Gov. Mike Dewine’s speech:
My commitment today to the citizens of Ohio is we will do more. I will work with the leaders of the general assemble and I will work with the David Yost, Attorney General, and we will continue down this path and do more in this area. It is very important.

Ohio has over 35,000 police offers. Police offers that risk their lives every single day. They protect our communities. The Columbus police officers that responded to the statehouse area yesterday put their own lives at risk and did an excellent job. The majority of police officers do a good job. We have moral obligation to make sure every officer, all 35,000, have the proper training. We also have the obligation to do everything we can as a society. Some people may be a racist, others may have other challenges that should stop them from being a police officer. Training is important but does not solve all problems.

George Floyd’s death in a combination of events and as he is lay on the ground dying, he represented so many others before him. His death impacts all of us. We have a responsibility to each other. We have a responsibility regardless of race to stand up and speak out. The pain, distress, and angry is real. I want to make sure as the governor of this state that I say to every African American male, women, child, you are valued, and an essential part of this community. You are important to our community. I hear the voices of frustration and I seek justice when denied.

Health disparities among our minority communities have laid bare during COVID-19. Health disparities to African Americans and other communities of color. We will drive testing and get it done with under-served areas of the state of Ohio. It is the right thing to do. It is my commitment to you.
Protests expressing outrage are not only understandable they are appropriate. Ohioans, exercise your first amendment rights, speak out against wrong doings, speak out for change, and speak out for unity for an end of injustice. Hate should not overcome love, kindness, or compassion. Ohioans, as you gather to protest in the upcoming days, regardless of the issue please do so peaceful. We must NOT fight violence with more violence. Exercising your first amendment rights are an important part of our civic life. Abe Lincoln once said “A house divided again itself cannot stand.” Ohio lets stand together.
#InThisTogether
 
Danelle:
Judges and District attorneys are elected officials – this is where we have a choice in society outcomes of justice. But from a Kingdom standpoint, where is the Jesus in this? What is the body of Christ doing in all of this?
 
There are discussions happening.
I am willing to do A Vineyard Cafe Virtual lounge. Dum Spiro Spero.
 

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PANTRY HELP NEEDED ON TUESDAYS.

In all the changes over these past couple weeks, VCC is making the commitment to still server those in need of food through our pantry. Our pantry normally serves around 100 families a week. We are in need of VOLUNTEERS. We start at 8am and go through 6:30pm as our distribution ends. We are taking all the precautions to keep everyone safe. We still need to be the church to our surrounding communities. If you are able to help and fall into the CDC’s parameters of “Not at Risk” people, join us for however long you can serve today.
 
The Greater Cleveland Food Bank is projecting the number of people who are going to be in need of food assistance is going to go up with the closings of basically everything. This is a small way we can be there and give some hope to people as we navigate through these challenging times.

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