What Blacks and Whites in America Believe about Racism and Why

Decoding the Issues

 Sitting down at the table of Brotherhood…MLK. Jr

I want to tell you a true story about an all-night train ride. But I’m going to put it on a bus. So we’re on this all-night 14 hour bus ride from destination A to Z, and every seat is taken on the bus except 5 seats, and you get on the bus, and now every seat is taken but 4 seats that are for a father and his 3 children.  The father comes right down the aisle and sits down right in front of you by the window and he starts staring out the window.  The bus doors close, and the children don’t sit down with the father, instead as you sit back and close your eyes and everybody sits back, with their eyes shut to try to get some sleep, suddenly the bus takes off, and as the bus starts slowing down, one of the kids screams and then the others scream and they run by and keep running back and forth, and suddenly there’s chaos. These kids are out of control.  Then you sit up and the Dad’s still staring out the window, not doing nothing, while these kids are in absolute chaos.  Now, everybody sits up and you’re looking at everyone on the bus, and they’re looking at you, and suddenly there’s this silent vote. Everybody looks at you and votes you the chairperson to get the father’s attention.  You then go up to the father’s seat and say, “Sir?” “Sir?” “Sir?” Finally he responds to you and says, “What?” “What?”  You say, “Would you please have your children sit down? We’d like to get a little sleep. This is going to be an all-night bus ride, your kids are out of control, and we haven’t been going 5 minutes.  Would you have them sit down and be quiet?”  He looks at you and then looks at everybody else, and says, “I’m sorry, please forgive me, please forgive me,” and with tears in his eyes, he says, “We just came from the hospital, my wife, and their mother just died.”  And he resumes looking out the window.

As you followed this story as a passenger on this bus, where did your emotions go? They probably went from anger, irritation, hostility, to guilt, empathy and understanding.  You might have wanted to put your arms around those children, or even put your arms around that husband.  How did that happen?  Everything changed, but nothing changed.  In fact the kids scream got louder than they had ever screamed.  And now you have no recourse.  But somehow it doesn’t make any difference.  How is it that everything changed but nothing changed?

Decoding the Issue

Well, we got a little piece of information that helped us decode what was going on.  That little bit of information was that the husband just lost his wife, and those children just lost their mommy.  Up to that point we were bringing our experience into the situation….I know why that man’s not doing nothing about his kids….he’s a liberal, permissive, dead beat Dad…probably a social democrat….that’s why we have so many problems in America.  If those were my kids for three weeks, none of this would be going on. Those kids are probably anti-authority and anti-adult, etc, etc.

What we do is we bring to our present experience, our former experience and we attempt to interpret everything by our feelings, and of course our feelings now become the voice of logic, or in Christian circles, our feelings become the voice of God.  So we are absolutely convinced we know what the problem is, or we conclude based on our information through our own understanding of life, why people are the way they are, or behave the way they behave. But when we drew that conclusion with this story on the bus, of this father and his belligerent kids, we were actually wrong, though we felt we were right.  But when we got that information and decoded the situation, we suddenly were able to conclude, “He’s in shock, and the kids are in shock. That’s what a lover does when he loses his wife. He’s in shock, and little kids act out when they lose their mommy, because they’ve never lost their mommy before.”1

The Bus Ride of White and Black America and the Need for Racial Decoding

With that story as our backdrop, I would like to tell you that White and Black America are on a racial bus ride, with both sides either being irritated, angry, offended or in shock.  And each side is bringing to these exploding racial episodes their experiences, with each side just knowing they’re right, particularly when you can predict how the other is going to land on each exploding episode, or how the other is going to respond to each exploding episode.  One race’s parental state – African-Americans – seems to be in shock and they’re staring out of the bus window not doing anything while the younger generation is running up and down the societal aisle spasmodically wild.  While most conservative White Americans are sitting back watching and thinking; “Why doesn’t somebody teach them to behave themselves? Why doesn’t someone make them to pull their pants up, or sedate them kids, or put them in timeout, (prison) etc, etc…. They’re nothing but a bunch of hoodlums, criminals, with victim mentalities.  And every time something happens to them, all they do is pull the race card and blame White people for their problems. They need to take responsibility for their own actions.  However, as you’re reading this book, the question is, will White and Black America alike, let me in this book, give you a little bit of inside information that will help you decode some things on each side of the racial aisle?  If you do, everything’s going to change, but nothing’s going to change. It might even get worse.

The Michael Brown Shooting – and other Exploding Episodes to Decode

After the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson Missouri in August of 2014, most blacks in America, automatically concluded that his death was unjustified, an act of police brutality, excessive use of force, while most Whites in America concluded that his death was justified, within the bounds of the law, and that Michael Brown was obviously culpable in his death, having attacked the officer and went for his gun.  And even though he was unarmed and was shot 7 times, this shooting was justified.  Nearly 6 in 10 African-Americans say Michael Brown’s shooting was “unjustified.”  Why do Blacks believe what they believe about these exploding racial episodes and instantly conclude what they conclude about incidents like what happened in Ferguson Missouri? And conversely why are Whites more apt to believe the best in a situation of possible police brutality involving a White police officer and a Black person?

I believe the base issue of clarification in mutually exclusive and diametrically opposed critical points of view on the same exploding episodes in racial America is the need to decode each situation based on inside information connected to the lens from the two distinct backgrounds in which each people group sees life.  In this lens, from the psychological view of the two people groups in this nation – African-Americans and Caucasians – we have two distinct histories on the racial backdrop of the canvas that our lives have been painted upon, which cause us to see life through two different lenses.

The Sons of Former Slaves and the Sons of Former Slave owners.

In Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a Dream” speech we can see the canvas of the racial backdrop of the two distinct histories in America that the lives of those of African descent and those of European descent have been painted upon. That canvas, which is seen in the below paragraph of the speech, shows us the lenses through which each people group sees life.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

One lens – the sons of former slave owners – projects a victor’s, advantaged view of life, or a conquerors view of life.  The other lens – the sons of former slaves – projects a victim’s, disadvantaged view, or a conquered view of life.   Until we come together and sit down together at the table of brotherhood to understand how one another thinks and why, we will never understand to decode the racial issues that are keeping us divided down the societal aisle of life on this integrated all night bus ride.

I hear a lot of people of European-descent say, this person is playing the race card, or he has a victim’s mentality, diagnosing the obvious in despondent African-Americans, as if that person should just snap out of it and “Stop it!” “Enough already!” “Get over it!” some say.  As if legislated racism being done away with, and legal discrimination and segregation being a thing of the past, should automatically make that persons mentality, as a result of those legislative breakthroughs, equal, advantaged or better than their White counterparts.  Whether or not these systems have really been done away with within the heart and soul of this nation is still up to debate on many levels and in many circles.  And to a large degree it’s based on which group you’re talking to.  But even if these systems have been done away with within the soul of our nation it doesn’t automatically change the soul of a person or formerly disadvantaged people group. To overcome a victim’s mentality takes more than liberation.  It takes more than an equal playing field.  It takes sustained victories

It takes sustained Victories to overcome a Victim’s Mentality

I played sports all my life, all the way up to Division I college basketball.  Consequently, I’m aware that victories in any sport or in any activity in life takes good coaching, practice, and game time performance, and even then you might fail or lose many games before you start winning.  I’m in my forties now, well on my way to fifty, and after 25 years of adulthood I can truly say I am a victor not a victim.  Not because I haven’t had set backs, or because I haven’t been racially profiled or discriminated against, because I have. I no longer consider myself a victim or disadvantaged however.  Because though I have had some defeats and setbacks in life I’ve also had some victories in life.

My victories came from the fact that I was fortunate enough to have had good coaching (parents and mentors) and good practice (training, and education) and during the defeats I experienced I never let the setbacks make me take a step back.  I remember reading a book by Napoleon Hill in my twenties that said, “A SET BACK IS A SET UP FOR A COMEBACK.”  Therefore, because I refused to give up on life or people the longer I lived and the older I got I learned from my mistakes, failures and opposition as much as from good coaching.  I became renewed in my mind to think like a victor, even in defeat.  What actually took me from a victim to a victor was that I had some opposition, a defense intent on resisting my forward progress, and even some losses that I never gave up, in the midst of, and on my way to a breakthrough in victories.  I never stopped believing that I was more than what I was experiencing, or than what people tried to label me.  Once I eventually broke through to victory, because of the journey to obtaining those victories, I knew how to sustain those victories.

However, many young African-Americans on the bus have lost their parents to the societal break-up of the traditional family.  They have no coaches or mentors.  Or they have the wrong ones.  Many are being raised by single parents that are in shock, that are still coping with having their child out of wedlock, or having their children and they’re still a child, or having their children before they knew who they were, or what they wanted in life.  Many of them began having children before they knew what they were good at (their gifts and talents).  Many had their children before they could get any training, experience or education in a field that would cause them to gain some victories in life.  Yes, there’s always those feel-good stories of the ones who made it against all odds. Those stories definitely stand as a sterling example and encouragement, that if one made it, we all can make it.  However, too often those examples come to many, too few and too late, after many have already given up on being successful in life the right way, and have turned to the wayward path of the survival of the fittest, by any means necessary.

Therefore, there’s a generation of African-American children, as well as Caucasian children and other ethnicities, that are growing up without good coaches, without any training, or education, and they’ve never been taught how to win in life against opposition set against their forward progress in life.  So they’re running up the aisle of the bus spasmodically wild, shouting, and screaming and being a menace to everybody on the bus (society), because someone or something’s missing in their lives and many, too often, don’t even know what it is.

My advice to both sides of the racial divide is this: Those of European-descent should stop pointing out victim mentalities, decode and start helping coach victims to be victors on the bus of life.  While African-Americans should stop settling for being a victim and find a good coach to submit to (of any nationality), to teach you how to win in life.

Thank you for reading this blog post. If you would like to be notified when posts are published, place your email in the comment section below. If you are able to help further this ministry of reconciliation, to get this message and messages like these out in the nation, you can give to Brondon Mathis ministries by clicking on this link to give your tax deductible gifts into the fertile ground of Hope for Columbus, 24/7 prayer, worship and evangelism for city-wide transformation, a ministry that’s bringing hope to the hopeless and help to the helpless in our nation. 

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