The missing link in the current racial conflict with the NFL protests, the American flag and patriotism, is how we see life in America as a result of our historical lens of America. Blacks and Whites see life through a different set of lenses, based on several mutually exclusive and diametrically opposed historical, sociological experiences. Therefore, the differences in how we interpret what we see stems from the fact that many Whites have their white lens on when they look at these issues, and many Blacks see through their black lens, a totally different color lens on the other end of the lens color spectrum. In dealing with people groups, the lens that all life is seen through is based on the experiences in our heritage, history and upbringing, and how we respond to both the positive and negative things of our lives, as well as the things our forefathers have experienced. Consequently, the lens we see life through determines how much we have to focus to see things the way the other side sees things when we’re looking at a situation that happens in society with racial conflict.
The Lens of our Inheritance from the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence
It’s imperative that we define the lens of life of both Whites and Blacks, with the back drop of our American societal inheritance and heritage passed down to us from our forefathers, from this country’s founding documents – the Constitution of the United States of America and the Declaration of Independence – to get to the roots of what some Whites in authority may be thinking concerning their Black counterparts, during times of police brutality and misuse of authority, rage and excessive use of force against them. While also getting to the roots of what some Blacks may be thinking during times of lawlessness and disrespect of authority in American society.
Most Whites see things through the historical lens of the first lines of the American Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. – The Constitution of the U.S.A
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – The Declaration of Independence
In essence, most Whites see life through the lens of the American inheritance of freedom, liberty and rights, passed down from their forefathers who came to this land from all over Europe to pursue the American dream, with desire and self-initiative to be whatever they could be, breaking free from the tyranny or domination of a system of exploitation originally initiated by the Kings of England and perpetuated through succeeding oppressive regimes down through the years. As a result, their forefathers gave to their children generations of examples of ancestors with a strong work ethic, spurred on by the inspiration and incentive of having a culture of freedom and liberty from which to pursue their dreams. Consequently, their ancestors went on to establish educational institutions to compliment and pursue these dreams, thereby establishing the necessary internal and mental disciplines that it takes to bring their dreams to past, in whatever field of endeavor they might pursue.
While most Blacks’ forefathers were forced to America on slave ships, whose inheritance in America is seen through the historical lens of racial oppression, slavery, injustice, with no rights, as property of those who were pursuing the American dream. Consequently, because of their heritage and inheritance from the grueling persecution of slavery, the share-cropping system, and Industrial share cropping in the 20th century, the only dreams most blacks had to pass down to their children were the nightmares they could not speak of, from generations of tragedies, of whippings, lynching’s, unjustified killings, pain, suffering and injustices from slavery, the Jim Crow system of segregation of the south, or the de-facto segregation and discrimination of the north, that they would either keep to themselves or try to explain to their offspring, while trying not to sow bitterness and un-forgiveness into their children against a people or a system that allowed, and in most cases, promoted the unjust behavior.
In many cases our ancestors still managed to produce in their children a work ethic, while doing menial labor, like janitorial work, housekeeping, and waiting tables. But to many black children this became only a reminder of the degrading system of exploitation from slavery that they were a product of. And though, through their parents faith in God, they were able to instill in their children faith, perseverance and the need to pursue their education as a means to a better life, many could not see past their forefathers experiences on a unleveled playing field, and in a system stacked against them, just because of the color of their skin, to try to make it work and come out of life better and not bitter. Thankfully, many did, as witnessed by the many successful African-American inventors, authors, entertainers, educators, doctors, judges, and now Presidents, in past generations and in recent history. However, too many did not come out of these experiences better, but bitter. Some, in turn, glamorized the “get rich quick” schemes, and avenues, that focused on a short cut, or a big, one-time or short term payday, while others glamorized illegal, criminal activity that promised a piece of what is shown as the American Dream, without the work and discipline it takes to make the dream a reality for all to partake of.
All of this does not even bring into account the lens of debilitating systems of the Federal dole hand-outs and the Government Welfare State in our recent history, which we will talk about in a later chapter, that was, in some cases, a sincere attempt to help the needy in our communities, but that eventually ended up creating systems and generations of poverty, which made poverty harder to escape and wreaked havoc on the very support system our communities needed most to lift themselves out of poverty: the family. Government dependency became their one enduring heirloom, passed from one generation to the next, from fragmented families, made so by the very system that was supposed to help them, transposing one type of plantation from slavery, to another plantation under the welfare state.
White Racial Suppression
Many Whites would rather not look at or consider this lens as an actual heritage passed down, or choose to look at the African-American plight as a thing of the past, and therefore suppress its historicity, while even questioning the legitimacy of its negative effects on the soul of the black culture, thereby subconsciously suppressing the black plight in their own consciousness. One way some attempt to de-legitimize the black plight, and its negative effects on the soul of the black culture, is by comparing the black plight of over 400 years of slavery and discrimination because of the color of skin, with other people groups that have suffered in their history and turned their lot around, like the Jewish plight. They point to Jewish plight, and especially highlight the Holocaust in the early 1940’s, where millions of Jews were slaughtered by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi death camps in Germany and Europe, and other Jewish persecutions in their history, and attempt to compare it with several centuries of persecution in the 235 years of this nation’s existence. While their experiences in the 1940’s, and down through the years of Jewish persecution, was debilitating and tragic to the soul of the Jewish culture, comparing their response and return from those years of World War II, to the four centuries of psychological and physical torture, abuse and racial oppression on American and European soil, based on the color of the skin of African-Americans, is not a fair comparison.
Remember, Jews from Europe, before, during and after the holocaust, that are here in the United States, that have achieved their dreams, are here in this country, the same way, and in most cases, with the same skin color, that other people groups are here, and have come here for centuries, to escape the persecution and domination of the oppressive regimes of Europe, to pursue the American Dream of freedom, liberty and fundamental human rights. African-Americans are the only people group here originally from slavery, brought here against their will, unable to change the color of their skin to blend in, to get a fair piece of the American dream when the system was stacked against them. The system was stacked against them, originally, because the dream did not originally include them. African-Americans were not originally included in the “ALL MEN WERE CREATED EQUAL” clause of the American Constitution, because we were not considered men at that time, primarily because of the color of our skin, and in order to soothe the conscience of the Slave owners and the powerful financial institution of Slavery that existed upon the backs of African Slaves. In a later chapter, we will look more into lessons we should take from the Jewish plight, as well as other people groups that have come here and prospered, and how African-Americans should look at the comparison between their plights and response, and Slavery and the African-American response.
Another way of explaining the different vantage points and lens of the two people groups is, some Whites subconsciously see from the vantage point of racial suppression – attempting to suppress the black plight deep beneath the soul of this nation’s cultural and racial history – while many Blacks see from the vantage point of racial oppression – viewing life through the lens of their journey from beneath the iron feet of slavery, and a system formerly set-up to resist their advancement. It’s easier for the nation’s majority people-group to suppress the unfortunate history of America, in relationship to the African-American plight, because of the recent gains in the abolishing of legislated, systemic racism, than to look at Black history head on, more than one month out of the year, and attempt to grapple with solutions to deal with the lingering negative effects of the Black plight on the soul of the Black Culture.
It’s very uncomfortable to talk about in mixed company, and it’s difficult to wade through its effects without joint and mixed interaction and dialogue. So, because we refuse to deal with it head on, we continue trying to live life in the same country without addressing the elephant in the room that is inhibiting our true interaction and integration unto reconciliation. While this is not true across the board of all people from the various racial groups, it is worth noting, based on various polls, posts, blogs and message boards, that patterns suggests this is the case, subconsciously, of the majority of people from the various racial groups. Few and far between are the Whites that are sympathetic and understanding of the Black plight and are willing to see these exploding racial episodes through the Black lens of the empathetic decoding methods explained in the last chapters’ analogy of the father that lost his wife, and consequently his kids are out of control on the all night bus ride.
Thank you for reading this blog post. 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.
This blog is taken from excerpts, from Chapter 3 of my book, The table of Brotherhood – RACIAL SUPPRESSION VS. RACIAL OPPRESSION – HOW WE SEE WHAT WE SEE.