I am stirred up today. Perhaps anger would better describe my feelings. The reason? I woke today to the news that a restaurant that I frequent was vandalized last night with racially charged graffiti.
I'm exercised "partly" because I feel like I'm supposed to be. See, I identify myself as a social activist type. I speak and write frequently about issues of poverty, class, oppression and yes, race. The reason I say that I'm "partly" is because it is sometimes difficult for me to move beyond sympathy.
Hold on, I'm not suggesting I don't care. I care deeply! Deeply enough to act. Deeply enough to change. But, to become empathetic is a different thing. See, empathy means, "..having the ability to understand and share the feelings of another." The reality is I admittedly don't completely understand. I'm a white male. I am of the “majority”…of the “privileged.” I don't contest that. The only place I can even hesitantly empathize is in my utter bewilderment.
As a former collegiate athlete I would on many occasions find myself in gyms where I was the minority. On several occasions, I was categorized immediately by my “whiteness.” Assumptions were unfairly made of me before my name was even known. Okay, here is where I think I can possibly empathize (though I share this hesitantly) with the owner of "Ha Ha's" in the awful gesture sprayed on the side of his building. My feeling was, "Why would you think something of me just because I'm white? You don't know me. You don't know if I'm a 'cracker' or not. You don’t know that I can’t jump! (I had to throw that last one in).” Whatever hurtful stereotyping the person who runs HaHa's and his amazing eating establishment experienced, the reality is the perpetrators don't know him. It was a dehumanizing gesture. One in which the owner of HaHa's and his Korean race were stupidly slid into the category of objects. Objectification is the process of representing or treating a person as an object, one that serves. Subjects are those acting and objects are those being acted upon. It is a gesture, often violent, of subjugation or power. This is most certainly found in racial hatred, but also in gender, sex in the form of pornography, politics, and a whole array of other issues where people seek to use power over others. I don’t know for sure, but I would assume that in seeing the graffiti, the owner of HaHa's may have asked, “Why did they do this to me? I am a good guy. I offer good food at a fair price. They have no reason to hate me. They don’t even know me.”
I suppose the question that must be asked is; are there people in our world’s that we dehumanize. People of other skin color? People who are gay? Folks with mental illness? People from other religious backgrounds? People from other countries?
Here is one of the main reasons this matters so much to me. I'm disturbed about this morning’s incident (perpetrating hatred against another) is because I have a passionate dream that my city would be different. I attempt to live my life with the future in mind. In theological terms, this is called an eschatological hope. See, biblically all things will ultimately be reconciled or righted. It is best represented in Revelation 21:4 where it says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." If you read “the book,” you will also realize that race is a big deal to God. Over and over it states that at this wonderful culmination there will be a massive multi-racial worship service going on which includes every “tongue and nation.” No exclusion based upon race, definitive inclusion. As we endeavor to imagine the way things are supposed to be, objectification of others is…well, unimaginable! My goal then is to, with all I have, live into the future now. Where I see injustice, or poverty, or any type of hatred, I must both speak and act to demonstrate the grand reign of God. This future of wholeness animates my life now! In my thinking, when my current reality, my current city in this case, does not align with God’s ultimate proposed hope for His creation I must attempt to act out as an instrument to bring about what ought to be…