P.AllanI want to think  racism in America has vanished.  Surely the vast majority have quit counting one race superior to another!

Racism.

But today I read this from presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson . . .

In 1964, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, he said, “I am mindful that debilitating and grinding poverty afflicts my people and chains them to the lowest rung of the economic ladder.”

After fifty years of liberals making promises and the last seven years of false hope from President Obama, not much has changed.  African-Americans are still fighting for space on the bottom rung of the economic ladder.

The high poverty rate in the black community continues because the very tools that should be used to promote economic opportunity instead keep low-income and minority communities in chains.

We have an education system that continues to penalize low-income and minority students by keeping them trapped in failing schools rather than giving them the choice to attend schools that best suit their academic needs.  The status quo rewards national teachers’ unions at the expense of what is best for our students.

I doubt that’s just campaign rhetoric.  Many African-Americans still suffer the residual (some would say “systemic”) effects of past widespread racism.  That’s one reason why I’m writing about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on this commemoration of his birthday.

The Man.

King was a Baptist minister and a civil rights advocate.  The latter started almost “accidentally” when Pastor King was elected to lead a bus boycott in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama responding to Rosa Park’s being found guilty of violating the Montgomery City Code when she refused to surrender her seat to a white man on a crowded bus.

Dr. King played a pivotal part in ending legal segregation of African-American citizens in the South and in creating both the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Perhaps he is best known for his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech (see above).

On Good Friday, 1963, King and his team ignored a court injunction that prohibited a peaceful march in Birmingham, Alabama.  Barricades were erected.  Shouting police arrested the kneeling King and his friend Ralph Abernathy and threw them in the Birmingham City Jail.  King was put in solitary confinement without a mattress, pillow or blanket.  A few days later a guard brought him a published letter signed by eight white clergymen condemning King for his actions.

The Letter.

King responded with a letter of his own (Letter from Birmingham Jail) that has been called “the most eloquent and learned expression of the goals and philosophy of the nonviolent movement ever written.” (Let the Trumpet Sound, p. 222).  It’s long but worth the investment of time ( http://okra.stanford.edu/transcription/document_images/undecided/630416-019.pdf).

Below is what may be the most soul-stirring part of that response to the white clergy . . .

Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your 20 million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she’s told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking, “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “Nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness” — then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

The Word.

Every human being, regardless of skin color or economic standing or gender or anything else, has value and dignity having been created in God’s image . . .

When God created man,
he made him in the likeness of God.
He created them male and female and blessed them.
And when they were created, he called them “man”
(Genesis 5:1,2).

This is especially true for those who are “in Christ”.  For Paul, the issue was Jew–Gentile.  What he writes here applies to black–white as well . . .

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth
and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision”
(that done in the body by the hands of men)–
remember that at that time you were separate from Christ,
excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise,
without hope and without God in the world.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away
have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one
and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,
by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.
His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace,
and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross,
by which he put to death their hostility. 
He came and preached peace to you who were far away
and peace to those who were near. 
For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens,
but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 
built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 
In him the whole building is joined together
and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 
And in him you too are being built together t
o become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit
(Ephesians 2:11-22).

The Grace of Not Knowing.

In 1973 Lois and I moved to Montclair, N.J. to plant a church.  In contrast to where we had come from, Montclair had a significant African-American population.  So did, of course, the public schools.  We wondered how our children would respond.  After the first or second day we asked them, “How many black kids are in your class?”  They didn’t know.!

May God give us all grace not to know!

Image result for little kids holding hands black and white

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