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*Special thanks to Shila and Pragna for their encouragement and inspiration*

Through Other’s Eyes

Many years ago I met and dated a non-white lady from the great island of Trinidad. It was my first “real immersion” into the wonderful West Indian Culture. To be clear: I hadn’t previously avoided it intentionally. It was more a case of: The opportunity had simply not presented itself. Again, to be clear: I have never been a racist or bigot. I have never been able to rationalize the needed absence of “intelligent thought” that is needed to be purposefully either. I have always seen racism and bigotry as “Siamese Twins” birthed from the exact same generational spirit and a flagrantly disrespectful “slap in the face” to God.

As I perceive the matter: A “major step down” as a human, in order to accommodate the need for a sense of superiority over others, which in fact completely disqualifies the mindset from its desired end result. From God’s perspective, while thinking “superior”, we become “inferior” to the very ones we are thinking ourselves to be superior over! Now, isn’t that dysfunctional at its most obvious?

The truth? There is no such thing as a superior race but there is a superior God who created us all in His image. To think otherwise is tantamount to telling God you don’t like what He created. I’m thinking: A slippery slope to slide down and “downward” is most certainly the direction.

That being stated I also admit: Just because I wasn’t a racist didn’t automatically translate into me understanding life and its complexities from the non-white perspective. The entire totality of my existence had been seen through “blue eyes and white skin”. How could I possibly know what it was like to “not be like me”? To not interpret life through the “colored” lens I was born with. I repeat: How could I possibly know? The bigger question: Did I care to know or did I fear what I might find out? There’s an old saying: “What you don’t know won’t hurt you”. I utterly disagree: What you don’t know makes you ill informed thus dangerous to society as a whole!

In 1964 there was a “true story movie” produced entitled: “Black Like Me”. If you can find it it’s a must see in the light of our topic. John Griffin was a very respected “white” man who decided to pass himself off as “black” as an experiment to see what would happen. Keep in mind all that changed was simply his color. I won’t spoil the movie by divulging too much information, but let it suffice to say: His life experience changed dramatically!

“Black Like Me” while being uncomfortable to watch, is an important movie with its exposing racism for the insanity that it truly is. You see, racism isn’t a personal viewpoint. It’s a mental disorder that ought not be coddled with excuses for its justification!

Either Or ?

Back to my Trinidadian sojourn: My goodness, did I get quite the valued and much appreciated education from my newly acquired friends. As I opened my heart and mind to learn from them, I was simultaneously learning about ME as a person!

As it turned out, I had much to learn if I was going to be the person God made me to be! After all: Isn’t that the point of breathing? To be given opportunities to accommodate “change”, and to embrace those opportunities as the gifts they are.

The food, the music, and the genuine warmth of the people I met during my stay was amazing. But with vivid profoundness what I recollect most of all from my experience was a chilling and sobering commentary from my lady friend. One that took me many months to work out in my heart. I suppose on some level, I’m still working it out. You see being “white” can be a blinding condition in need of acknowledgement when generationally imputed. There are well-disguised delusional attitudes within the context of white that as a youngster seem innocent enough, but with age applied they can become our natural yet unexplainable, habitual default. In short: It’s just the way we think. That is true on both sides of the color ledger!

Her complexion was that of a Latino, derived from her Venezuelan mother. I honestly envied her natural “non-anemic” appearance! When the winters would arrive she continued to wear her lovely brown persona while I couldn’t have looked whiter with each passing day.

In conversations she would refer to herself as “black”. I didn’t say anything to the contrary but it did strike me as strangely ironic because she wasn’t. She was “brown”. My silence was based on her right to call herself anything she wanted to. So, if “purple” was her choice, then so be it was my basic attitude.

In due time my comfort level became such that more out of curiosity than anything else, I just had to ask. It shouldn’t have matted and for all intense and purposes it didn’t, but I was seeing brown not black and concluded: If I was actually claiming to be “purple” she’d ask why.

Well, I’m glad I finally posed the question, even though her “completely unexpected” response would break my “white” heart! She didn’t mean too, nor was her answer shared in anger. She was simply, “telling it like is” from her perspective.

“Well Bill, seeing as you asked it’s like this”, she said. “You are either white or you’re not and I’m not, so I associate and relate with black”. “What about “brown”?, I foolishly asked as I dug the hole a little deeper and darker into my conscience.

“Brown doesn’t count Bill. It’s not the main point of importance. Being “not white” is the only color that truly matters! Translated and applicable to the non-white life, it means you are less than. It doesn’t matter how much less! White is the gold standard. Therefore, others who are deemed as “less than” tend to associate with those who are likewise deemed. Do you get it”?

If I had been “not white”, I would have likely understood what was being proposed. But, white being my non-optional pigmentation, and with me considering myself to be a non-racist, I was confused to the extreme. At that point a wise person walks away from the explanation with a simple, “OK”. But, what the heck, one final nail in the coffin of my ignorance is perhaps what I needed in that I wasn’t “getting it” at all.

So I asked: “Where in the world did you get such a ridiculous impression”? Said the fly to the spider. “You gave it to me”, she responded. Now noticing my white skin turning a very unlovely shade of red, she qualified her comment. “Not you personally Bill, but they all look like you”.

It’s been a long time since that conversation but the guilt of my whiteness has long lingered in my soul because I know that lady was 100% correct! History confirms it to be so, and very sadly history continues to repeat itself! Us “white folk” would like to flip it off with a convenient and callus, “that was then and this is now” conclusion. But the reality is, we who are white live with a long established template of D.N.A. behavior that needs to be fought not flippantly dismissed!

Amazing Grace

Have you seen the movie? If not you should. Made in 2006, it documents the life of William Wilberforce and touches on the conversion of John Newton the writer of the song, “Amazing Grace”. In my pre-study for this book I discovered John and I share the exact same birth date, July the 24th. If not significant, it’s at least interesting in that I equally share his quote. “I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior”. John Newton also confessed to being “haunted” by the thousands of black souls that died under his watch. A second thing, I being white, think of as appropriate for me to share.

John Newton was a slave trader who after his conversion, would become William Wilberforce’s pastor and one of his prime and faithful mentors in his fight to abolish the slave trade. A very wearisome battle he wagered with only the backing of a remnant of a few brave souls. A battle that would pit him against the British Government and their severed consciences. In total, the passionate debate would last twenty long and arduous years before reaching its victory.

Amazingly, William did so in ill-health most of the time and was unceremoniously pegged as a revolutionary to be concerned about by his fellow parliamentarians. Isn’t it ironic? Jesus was labelled the same thing by the Pharisees while on earth! I guess when the “almighty dollar” is involved, derogatory terms must be hurled by those whose wallets will be affected in a negative sense by the truth regarding their hypocrisy.

The numbers are a little hazy because of the time period but the general consensus reveals that approximately 11 million slaves were taken from Africa over a time frame of three full centuries with an equal amount mercifully dying before they ever got to the ships.

Due to the unthinkable horrific conditions a slave was forced to live under, the life expectancy of a young child slave was one year with an adult being seven. That being the reality, slaves had to be imported constantly to replace the dead! And all the while the “slave trade” flourished on the backs of the departed! Those who considered themselves as the “civilized ones”, in essence became the least civilized of all! Their arrogance had blinded them to that rather chilling truth!

A slave, once arriving at their destination would be literally branded, as in seared, to serve as an obvious reminder that they were no longer to think of themselves as people. They were now no more than possessions for the rest of their lives. Families were disassembled at will and sent to differing destinations never to see each other again. Does the term “inhumane” even begin to reflect accurately the depth of this barbarianism practised by the “so called” civilized folk? I think not!

South America, North America, and The West Indies were the most active geographical areas of the world practising this “holocaust/genocide” behavior.

And here’s the “sharp thing” that cuts my white soul to its core. It was all promoted and seen as appropriate by “Imperialistic White Christianity! “Christian” by name but certainly not by fame!

So, Is Racism And Bigotry Dead ?

Well, we don’t wear white hoods over our cowardly heads anymore as was once in fashion by my neighbors in the South, I being from Canada. They made hanging people from trees illegal, so we stopped doing that. We don’t have black and white “everything”, unbelievably including at one time, churches, so that’s a step up to the goal of acknowledging the sacredness of life as seen by God.

But is “racism dead”, is the question. Absolutely not! Is its twin “bigotry” dead. Absolutely not!

We would like to pretend that it’s so but the truth is, we have just learned to hide it better. The ugly white hoods are now wearing nice suits but their hearts are no different in content. Dark!

The past U.S.A. presidential election with its subsequent visceral dialog proves that as true. The K.K.K. still unashamedly exists and their dreadful D.N.A. has survived intact all the way back to the days of slavery. It is a long established “pox” on society that will take generations to utterly disable. I say that hoping that its disabling is actually possible!

I would love to assure us that it’s just the “older folk” that need to pass away in order to move into rational Godly thought regarding evaluating people based on their character and not color, but it wasn’t all that long ago I quite accidently found myself on the perimeter of a conversation between two young people: He said: “I don’t like anything that’s brown”. She responded: “Well, at least it’s better than black”. Now, without me telling you, can you take an educated guess at what color these two young people were? Can you furthermore help me in understanding how they are going to be the answer to anything?

Mimicking dysfunctional D.N.A. induced behavior is a powerful reality! It has a tendency to leave you sounding arrogantly ridiculous to the listener. “I don’t like anything that’s brown”, was the poorly disguised “anyone”.

Its meaning is this: Solely based on the fact that you are brown, you are therefore disqualified from my validation as having any significance at all as a person. Only a dyed in the wool white supremacist would think that way and further confirms the opinion of my Trinidadian friend as being 100% correct.

The gentleman in question likes to use the phrase: “The Good Lord”. Well, “the good Lord” was brown so how good could he really be, when thought through with the same logic?

Racists have a way of contradicting themselves when the circumstances of life are in their favor to do so. I’m guessing that if my young friend blew a tire on the highway and a “brown skinned” fellow stopped to offer his help, he wouldn’t say “no thanks”. No, he’d likely let the gentleman help and then consider himself as evolved for doing so. That’s how crazy it can get folks!

I stated earlier: “It’s a condition”! More clearly stated: It’s a disorder! Even more clearly stated: It’s not rational and yet regurgitated by some as if it were.

“Paranoid Schizophrenia”: The dictionaries meaning: A form of Schizophrenia characterized by delusions of persecution or grandeur. In the case of a racist it’s heavily weighted in “grandeur”.

There’s No Such Thing!

This should be a frightening thought for us all regardless of where we find ourselves situated on the issue. There is no such thing as a “Christian Racist” nor “Christian Bigot”. How can there be? These as a “life reality” can’t co-exist! They simply could not be more diametrically opposed to each other according to heaven! As earlier referenced, there was an inexplicable time not long ago we had white and black churches. Now, don’t excuse it, as is our habit, but instead let that truth marinate in your soul in the light of the heart of Christ.

Serious question: How did that happen, and worse shamefully approved by the vast majority? Where were those brave souls to stand and denounce the practise as un-Christ-like? And who, in their wildest imaginations, could have thought that God would contaminate His presence in such abominable behavior? Well, He didn’t. Unlike today where we see Him being removed by the populace, back then God removed himself from everything that was labelled, “white only”. It makes me wonder if those “white churches” noticed His absence? I assume not!

There is a sobering answer and it’s sadly applicable to our lives today. “Pretentious” Christians, have a way of making “what should be impossible”, “shockingly predictable”! And they are the majority. They have always been the majority.

But God works through the remnants not the majorities! The few not the many. That’s the why there is such a thing as a “black” Christian! It’s quite the amazing miracle when you think about it. These people’s abusers were “professing” Christians, and yet in time they became what their abusers “professed” to be. Only God by His Spirit can overcome such a horrific presentation of himself to correct “that size” of a wrong folks!

God gets His way. If it’s not because of us, it will be in spite of us! Perhaps we need, on many levels, more William Wilberforce’s in our midst? One can only imagine the strife he knowingly invited into his life by taking his vigilant stand against the slave trade. William was fully aware that his answerability was to God and not man. He was a brave soul who valued and invested himself in other souls regardless of color or status. Quite the legacy he left that we, if we have any spiritual integrity at all running through our veins, should uphold with a matched vigilance.

Racism, bigotry, or its D.N.A. lingering residue is wrong regardless. But immeasurably so for the one who attaches their name to that of Jesus. Even though it’s an uncomfortable thought, you just can’t negotiate your way around that reality folks.

We simply aren’t here to represent our petty preferences but rather Him. The past suggests we have done a miserable job of doing that. But our future doesn’t need to be a repeat. We can be changed. We must be changed, because our eventual answerability will be centered within that presentation!

Nature Tells Us All We Need To Know

And what do we need to know? God is magnificently creative thus: GOD IS COLORFUL! As in: Full of color! Not to be misunderstood as color-blind! God’s not blind at all. He so thoroughly enjoys the visual of His creation. We should too! It’s been created for our enjoyment as well!

We as humans are a strange lot. We are instinctually and sadly tribal. People who are different are perceived as threatening to our status quo. How terribly small of us when we serve such a wonderfully huge God. Well, that is a “human trait”, but when we transmit our view to nature we see far more clearly the vast artistry of our Creator.

I have a botanical garden that’s not too far from where I live. In full bloom it is breath taking to say the least! It explodes within its differences and variances and I find my heart overwhelmed by its heavenly display! I wouldn’t dare think that my favorite color should be the only color on the divine menu. I would have to be a fool to consider such a travesty! The kaleidoscope of the merging multiple colors is the very thing that makes it all amazing. As my eyes race to track its beauty something wonderful happens. All the colors become my favorites. They all make sense as to their relativity within the tapestry of almighty God. My heart then becomes expanded to thankfully embrace them all equally!

That my friends is my prescribed antidote for racism and bigotry. It exposes both for what they truly are. Senselessly limiting. Now who in their right mind would invest in such a pursuit when there is an alternative?

In closing and not to be ingested as a hypothetical: If you’ve followed my writings over the past twenty months, you’ve been introduced to Shila. She has been my closest friend for a very long time. Shila, being Indian, is beautifully brown. On the other hand, I am not! In those times when pictures are taken, I find myself looking “more handsome” standing next to her. Coincidental? I think not! Nor do I think the flowers at my botanical garden are different by coincidence!

All differences and variances are created by the Architect of the universe to be enjoyed by all for their irreplaceable beauty! For that to happen we must thankfully embrace what you see!

We have only one life to live. Let’s allow ourselves to get over ourselves, and for some of us to get over our forefather’s past sins, so that we can experience life in all its meant to be fullness!

So, a final question for your consideration: Why does “different” have to be intimidating? Are we as humans really that fragile? Why can’t it be deemed wonderful? From God’s perspective there’s no such thing as “them” or “they” just an “US”! Maybe it would serve US well to adopt His viewpoint and say goodbye to our own? Now that sounds like a venture worthy of pursuit!

My Ministry - Our Ministry

Mark 6 - 38 & 41: “How many loaves do you have He asked?” “Go and see”. When they found out they said, “Five and two fish”. Taking the five loaves and two fish and looking up to heaven He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to His disciples to DISTRIBUTE to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all”. ( Five thousand plus, were fed that day! )

In the biblical story of the “fishes and loaves”, I so clearly see three dynamics in play to achieve the desired completion of the heavenly orchestrated equation. The young boy GAVE what little he had, our Lord then MULTIPLIED it, and the disciples then DISTRIBUTED it.

It’s interesting to note that Jesus, after the multiplying didn’t say, “Come and get it”. What He did say was, “Everyone find a place to sit on the grass and I’ll bring it to you, through my own”. Folks, He loves to involve us. He loves to make us matter! We are blessed beyond measure to be written into, His stories! Just imagine: Invited by Him to participate in His plans for others!

From the inception of the idea of writing books to be made available to “all freely”, there has never been a moment when I haven’t been aware of its ministry context. I could easily be seen as the “young boy” in the story. Jesus has most certainly multiplied my meager offering to Him.

So may I invite and encourage you to be a distributor of that which He has multiplied, thereby elevating “My Ministry” into “Our Ministry”, thus completing “His Ministry”. There’s something about that idea that sounds “perfect” to my heart!

We all have friends, family, work mates, school mates, etc. I’ve included a simple directional on “how to find” the “fishes and loaves”. Please feel free to share “what you eat” with others. You have no idea where it could lead to! That young boy’s mother could never have dreamed, what that little lunch she had prepared for her son on that fateful morning, would produce!

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