Every Sunday we entered into church through the west side door. I always liked getting there early so I could make my way to the top of the stairs and watch as the dozen or so select women and men marched up to the choir loft. When mom stopped by the church on the weekends to help clean I would sometimes wander up there and be in awe of the enormous organ and the fantastic view. Everyone revered the choir. Over the years though, the choir got smaller and they eventually started singing from the front of the church. They had lost their impact.
It’s been an interesting month. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves. An unarmed black man was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson Missouri. And most recently, Ray Rice from the Baltimore Ravens physically assaulted his fiancée in an elevator; a brutal assault that was caught on camera for the whole world to witness.
The amount of hate that has surfaced from these tragedies is noteworthy and should serve as a teachable moment for all of us paying attention. Despite numerous eye-witness accounts of what took place when Michael Brown was killed and endless discussions on how the police officer did not use appropriate escalation of force, there are droves of people who continue to believe that Michael deserved to be shot and killed. You need but look on any online forum to find thousands of people weighing in on this crime, defending the shooting, using racially charged slurs and stereotypes. Nearly every conversation gets deleted because it gets out of control with hateful rants.
The commissioner of the National Football League knew Ray Rice knocked his fiancée unconscious. The team and his fellow players knew. For this hateful act, Ray was suspended for two games. It was only until the infamous video surfaced that he received a penalty more deserving of the crime. Listen to what is being talked about though. The focus is on her. People are mystified as to why a woman would support a man after being physically assaulted. “She hit him first,” they wildly exclaim. Remember the tweet sent out right after the assault by the Baltimore Ravens? “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.” Really? What role did she actually play in this heinous assault other than being a woman?
Coming from the guy that’s been in the equal rights work for nearly 15 years, don’t kid yourself for one second that we are anywhere near eliminating hate against black people and women in our communities. Michael Brown’s death and Ray Rice’s assault on his fiancée make me seriously question our efforts. We have not done enough of the real heavy lifting.
I ask you to think about the conversations you’ve had about these incidents. Who were you talking to? If you’re like me, you’ve been preaching to the choir. Maybe you’ve had a couple of people challenge your opinions, but for the most part, everyone in the room agrees with you. Those guys in the online forums that have been spewing hate should not be ignored. We should be challenging the racist and sexist jokes that are shared daily. Some will never change, but that only applies for a select few. Many more are actually wrestling with the hate that fills them.
If we want to eliminate the hate in the world, (and that’s a big “if”) we need to be actively recruiting more choir members. Let’s fill the loft and move downstairs not because we are small and unheard, but because the entire church is singing the same tune.
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