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(c) 2019 Sherman Lambert

Today is what would have been the 91st birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King was a worker not just for racial justice, but for justice for all. His words and life’s work sought to turn the collective consciousness of our society toward our nation’s inequities. His dream was that the American dream would be available to all of God’s children in their own country—and he paid the ultimate price for his dedication to improving access to so much of what constitutes the tables of this nation. As Christians, we are called not only to invite everyone to our Lord’s table, but also to full participation in the opportunities in this land.

And we might think we’re doing that just because we try not to harm others who do not look like us. But if we don’t want the sins of this nation’s fathers and mothers to be visited upon us, we have to also really hear those who have lived through different experiences—especially when those experiences have come from systems that appear to be applied differently based upon someone’s outward appearance. It’s easy for us to bristle when we hear the word “privilege” directed at us, especially when we are dedicated to working hard and to treating our neighbors as we like to be treated.

But despite our feelings of discomfort, it’s way past time for us to listen—and to open up to understanding that systems that seem sustaining and helpful to us may not always be applied equally to everyone.

There are stories out there of justice denied—individually and in a systemic manner, as you can read or watch in lawyer Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy book that is now also a movie. You can read up on the effects of the New Deal practice that graded neighborhoods based upon desirability for real estate investing, a practice whose long-term effects continue to shape opportunities within communities. According to the Mapping Inequality website: “These grades were a tool for redlining: making it difficult or impossible for people in certain areas to access mortgage financing and thus become homeowners. Redlining directed both public and private capital to native-born white families and away from African American and immigrant families.”

And then there may be stories told to you directly by people you know. In the early 90s, my husband Sherman’s employee—who was African American—cashed his paycheck and drove off down Federal Boulevard. Soon after, he was pulled over by the police who yanked him out of his car and threw him on the side of the road. There he was, a young man in his dress shirt and dress pants, with cash in his pockets, lying face down on that summer night as the commuters drove by. His crime? Apparently he resembled a man who had committed a crime nearby—eventually the police let him go his way. When Sherman and I heard his tale, we were incredulous at the violence of the encounter. After all, we knew the content of this man’s character. He, however, was not surprised—except for the fact that we didn’t seem to know how common such a threat was to him and others who looked like him.

It’s been over 50 years since Martin Luther King was shot down for trying to do something about inequities. I had the luxury of believing that much of what he had fought for had come to pass—because these sorts of challenges didn’t happen to me. That’s privilege. I get to choose whether to turn my outrage into action or not.

What will it take for us as a church to stop feeling umbrage when we hear the word “privilege” and instead take up the mantle of Dr. King’s fight?

This is my prayer—that we will hear those who are attempting to tell us that their experiences in this country have been different than ours and that we will work through our own discomfort and truly fight to break down the barriers that prevent all people from eating at the Lord’s table.

Please join me in speaking –and acting on—the immortal words of Dr. King: “We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Because, as he also said and as is engraved on the side of the Justice Center building in downtown Denver, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

 

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Martin Luther Rose (from Reformation 500 Tour 2017) (c) 2017 Trina Lambert

I tend to spend my Saturdays away from the news, concentrating on household, family, and personal needs. Sometimes I forget that it appears that when the Leader of the Free World takes time away from the White House on weekends, he may squeeze in some recreation time by golfing, but he also tends to create more news by tweeting. Then I wake up on Sunday and realize more damage has been done to another group of people or individuals who have been attacked in a most unprofessional and cruel way. Oh, I pray in church, Lord do I pray—and sometimes I even begin writing blog posts.

At one time, I worked for a manager who was socially tone deaf. In his case, I don’t think he meant to harm people with what he said, but he did anyway. One day he came out to make small talk with his team, and then looked at my coworker and said, “My you look fat today, Steve.” I had had enough, even if he was my boss. I told him that we as people don’t always say what’s on our minds and he replied, “Well, I do.”

I told him he shouldn’t, but should do it based upon the situation at hand. Forgive me, but I still believe that sometimes we should moderate our unkind thoughts.

For everyone who says they elected the current president because he speaks his mind and just says what everyone else is thinking—well, then shame on you for thinking that we should all share our worst thoughts. We as a nation have elevated someone who cannot and will not stop speaking in awful ways—both about and to other people. And he does so in our names!

There was a time when we as a society knew it was impolite to say certain things. You can tell yourselves that was being too PC (politically correct), but it was simply about manners. Quite frankly, many of these derogatory terms and slights are really not as offensive to people higher up in the power structure than they are to those in the lower rungs of society. (You know, people who experience prejudice based upon something about their race, sex, religious beliefs—anything where you can start out an accusation with a “you people” before it.)

But they offend me—and I know they do offend many people who are part of a “privileged” group, despite our backgrounds. Just because I am a descendant of blonde Germans and Danes doesn’t make me special. Down one branch I have relatives whose robes (think triple letters in the middle of the alphabet) were found in their closet when they died. I cannot atone for their actions, words, or beliefs, but I can be held responsible for my own—and for how I raised my children who are grown adults now, and who are also appalled with what is being said and done by the highest officer of this nation.

What happened to all the “radical” songs of love we sang in church in the 70s? Did we not mean them? In my church, we sang from Ray Stevens’ “Everyone is Beautiful”: “Jesus loves the little children, all the children all of the world, red and yellow black and white they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.” I still think all children are precious: blonde-, black-, red-, brown-, blue-, or no-haired. I think we should care if their homes are flooded or if their cities are bombed or if they’re afraid of the law enforcement people who are called to protect them. I want to believe our level of caring has nothing to do with whether they’re brown or shades of it—or not.

And on that topic, if the leader won’t choose to say something in a respectful and decent manner, then I don’t care to hear what his innermost thoughts are. Instead, I want him to act and speak with the gravity of speaking for our nation. Or how about speaking simply with the civility many of us strove to teach our children? In our house, we didn’t say the “s” word (“stupid”). My kids were taught that it’s not okay to call people names (especially the kind that used to be bleeped out on TV) or tell them they are something such as a lazy person versus someone exhibiting an attribute such as acting lazy. Instead, you call out their actions and behaviors—using factual proofs, of course, not just innuendo.

A person who is acting a certain way is not necessarily that at his or her core. Unless the actions happen again and again without changing and without apology or any demonstration of a belief that anything needs to change. In that case, you get to judge a person on the content of the character as demonstrated.

Authority is earned. Consider me civilly disobedient.

Respectfully submitted,

A Concerned Citizen of the USA and a Child of God

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