Race, Relationships & Comfort Zones

by Harvey Hook

“There is no reconciliation until you recognize the dignity of the other, until you see their view. You have to enter the pain of the people.  You have to feel their need.” – John M. Perkins

While exiting my car recently in a suburban northwest Columbus parking lot, I noticed a black man seated alone in the back seat of a car, front seat empty, engine running, window open. As I crossed the parking lot, I was aware of how conscious I was of him.

Against the backdrop of racial tension in our country, I wondered, “What is wrong with me? Why am I so aware of this one man?” And then it hit me. In that neighborhood, it’s common to see Asian, Hispanic and Middle Eastern individuals, but rare to see an African-American.

  • At one level, I simply recognized a person’s color not common in that part of town.
  • At another, I was mindful of how conscious I was of his presence, and wondered what work was still required in my life.
  • And last, if he had been a friend, (ie., Kwesi, Jordan, Larry, Marvin) there would have been no thought of skin color, as I would have embraced him without a second thought!

Here’s my takeaway.

1. Friendship lived out in community, transcends racial and cultural barriers.

It’s in friendship with one another that progress is made. It’s in the knowing of another that forgiveness is offered. It’s in honoring one another that grace is extended. We can only move forward as a community at the “speed of relationships” we have with one another; like and unlike ourselves. If so, shouldn’t we begin by “Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you?”

2. Progress is made only as we live outside our comfort zones.

I recently attended a meeting with Mayor Ginther and community leaders in the aftermath of the police shooting, and tragic death of 13-year-old Tyree King. While there were many helpful things shared, but it was Pastor Frederick LaMarr who challenged us to move beyond personal comfort zones. He said, “Go to a place that does not want you, and stay until they cannot live without you.” If so, “What am I willing to sacrifice in order to engage those different than me?”

3. Love is stronger than hate.

Fifteen months ago I traveled to Jackson, Mississippi to spend three days with civil rights leader, Dr. John Perkins. Aware of his 1970 imprisonment, beating and near death experience in a Brandon, MS jail, I commented on what a tragic experience that was.

His response took me by surprise. “Harvey, I needed that to happen. I had so much bitterness for whites. I remember looking into the face of the Sherriff, and it was twisted by hate. For the first time I saw how racism had enslaved white people. I realized if I only ever returned hatred for hate, I would be no better than them! They were captives to racism and they needed to be free. I realized that if God could replace hatred with love in my life, he could do it for others

For the first time in my life, a hope began to take root. God could heal the bitterness of blacks and replace it with forgiveness. God could forgive whites. He could move them beyond guilt-motivated patronization to responsible partnership with blacks in working for justice. God gave me the dream and I knew He would make it happen.”

I believe God will only accomplish the reconciliation of races and cultures as we: “Love Him and love our neighbor as ourselves.”

“Who is my neighbor?”

I close with one final invitation for you to register for the Leadership Prayer Breakfast with Dr. John Perkins, Thursday, October 6, 7:30-9:00am at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. You can register now at: www.RelaLeadership.com/LPB

To read the Columbus Dispatch coverage on Dr. Perkins travels to Columbus click here: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/faith_and_values/2016/09/30/civil-rights-veteran-to-preach-power-of-churches-togetherness.html

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