Why should I care about a “community” that didn’t care about me as an “individual?”
That was my thought and rationale for the longest time and I think it is time to be brutally honest with myself and with my community as a whole.
With February as Black History Month approaching as I write this, I began to think about the history that was taught to me growing up as well as what I learned over a number of years about the struggle and oppression of countless black men and women. While I understand that we recognize and celebrate and observe the strides and successes made within the black community, I am immediately reminded of my own experiences.
Growing up, I was a “different” kind of kid, one who paid attention to the New York Stock Exchange and treated the State of the Union address like a Super Bowl broadcast. I was mentally and physically bullied often and I usually tried to stay under the radar as I filled my notebooks with drawings and short stories. Being a Special Ed student for math, reading and speech didn’t help either!
Day in and day out, it was nothing out of the ordinary to be referred to as “white boy” or accused of “acting white.” I was often a target for not wearing the “coolest” clothing or even walking and talking “like” a black kid. I still remember like it was yesterday a couple of older cousins of mine tried to coach me in how I wore my clothes.
Everything I did was not “black” enough. The older I got, the more annoyed I got about the notion of “black” anything. It was to a point that my anger, frustration and disdain grew in such a way that it led me to think of myself better than specific types of individuals within the black community. Relating to individuals within my own community grew tougher and tougher and overtime I gave up. And yet, I was immediately embraced by my counterparts from other races. I immediately grew a connection and related in such a way that very few from the black community related to me.
That wouldn’t slowly begin to improve until my late 20s. There’s still more work to be done and I know it will take just as much effort from me as it will from my community.
The month of February was often hard for me because it was as though I was forced to put aside my unattended wounds and replace them with visuals and memories the wounds of others. But, I was still angry, frustrated and alone. It seemed like no one would get where I was coming from and even then who would want to hear of it!?
Over time, I noticed the anger and frustration that plagued me was the very same anger and frustration that plagues countless other black men and women who still feel the sharp sting of pain, hurt and injustice brought on by whites and even by those from within their own family and/or community.
Just like I have gone for a long time lacking any trust from those within my community, many blacks struggle with the same thing both within the community and outside of it. Certainly this can be attributed to a harsh history and so much more.
Earlier this week, I prayed and asked God to show me why I was so frustrated.
Here are the following things the Lord revealed to me over the past few days regarding this struggle of mine:
1. The Lord MADE you!
2. The Lord MADE you who you are and placed you where you are so you can show others they can be who God created them to be from within their communities!
3. Jesus himself was hated and betrayed, Jews and Gentiles alike. He knows my pain and He can and will heal my wounds from the past.
4. Help those in your community HEAL from their hurts, their frustration, their mistrust of others, their self-hatred and the hatred of where they come from. Tell them about the peace that Jesus has that’s readily available for them!
The Lord is working on me as He shows me that lying in my hatred, anger and frustration will not help me, but letting go and letting God love me and loving Him and loving people is the only way through it.
The individuals who treated me so badly can’t apologize to me, but I can still forgive them and go on. Why!? Because Jesus Christ forgave and died for His enemies and the world and He has forgiven me.
I did have some help and support, however! There were a faithful few from within my community who were accepting, loving, open-minded and appreciative of who I was as a person. My hope is to be that kind of man to as many people as possible in order for the healing process to take place.
Needless to say, this will not be the last time I bring this up. I think the Lord is probably leading me towards a place where I address the healing of the black community. I can imagine there are others out there who are experiencing the same type of struggle but are just too ashamed, reluctant or even worse, apathetic.
After all, deep down, I want us as well as all Americans and the world to move forward in peace, unity and equality – true freedom in Christ and life more abundant!