No One has Ever Introduced Me as a White Preacher

Candlelight vigil in Charlottesville*

I do not have any close friends who are black.

Which is hyperbole.

Which is true.

As a white, European-American Caucasian, I’ve had friends, colleagues, fellow students, and neighbors that were red, brown, yellow, black and white, and all precious in God’s sight**. And precious in my sight, too.

And yet, as a pre-teen kid who once watched TV, riveted by the shaky black-and-white images of fire hoses aimed at fellow citizens, and attack dogs released into Birmingham, Alabama crowds at African-American men, women, and children, how many close friends did I have who were black? And this question also, right now, over a half-century later: while viewing the high-tech drone footage of a Dodge Challenger accelerating into a crowd of Charlottesville anti-Nazi, anti-white supremacist, anti-hate protesters, have I ever had a deep, heartfelt relationship with someone who is black?

Birmingham, Alabama – 1963

You probably have.

Not me.

I was raised in the California ‘burbs of the 1950s and 60s. When looking back at the school pictures, from Kindergarten through high school, I see a sea of white faces. Mine. Others. Nearly everyone. In high school’s four awkward years, there was one black family: the Bakers.

When is our world view—what I think, based on what I’ve seen—fixed and established? At what point are personal values—my beliefs, my prejudices, my codes of right vs. wrong—embedded within us? I’ve read that before the fifth candle on the cake is lighted, most of our personality has been formed. In our first years, who raises us and how we are raised, literally makes all the difference in our selfish, selfless, grave-bound, graceful lives. Continue reading →