My social media feed was full of conversation about a white woman with a dog in Central Park who refused to leash her pet in a part of the park where doing so is required by law to preserve the peace of wildlife – and those who watch them. The bird watcher in this case is a Harvard educated guy – who happens to be black. They might both be considered politically progressive and they’d certainly both be considered wealthy. So they should be able to work through their differences without the involvement of the police, right? Wrong. She threatened his life by threatening to call the cops and identifying him as a black man who was threatening her.
Racial prejudice, profiling and police response are not just problems in the South or among the less well educated or urban poor. The problem is systemic – throughout our system and our systems. I lament that reality but I do not deny it. So I am listening to brave brothers and sisters in Christ to find consensus in understanding, that together we might also find consensus in moving forward.
One of my conversations was with Tyler Merritt. You can find him on YouTube at The Tyler Merritt Project.
He described to me the experience of walking in the city where he lives and coming to an intersection. He saw a white woman driving a truck waiting at the light. His path would intersect her’s and he did everything he could think of to make himself look less threatening. He is taking seriously the command of Scripture to consider others and remove stumbling blocks. What Tyler Merritt could not change was the color of his skin, his physical frame nor his gender. He’s a big, black man and even though he is a gentle spirit, possessed of Christ, she panicked in fear when she saw him coming in her direction.
I thought of all the times in the Gospels Jesus approaches people others avoid – or Jesus allows people to approach him whom others seek to push away. The woman with the flow of blood, the leper, the little children, the woman at the well, tax collectors, sinners, a woman caught in adultery…me…and you.
Red and yellow, black and white, as the song goes…
This is not an invitation to do anything but listen to Tyler and consider getting to know him, before you call the cops.
Since then, The Tyler Merritt Project has posted other videos. Here’s one that provokes positive engagement by everyone.
This is who I am. 5 things you’d want everyone to know if you died today.
“Whether you have a million followers or one, your life matters.”