Category Archives: Brotherhood

Racism, Violence, Prejudice – thoughts on Charlottesville

This is going to be a bit rambling. They are some thoughts that I have had over the last few days. I suspect that some of my friends will not agree with everything that I am about to say. Oh, well. Feel free to comment – but keep it civil.
Now, those who know me, know that I am not a fan of Trump. But there have been some things that I have seen and read the last few days that has got me thinking.
 
I have not seen all the news. I have not seen all the analysis. I have seen stuff from the far right, which I distrust – especially since most of it was just words, and not actual video. I have seen stuff from the far left, which I also distrust. I have seen a little stuff from more mainstream sources. I do not know who actually started the violence. I saw videos of black people being beaten by the white supremacists. I saw videos of people being sprayed with mace or pepper spray, or rinsing out their eyes, and said that they had been sprayed by the counter protesters. I saw a video of a spray can being used as a flame thrower against the supremacists. I heard reports of urine being thrown on people from both sides.  I saw a video of a White supremacist pulling gun after gun out, that he had taken to the protest; I heard reports of Antifa and BLM people also coming armed, although I did not see any video of that.  And, of course, there was the attack with the car that resulted in a death and several injuries, and a video of a white supremacist saying the deaths were justified.
 But from what I did see, when Trump said there was violence on both sides – he was right. No, not all of the counter-protesters were violent – in fact, many of them were unarmed and peaceful. But not all of them. I don’t know who actually started the violence – but there is enough video evidence to show there was violence on both sides.
 
When Trump said there were good people on both sides of that event – he was right. I have heard of people, from their own testimony, who were taught to be racist. As they grew, however, and came to know people of other racists, they realized that the belief they had been taught as a child was not a valid one. And they changed. Who knows how many of those marchers might be like that?  Basically good people, who were fed a horrible lie from the time they were young?
Also, from what I understand, there were people there, not because they are racist, or believe that white people are better than anyone else, but because they do not believe the Civil War statues should come down. It is a part of our history. These statues are of people who often were war heroes before the Civil War. Some of them fought in the Civil War – not because they were fighting for slavery, in fact, in some of my historical studies, I have come across the statement, more than once, that some people who fought for the South were actually against slavery, but they were loyal to their state. I understand why people want to take certain statues down – but I also understand why people who are NOT racist or supremacists want to leave them up. There is an old saying – those who do not remember their history are doomed to repeat it.  Some people say that we need to keep these reminders so it never happens again.  George Washington was a slave owner, as were many other of our founding fathers – do we take their statues down, also?
 
Finally – Trump said “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.” And that wasn’t enough for people. And when he specifically named the KKK, etc, “Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans. Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America.” He was criticized for taking so long to condemn those groups. One of the statements that he made was that he was trying to take the time to get all of the facts. So – I have seen Trump criticized for commenting before he has the facts – and now I have seen him criticized for waiting to get all the facts.  You can’t have it both ways – if you are going to criticize him for speaking too soon, how can you criticize him for waiting?
 
Unfortunately, in America, the fact that I have a primarily non-Hispanic Caucasian background has automatically made my life easier than my friends who are not Caucasian.  I know this – how? Because I have, in a small way, experienced racial prejudice.  
My parents were strong advocates for equality. My dad believed that “In Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free.” He taught me to believe that we are all brothers. That our differences should be celebrated – but that we are all family. He did a lot of work behind the scenes to get the local college to integrate.  During the time of the Little Rock Nine, our city, an hour away, had a peaceful integration process – and part of that credit goes to my father.  I grew up with my father being the white preacher of the black Church of Christ in our town.  When my mother realized that no camp in the area allowed black children to attend, our property became a day camp for the local community. Years later, my father told me how their involvement in the black community had hurt my mother’s social life – my parents suffered prejudice because they believed in equality.  
While in my home town, I didn’t feel the effects of my parent’s involvement in Civil Rights, in the late 60s, I personally was affected.  We lived in Starkville, MS for two years while my dad was getting his PhD.  My mother was one of the first two white teachers to teach in the black school system.  KKK burned a cross in the other teacher’s yard – we spent the rest of the time wondering if they would do it to us, also.  The local Church of Christ basically told us that the children – mom’s students – that we were bringing to church (at their request) were not welcome – we found a denomination to worship at that didn’t care what color you were.  I don’t remember the piano in the sanctuary ever being played, but it was the first time in my life that I went to a church that had one – but equality in Christ was more important to my parents than the possibility of instrumental music.  And school for me – 5th and 6th grade – let’s just say that children can be cruel, and because of where my mother worked, I was the recipient of that cruelty on an almost daily basis –  I was called ugly names, ostracized, pushed around, and more.  Those two years in Mississippi are among the worst in my life.  So, I cannot claim to know what it was like to be the victim of prejudice on an ongoing, daily basis, but I do have a small taste of it.  
And it is wrong.  We are all brothers (and sisters).  We are all family.  If you are a Christian, Christ died for all of us – equally.  If you are not a Christian – we all bleed the same color, have the same type of internal organs, and all women share the same mitochondrial DNA from a woman who lived in Africa.
Violence is not an answer to hatred and prejudice.  Violence is not an answer to someone who feels they are superior based on race.  Violence begets violence.  But what is the answer to violence?  The answer is love.  And it is hard, so hard to love someone who hates you.  But to respond with hatred and violence only creates a vicious circle, and one that will only spiral down into a worsening situation.
Martin Luther King, Jr said it well:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
And for the believer, Jesus said it even better:  “Love your neighbor.”  And the example he gave made it clear that your neighbor is not just the person who lives next door, who looks like you – rather, your neighbor is anyone in the world that you come across.
The only way to solve problems of prejudice, hatred, violence – is with love and understanding.
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A Social Media Experiment

According to Facebook, my activity for the last few days:

On Dec 29, I posted on my own timeline  6 times.  I commented on 19 posts.  I liked 7 posts.

On Dec 30, I posted on my own timeline 2 times.  I commented on 14 posts.  I liked 15 times.

On Dec 31, I posted on my own timeline 4 times. I commented on 15 posts.   I Liked 11 posts by others.

On Jan 1, I posted or shared 4 times on my own wall.   I commented on 12 posts. I liked 4 posts by others.

On Jan 2, I shared 2 comics to my wall.  I commented on 7 posts, I liked 7 posts.

Jan 3, I posted a birthday wish to a relative.  I made 1 comment.  I liked 2 posts.

Jan 4, nothing.

Jan 5, No timeline posts, 1 comment, no likes.

Jan 6?  Nothing.

Jan 7? Nothing

Jan 8?  Nothing

Jan 9? Nothing

Jan 10? Nothing

Jan 11?  A question on a business page.

Jan 12?  So far, another question on a different business page.

Between Dec 25 and Dec 31, 26 posts, 73 comments and 53 likes, for a total of 152 Facebook interactions for 7 days.

From Jan 1 until Jan 11, 8 posts, 21 comments, and 13 likes, for a total of 42 Facebook interactions for 11 days.  And 6 of those days I did not post anything.  I did send a couple of private messages to people.  I continued to play my Facebook games, but my game posts are set to me only, so they shouldn’t have showed up on my timeline.

I don’t believe I have ever gone that many days without posting on Facebook before.

Now, why did I suddenly stop my normal Facebook activity?  I got curious.

I was listening to news a few days ago.  On Wednesday, Dec 28, a young woman was live-streaming to Facebook when she evidently had some kind of seizure or heart attack and died.  Her toddler was present.  Her family said that over a thousand people were watching as their daughter died, and no one did anything about it.  She was at a friend’s house, and not found until the friend came home, some 30 minutes later.  According to the reports that I heard, although the screen had gone dark when she dropped the phone, the audio was still on.  You could hear her struggling to breathe, with the child crying in the background, until you can’t hear her breathe anymore.  The friend who found her was the one who turned the live stream off.

I thought about that.  I wondered – I have 491 friends listed on Facebook.  What would happen if I suddenly, without warning, disappeared?  Some of my other friends have gone dark, but they have usually given notice first – let their friends know that they were going to not be posting for a while.  I watch for them, and a few days later, they are back.

But what would happen if, without any notice, someone stopped posting?  Would anyone notice? If they did, how long would it take?  What would they do about it?  Anything?  Would they ask me if I was OK?  Would they comment on my wall?

One of my posts at the end of December I talked about the fact that I was climbing on a very shaky ladder, and I wished someone was with me in case it fell over.  I am a fairly solitary person.  I live out in the country, and while I have family living nearby, we don’t interact on a daily basis.  If I were to fall or hurt myself, how long would it take before anyone would notice my absence?

I decided to go dark on Jan 2.  I realized on Jan 3 how hard that would actually be – I was still reading Facebook.  There were so many things that I wanted to comment on, that I wanted to like.  I was tagged on posts that I wanted to respond to, but didn’t.  I wanted to share things.

I had not realized until this past couple of weeks how much I use Facebook to feel connected to people.  I don’t talk to people on a regular basis – and Facebook has become my substitute for casual conversation.  So many times this week I would have a thought and I would think “Oh, I need to post that” and then stop myself.  Facebook is my social connection.  Without Facebook, almost all of my conversation would be one-sided.  I talk to whoever on Facebook might be listening (or rather, reading) rather than talking to myself.  Sometimes, thru comments, I can have extended conversations that might last for a couple of days.

And I wonder how many others use Facebook for their primary social outlet.

And what happens when they no longer are posting?  Are they sick?  Are they depressed?  Are they suicidal?  Are they hurt?  Have I even noticed?  And if I have noticed that someone isn’t posting as much, have I ever asked about them?  Have I checked on them?

I have, actually, once or twice.  More likely, I don’t even notice.  If something isn’t on my feed at the time that I am on it, I never read it.  It is easy to miss postings by people.  And thus, it is easy to not be aware if someone stops posting.   I do, occasionally, go to a friend’s page to check on things.  But  with 491 Facebook friends, I’m not going to go to every single page to see what I might have missed.

Something else I realized these last few days – since I wasn’t using Facebook as a social outlet, I got more things done at home.  I cleaned more.  I painted.  I read.  Even when I don’t comment on things, I avidly read what comes across my feed.  I can spend hours and hours just reading Facebook.  This week, to help keep myself from posting, I haven’t been reading as much.  And that has meant that I have had more time to do other things.  I have thrown away things, put away things, decided to discard things.  I’ve researched, written – in general, I have accomplished more in this last week than I have in a while – and mainly because I haven’t been glued to my computer all evening.

So, this experiment of going dark has taught me a couple of things – that I am almost dependent on Facebook for my social interaction.  And with less Facebook, I got more things done at home. This experiment has also made me wonder how observant I am of my Facebook friends.  How many times have I not noticed when someone simply quit posting from Facebook?  And what would do if I did notice someone’s absence?

And did anyone of my 491 Facebook friends notice that I was no longer posting or commenting on things?  One person private messaged me on January 5th.  Another person private messaged me on January 7th.  Both of them had noticed my absence from Facebook, and asked me if I was alright.

But this experiment also taught me how solitary I really am.  If something were to happen to me – if I ever fell and hurt myself, had a stroke, whatever – it would be days before anyone came to check.

 

Diversity – a tribute for Father’s Day

This past weekend, I got to meet a personal hero and role model.  Her name is Nichelle Nichols.  If you don’t recognize her name, you probably recognize one of her most famous television roles – Lt. Uhura, of the original Star Trek series.

Nichell Nichols

Back when I was in college, I did a term paper on the phenomena of Star Trek.  I learned a lot of really neat things about it.  Star Trek was cancelled after the 2nd season.  But it had already generated a lot of fans.  And one of them, a lady named Bjo Trimble, (I’ve actually met her once, not that she would remember me) started a letter writing campaign that caused the networks to change their mind.  The show was renewed for a 3rd season, then cancelled again.  But it wouldn’t stay gone.  It went into syndication, and has been playing almost continuously, somewhere, since then.  Star Trek is credited with the creation of the ideas for cell phones, computer tablets, tricorders, MRIs, and much more.

The producer, Roddenberry, had some grand ideas for his show.  (I got to meet him, once, also) It was set in the future, in a time when all the nations had come together in peace and harmony.  Roddenberry wanted to show that, so he picked an eclectic cast for his lead stars – there was the Japanese, the Russian, the Scotsman, the Irishman, the African, even the Alien.  A diverse crew, all working together.  Although Roddenberry pitched the show as a “Wagon Trail to the stars” he also wanted the episodes to be more – to carry morality tales.   Many of the shows had very important messages to them.  There were messages about the results of prejudice, fascism, control, power, love – and the only reason why some of these stories were allowed to be aired is the fact that this was a science fiction show.  But the messages were applicable to the world of the 60s.

One of those messages was that of equality – equality of race, equality of sex – people were people, regardless of who they were.  The network didn’t like the fact that the crew members, and the stars, were racially diverse.  They were afraid that it would affect the marketability of the show.  None-the-less,  there she was, Nichelle Nichols.  A beautiful black woman, who was treated just like anyone else, who had authority, respect, and who was not stereotyped.  Nichols says that she was going to quit after the first season.  Only she met a fan – someone who really liked the show.  And when he heard that she was planning to quit, he looked at her and, in her words, said “You can’t.”  Who was this fan that had so much power?  Martin Luther King.  He told her that she was the only black woman on television that was in a leading role, and that was not playing a stereotype.  She was not a maid, she was not a slave.  She was a role model.  So she stayed on the show.  And became a role model for many, many people, of many different ethnic origins.  Whoopi Goldburg asked for a role in Star Trek, The Next Generation, partly because of Nichols influence.  http://www.makers.com/moments/influence-whoopi-goldberg

She also influenced current space exploration.  She became involved with a NASA program aimed at recruiting minorities and women.  Sally Ride, Guion Bluford, Judith Resnick, and Ronald McNair were all recruited through this program.  And she was part of what has been called the first interracial kiss broadcast on American Television.  I met her at a conference and attended her question and answer panel.  Someone asked her if the interracial kiss was difficult or hard for her.  Her answer?  Her great-grandparents were an interracial couple, so interracial kisses were normal to her.  I hadn’t known that, so I looked it up.  Her great-grandfather was Welsh.

So, what does all this have to do with Father’s day?  We watched Star Trek when I was a kid.  I remember it from the 60s, vaguely.  At some point, Star Trek was on Wednesday nights.  I don’t remember if this was first run or syndication.  I just remember that my family would not skip church to watch Star Trek.  But once I was sick on a Wednesday night.  And my daddy stayed home from church to take care of me, and we watched Star Trek together.  My dad was a sociologist.  He really liked Star Trek.  He really understood all those messages, some subtle, some fairly heavy handed, that Roddenberry put into his shows.

One of those shows, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” dealt with the ultimate results of racial prejudice.   In this show, Bele, a police commissioner from Cheron, has been chasing Lokai, a political traitor, for 50,000 earth years.  They take over the Enterprise and go back to Cheron, where they find that wars have totally devastated their planet, and they are the only two people left alive.  They beam down to the destroyed planet, and continue to try to kill each other.  Why were they so antagonistic?  One of them was white on the left side of his body, and black on the right side.  The other was the same – only reversed.  And this made the difference that destroyed their world.

Despite the heavy-handedness of the message behind that episode, it has always stayed with me.  One of the things that dad was very much against was prejudice based on race.  I used to think he was “color blind” – that he didn’t really see color in people.  I think now, that he saw color – and embraced it.

There is are a couple of passages in the Bible that I believe meant something to dad.  One of them is from 1 Corinthians 12.

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Dad saw that everyone was different – and that was a good thing.  We were all diverse – but we were all important.  We are all, red, yellow, black, white, brown, blue, green – we are all different.  But we all bring important things to each other.  We have different experiences that have made us different people, given us different insights, different understandings.  And that is OK, and wonderful.  Because there is another passage, also.

Galations 3:26-28 says

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

While the passage in Corinthians is a passage that shows our differences, the passage in Galations shows our unity.  My dad truly believed that in Christ, we were all brothers and sisters.  We are all united.  In that sense, there is no difference between anyone.  No rich, no poor, no male, no female, no slave, no free – we are all one.

Unity.  And Diversity.  It takes everyone, with all of their different talents, working together.

Like the Bridge on the Enterprise.  A diverse group of officers, each with their own skills and knowledge, working together in unity.

This is my first Father’s day without my Father.  He would have enjoyed meeting Nichelle Nichols and listening to her stories.  I thought of him when I was talking with her, and shared the story of him staying home from church to take care of me when I was sick, and watching Star Trek together.

I hope that where ever I am, I always remember the ideas that my daddy taught me.

No Greek, no Jew, no slave, no free, no male, no female – all one, all in unity.  Yet at the same time, hand, eye, head, foot – all with our own talents and knowledge to bring to each other.

Loving your neighbor as yourself.  Different, yet the same.

I think the world would be a much better place if we would only take the time to celebrate our differences, yet remember our sameness.  Like my dad did. Like I hope I always do.

I love you, Daddy.

Dad's last portrait

 

We are all brothers

I have been looking at the issues of both the world and the US with a bit of frustration, worry, and fear.  It seems as if everyone is so polarized – so intent that their way is the only way, that they refuse to even consider finding a middle ground, finding a compromise that benefits everyone, even if nobody gets ALL of what they want.  America has become a land of the self-centered and selfish.  “I want it MY way, and if I can’t have it MY way, I’m going to make sure you don’t get anything YOUR way.  It is MY way or nothing!” is the message that a lot of today’s politicians and/or their followers seem to be saying.

And racial violence seems to be on the upswing; obvious incidences of prejudice and bias are apparent.  And unfortunately, the reaction to those incidences seems to mainly be more violence, which leads only to worsening conditions.

I was going through some old documents today, and ran across something that I wrote a couple of years ago.  I want to share it…

We Are Brothers
by
Melinda LaFevers
6/19/2014
inspired by “We are Africa” as performed by Foreign Tongues

When God knelt down in the dirt
and scooped up that ball of clay,
He rolled it and shaped it and formed it,
In His own image.
He breathed life into it and called it “Man.”
The Good Book doesn’t say He made a black man,
It doesn’t say he made a white man.
Or yellow or red or blue or green or orange or purple.
It just says he made man – and it was Good.

No one knows when the division of color came.
Perhaps, as people moved north and the days grew colder,
the longer nights and shorter days bleached out the colors.
Some people say it was the Mark of Cain
that separated the colors of man.
Science has proven that all women
came from one woman,
Deep dark in Africa.
Doesn’t matter what race, what color –
All women carry that same genetic marker,
making us all sisters with the same mother –
Eve, birthing the world in the cradle of life.
So once we were all dusky brown, chocolate, dark –
I’ve wondered if that mark of Cain
was the bleaching of his skin.

But still, white, black, brown, red, yellow –
Languages were the same.
Until man, working together as brothers,
built that tower to the heavens,
and God, looking down, stirred the people
and created a babble of voices.
That, then, truly separated the nations from each other.
Each went their own way, growing apart,
forgetting who we were, where we came from,
the fact that once we were ALL brothers.

And the years and centuries passed.
Mankind warred against mankind;
Put chains on each other.
Your ancestors wore chains.
My ancestors wore chains.
Not just our ancestors wore chains.
You wear chains. I wear chains.
Some of those chains are visible.
Some are unseen – but those unseen chains
wear men down just as much as heavy links of iron.
Ignorance, poverty, abuse –
Those chains know no boundaries.
They come to every man – red, yellow, black, white, brown.
Faces pinched with hunger look with hopelessness
at barren lives
And Death in the form of drugs, alcohol and violence
too often looks back.

The only way to defeat that death,
to break those chains of despair,
to bring All men to freedom
The freedom of love, of Hope, of a future…
The only way to break chains of
the past and present
is to remember
that you
that I

that WE are all brothers.