It was the one-week anniversary of the Dallas ambush.
I sat down next to you at Starbucks. We had nothing in common. No need to talk. No expectation of sharing even the slightest thought, look, or glance between us.
You were enjoying your iced grande caffe. Appeared to be grading school papers. You looked to be half my age. And oh yes. You were black.
Then the ice broke. I don’t remember how. It doesn’t matter. You said your name was “Joy.” How appropriate. What a foreshadowing of things to come.
We started to talk. Small talk really. The kind between two people taught early to be polite. Then I smiled. Looked you in the eye and said, “it’s been a hard week. How are you doing?” You immediately understood my question. You almost seemed grateful for it. For the opportunity to share. I think we both were grateful for the opportunity we had to leave behind the amniotic comfort of our worlds to enter in and speak boldly of racial division, and racial reconciliation.
Joy, I am sorry that you were the only black person in Starbucks that day. Even more sorry that you noticed it immediately and yet the thought never even occurred to me to look.
I am sorry I am the first white person that had spoken to you all week about the Dallas ambush. And yet so thankful.
I am sorry for the inevitable conversation you will have with your son about these last few weeks. I taught my sons to be respectful if they got pulled over by a police officer because it’s the polite thing to do. You will have to teach your son to be respectful for much different reasons.
I am sorry that so many feel we are “past racism” since we all have the right to vote and everyone can sit at the counter. But racism exists. I believe racism is more dangerous in 2016 than it was in 1960. It reveals itself more today by thought and ideology than restriction and segregation.
Yes, all lives matter but we should always be sensitive and mindful that there are seasons when some lives, some communities need our pressing attention. Require sociological triage. The truth is that we don’t treat all lives as though they matter equally. It’s not that only black lives matter…but black lives matter too. Black lives should also matter. “Too” and “Also” are the missing modifiers that helped me change my perspective.
As we once heard on the side of a mount 2,000 years ago…#PoorInSpirtMatter. #MournersMatter. So do the meek, hungry, merciful, pure, peacemakers, and #PersecutedLivesMatter.
I find “All Lives Matter” to be a repugnant erasure of the real division that still exists in our country. It shows we understand neither how the black community felt in the 60’s or how it still feels in 2016. My inborn optimism craves otherwise, but I fear we are deluded in a nation still divided. My favorite quote from Dostoevsky, “man grows used to everything, the scoundrel!” Have we grown used to division? Used to racism? Used to violence? What scoundrels we are indeed!
Joy, you don’t want or need my sympathy. I don’t express sorrow out of guilt or shame. I express it as a longing for a world united. A longing for reconciliation, redemption, and healing that can only come by and through the saving work of Christ. I am thankful to God for the time we had to share. And for just a moment at Starbucks today you and I lived in that nation. A nation where we weren’t judged by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character.
Dear Joy. May God bless you, keep you, smile upon you, and bring you His peace, and protection.
And to us all…may we find “Joy” in Starbucks often and the courage to ask…”what do I not understand about your life?” Only in better understanding each other will we matter.