My mother is fond of telling how, as a four-year old, I refused to open my mouth for the dentist until he answered every question I had and described exactly what he was going to do once inside. I came to my current faith the same way I came to that dentist, by way of questions. If you’re looking for pat answers to life’s interpersonal challenges, skip my writing. But if you want to look more deeply at society and race through the lens of faith (religious, scientific, philosophical, and other kinds) then consider me your friend.
I write and speak for one main reason: to help myself and others grapple with the challenging social, emotional, and spiritual terrain that often surrounds the politics of race, economics, and death in America. Time and again, these realities have amounted to the universe rubbing my face in some of life’s coldest snows.
Because I am a minority, you would think I always understood how much of a political issue racial discomfort and fear are in America. I DID NOT. But not because my dad (who came of age in the deep South) didn’t try and make me understand. It was because I did not want to understand. Having been raised in an almost all white environment, having heard and believed the same stories my white friends were told, I had become a racial Peter Pan. I did not want to grow up, not if it meant growing up into adult realities of race, culpability, and the added weight of responsibility — on all sides.
My speaking, writing, and the people and things I love are reflective of this journey. I see significant parallels between race, economic concerns, and death, not the least of which is the degree to which America society sometimes seems to be in deep denial about all of them.
These days, I figure that if it took me as long as it did to figure out the basic truth of race and related issues in the U.S. (around eight adult years to switch, and five more to get it with depth), then surely, it’s not going to be quick for someone who is remains a fish in perhaps the only isolated waters he or she has ever personally known.
Few model minorities and fewer whites who grew up in the same monochromatic isolation I grew up in are dying to dive into that muddy pool or – and this is the truer reality – to wake up to the fact we’re already swimming in polluted waters. Have been for a long time. And we need to clean them up, for all of our sakes.
I do not write, speak, or facilitate discussions because I expect things to change overnight. I do it because if everyone simply throws up their hands, saying nothing will change (and much has changed, lest we forget), then nothing more will change – about race, religion, climate, gun violence, or business as usual.
I write because early on – while grappling with my fears – I realized that writing can be a lot like dreaming, for the author and the reader alike. Both allow us to approach things sideways, through symbol and metaphor and story. In doing so, they lend us a way to come to honest terms with questions and concerns that might otherwise be impossible to confront.
Thanks for taking time to read these thoughts. I hope you’ll press follow below and join me in discussion as my journey continues.