Feedback from Jefe Ocho on “If I Had a Son …”

“Our lives begin to end when we become silent about things that matter” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Our good friend Jefe Ocho responded to “If I had a Grown Son, He Might Look Like …” and brings up a number of excellent points/issues. (It has taken a while to respond … life with a newborn …) We’ll repost some of Jefe’s comment here, and follow with a few thoughts.

Bias is so human nature. I read about these incidents [Chris Lane & Delbert Belton murders] in a CNN report. No race was assigned to victim or accused….I assumed that the idiot kids were white. (see dc sniper) because who does that? Stupid over privileged white kids.

This definitely a zombie nation if crimes can be done out of boredom like that. These kids should fry Texas electric chair style. Or maybe gather 5,000 folks in an arena for an old fashion hanging.

How should I interpret your reaction? Does this confirm The fears of a white society? The drug epidemic was ignored until it hit suburbia…black on black violence is ignored. White on black violence is played up but what about black on white violence? It will be interesting to see how white America internalizes this.

Every victim of violence has a human face. There’s still a difference between senseless crime and an institution that allowed crimes similar to this to go on for hundreds of years. Like the Walmart of violence. Rape? Aisle 9. Murder? Freezer section….

Or should I Interpret things differently. I don’t get this generation at all. Things are viewed from a different lens.

There are a lot of points to take up here. I’ll try to pick them out one-by-one.

Stupid, Over Privileged White Kids …

Jefe is of course right here. I don’t have the data to back it up, but certainly my perception is that “criminal indifference” typically comes from young, wealthy, white males whose parents never made them take responsibility for themselves. Of course, nowhere in this is Jefe (I think) implying that white people are genetically predisposed to such behaviors, but rather that the conditions which more frequently give rise to such behaviors are found in greater concentration amongst white America. (A similar argument can be made for serial killers.)

The flip-side of the coin holds here. The general crime rate amongst blacks is significantly higher in America than amongst whites. Is this because blacks are genetically predisposed to commit more crimes? I don’t think so at all. Perhaps the conditions that make one more inclined toward criminal behavior are found in greater preponderance amongst black culture in America. Or, perhaps it is because the system is extremely skewed and our realization of “higher crime rate” is really just “higher prosecution/conviction rate”. Either way, and admission of the statistics and/or perception need-not be “racist” at all.

No Race Was Assigned …

I’m not sure I read the same article that Jefe read, but this has been a sticking point amongst right-wingers for some time. Whenever a crime or even political gaffe makes conservatives look like idiots, there is ample attribution. However, when a crime makes liberals or liberal-protected-groups (in this case blacks) look bad, then there is no attribution and the reader is left to wonder.

Zombie Nation …

I couldn’t agree more here. Zombie nation. Crimes out of boredom. It is the ugliness of the human condition laid bare, the self-worship, the willingness to rape, plunder, murder, slaughter the fellow man (created in God’s image) for nothing other than mild pleasure to self.

It is a thread that runs throughout human history. The lifting up of oneself above others. From Cain, to Lamech, to the Pharisees of Jesus’ day; the southern slave masters, the Nazis, the theocrats of modern day, and even the progressives. Man has this deep-rooted impetus for self-worship, which often comes at the expense of another. “I am stronger, smarter, wiser, greater – and you are here to serve me, here to do as your told, here to fulfill my desires no matter how perverse and ungodly they may be.”

If anyone says “I love God” but hates his brother, he is a liar (1 John 4:20).

I have to say that we as a nation are pretty far-gone down this path. I’m not just talking here about senseless violence like the murders of Lane and Belton, or high school football players raping an unconscious girl in Steubenville. American democracy exists today as an exercise in how I can use the ballot box to rule over you. How I can confiscate your paycheck, a portion of your life, and use it for my own desires? How can I use the “rule of law” to force you to act the way I want you to act, because I am good, and wise, and the benevolent ruler over all and you are to do as you’re told? How can I use the ballot box to take and take and take from you and justify it because I need it more than you do? As though God had given me anything like that rightful authority in your life. The nation is far gone indeed, and another awakening is badly needed.

The Sins and Suffering We Ignore …

Jefe notes that black-on-black violence, and the drug epidemic in black America, were “ignored” by white America until it affected us. I’m sure there are degrees of legitimacy to this claim, but let’s take it at face value for now. We all will tend to ignore things that aren’t in our face, things that don’t affect us. It’s human nature (yes, the same human nature that is driven by love of self). Does white America ignore problems in black America because the problems aren’t “in our face” or is it a more intentional turning away? (insert Pink Floyd riff here.)

I don’t know the answer, but the answer does matter. There is a question of the heart here that needs to be addressed. A man can much more easily be forgiven for acting (or not acting) out of ignorance toward the needs of his brother (“I had no idea”) than for intentionally cloistering himself away from the problem so he doesn’t have to look at it and can attempt to forget it.

I can only imagine that both aspects are present here. There is a not-so-small part of suburbia that is blissfully unaware of the conditions in the “inner city” – other than that they are aware enough to know not to go there. But there is also a part of suburbia who sees the inner city, and black America, and just chalks it up to “that’s how ‘those people’ are, and they’ll never break free until they learn to do things differently.” (The argument isn’t wrong of course. Well, it is when it comes to labeling “those people” – but the notion that things will not change until we start doing things differently is valid.)

But how will we respond? We see how white America responds to black-on-black violence (indifference). And we’ve seen how black America responds to black-on-black violence (“don’t snitch”).

White America’s response to white-on-black violence falls down “party lines” if you will. The Left takes up the mantle of the civil rights movement and claims things are no different than 50 years ago when MLK made his “I have a Dream” speech … we’re still fighting the good fight. (This is absurd, of course, things are dramatically different.) The Right hopefully responds with a vetting of the facts, as I think they did in the Zimmerman case, but there is always seems to be mixed-in a presumption that “the black kid probably was in the wrong, now let’s figure out how we can prove it.” (I will remind you though that white America’s response to the James Byrd murder was outrage, not defensiveness.) Black America’s response tends to follow the Left, but with a far more legitimate sense of urgency (the difference between sympathy and empathy).

And now, what about black-on-white violence? Well, time will tell, but I think the results thus far are fairly obvious. White America again falls along Left and Right, with the Right reverting to “those people just can’t act right” and the Left dehumanizing the aggressors. (That’s right, dehumanizing the aggressors – that’s what happens when we make excuses for these kids like “well they were angry, they come from broken homes, what do you expect?” – it dehumanizes them.)

Where to from here?

I think Jefe and I would agree whole-heartedly that the church holds the keys to reconciliation. It is part and parcel of our mission as ambassadors of Christ: to reconcile man to God, and to reconcile brothers (which we are, in Christ).

Beyond this I would also argue that the gospel holds the keys to fixing what is broken in this country. I don’t mean this in the sense of theocracy (as you well know that I despise theocracy in its many forms). But in a nation that self-identifies as 80% Christian we hardly need theocracy. No, if we the 80% would live out what we say we believe then I suspect things would go quite well.

Poor and broken in the city? Never fear, God’s heart for the widow and fatherless compels us to bring aid. Teen pregnancy crisis? The Bible expressly prohibits extra-marital sex. Broken and fatherless families? A man who doesn’t provide for his family is worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim 5:8). (I hear you: “yeah, yeah, that’s all nice and ‘pie in the sky’ but what do we do with already broken families, already pregnant teens?” – I say we have to deal with the problem before we deal with the symptoms. There is always grace for bad situations, but the situation as a whole doesn’t improve until we start making changes at the root.) By their self-identification, 80% of America (80%!!!) would appear to support helping the widows and fatherless, abstaining from extra-marital sex, and providing for their families. Wouldn’t that be a sight to see!

Injecting Race

As for the president I will simply add that whether intentional or not he injected race into the Trayvon Martin killing. Now, race was already there, but he went further and gave his approval to race as an issue. I have said before that I am willing to give the president leeway here and assume that he was simply trying to help America see Martin as a victim, not as just some thug who had it coming. That’s fair enough. But regardless of his intentions there is a large portion of America who views his comments on the subject as a statement that “Martin is a special victim because he’s black like me.” Whether he meant it this way is largely secondary, and perhaps even irrelevant. If a good bit of the country took it that way then their perception will only be confirmed by him remaining silent when it comes to Chris Lane and Delbert Belton. And all it would take is a few phone calls to families, or a brief mention in a speech (and he loves giving speeches).

(Of course, I suppose he has bigger issues to deal with, what with a Syrian escalation in the offing.)

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