An Introduction to a New Blog on Racism and Prejudice
Why This? Why Now? Why Me?
During my 45 plus years of ministry, I have served in many roles in many places. When I turned 65, I resigned from my ministry staff role in Phoenix and began a teaching ministry. The advice I received from trusted, wise brothers about my future legacy was that my greatest contribution would come through leadership training and writing. Hence I embarked on the leadership training part, and pursued it vigorously for about seven years. Then we moved to Dallas and I served as a part-time staff person in 2015.
Through these eight years, I wrote only one full length book and did second editions on a couple of others. I was unable to concentrate on writing while still considered even a part-time staff member. It was purely my problem, for the Dallas leadership didn’t put any pressure on me at all. This issue, along with continuing to have friends younger than I am die, led me to end the part-time staff involvement and devote 2016 to writing.
By God’s grace and to my amazement, I wrote three books in four months, and introduced them at the Reach Conference in St. Louis. After this immersion in writing, I came up for air and realized that I didn’t have any other book idea burning in my heart, although I have the ideas for several in a folder on my computer. I felt like I was somehow in a vacuum, not knowing what God had in store for me next.
I thought of the passage in Acts 13:36: “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep…” This question hit me: “Are we done here, Lord?” Maybe my purpose has been fulfilled and it’s my time to die. After all, I did turn 74 on October 27th. I had no desire to sit in a rocking chair awaiting death, and the selfish life most people associate with retirement is repugnant to me.
God Moves in Mysterious Ways
As I was mulling over these things, praying about them, but still feeling like I was in a vacuum, five police officers were shot in Dallas. Some of our African American members were bold enough to state that we were not hesitant to talk about this tragedy, yet said nothing about the continuing killing of unarmed blacks by police officers. Our congregational evangelist, Todd Asaad, sent out an email blast to our membership and apologized for our oversight and seeming indifference, promising that we would seek to be more informed, more involved and more empathetic in the future. It was a very good letter.
Shortly after this, one of our region leaders, Mark Mancini, contacted me and asked if I would speak on the subject of racism and prejudice in his region. Not only does that region have a significant contingent of black brothers and sisters (including one black elder and one white elder, both married to black sisters), Mark’s and Connie’s son was about to graduate from the Police Academy in Los Angeles.
I agreed to preach the sermon, although I had never preached an entire lesson on this subject. I have mentioned it many times in sermons, plus addressed it in written articles, but hadn’t preached an entire lesson on it, surprisingly. Regarding those articles, you can read them on my website (gordonferguson.org). The articles are entitled “The Big Black Brother’s Club,” of which I was a part in Boston, and “Surprise, Surprise: Guess Who’s Been Coming to Dinner,” loosely based on the title of an old movie.
In the latter, I explain how my frequent comment (intended to be humorous) about having too much soul to be a white man led to a challenge by a black friend to take a DNA test. I finally did it and found that I was 12% black (no surprise to me). Although both articles have some humor in them, especially the first, racial issues are serious issues to me and have been for decades. The articles reflect that seriousness.
The sermon in our Southwest Region lasted well over an hour. I could not introduce such a sensitive subject without trying to make myself as clear as possible. Honestly, not many white guys could say some of the things I say about the subject, but somehow I seem to resonate well with both blacks and whites (or so I have been told by those of both races). Being an old guy likely helps, and being raised during the Jim Crow era in Louisiana by non-racist parents exposed me to situations that were very unusual for a white kid growing up in that setting.
Evidently Mark had some good things to say about the lesson, for the other region leaders asked me to preach the same sermon in their regions. The audio lessons were posted on our website, and a black sister in St. Louis, Yolanda Suber, listened to the lesson and asked her church leaders to listen to it. The result was a last minute invitation to come there to deliver the lesson, after which we had a panel discussing the race issue very openly and honestly.
You can see the video version of both the sermon and the panel on this website, the Gateway City Church website or on Disciples Today. Jeff Mannel, lead evangelist at the Gateway City church, told me recently that people from 52 nations had already watched all or part of my sermon – in less than three weeks. Obviously, the subject hit a very sensitive nerve. I suggest you watch both.
The Birth of a New Idea
However unexpected it may have been, God had his way of filling my vacuum. The issue of racism disturbs me greatly, but the prospect of speaking and writing about it excites me. My black friends have not felt totally safe sharing exactly how they feel about life in their world with those of other races. That feeling must end, and my blog is going to be dedicated to helping end it. As per usual, I will be direct and the subjects addressed will cover a broad spectrum. You will find my new blog link on my website, using the title at the top of this page. (I will explain this title in one of my next articles on the blog for those who may not fully understand it.)
With that introduction, I invite you to go to my website (gordonferguson.org) and click on the tab that reads “Black Tax and White Benefits.” Note that my original title used the phrase “white privilege,” but I changed it fairly soon after starting the blog. In a future article about coming to terms with terms, I will explain the reason for the change. I will be praying for God’s Spirit to guide me in what I say and how I say it. My intentions are always to accomplish all of this, but I’m human and will likely make some mistakes of one sort or another. I will depend on feedback from my reading audience to help me deepen my insights and to correct me when I am off base.
I cannot know what it feels like to be black in America, since I was raised white. But I have studied the subject for years, and know more about it than many of my race and I intend to keep learning. I do know that I’ve not seen the amount of racial tension between blacks and whites that I’m seeing now since the Civil Rights days when I was young.
I also know that our Latino brothers and sisters face many race related issues in their lives, along with other minorities in our country, and we will address their issues as well. But right now, the black/white tensions are the most heightened and we will definitely begin addressing them first. Please join us. I plan to post at least one new article each week on the blog. In addition to the blog, I have many articles on the site that you might enjoy reading. For sure, read the two I mentioned earlier in this article. Until we meet at the blog…
Your older brother,
A number of people have looked at the title I’ve chosen for my blog and had the response above, as in “What’s That?” Black tax is a term becoming increasingly popular, and it is one that is very helpful in identifying certain attitudes and actions toward African Americans. In earlier days, it described professional blacks or those with higher incomes feeling the need to help their poorer relatives financially.
Then it came to mean having to work twice as hard or achieve twice as much to be considered equal to white people. It is the second use of the term that is becoming more popular and I will be using it in that way.
I first heard the term in the movie, “Something New.” A black professional woman had climbed the ladder of success in her predominantly white company to eventually become a full partner, but she was at times discounted by high-powered white clients simply because of her race. It is actually a very compelling movie, and a romantic one at the same time. This woman came from a high society black family, and their views and customs were unknown to me before watching the movie.
Of course, as the son of a redneck bricklayer living on the wrong side of the tracks, the views and customs of the white upper crust society is pretty much unknown to me too. But back to the movie. The woman and her family had their own prejudices toward whites, but the young woman’s slowly developing interest in a white guy ultimately brought her and her family to a new place on that front.
If you decide to watch the movie, be warned that you need to fast forward the video through a couple of brief scenes. Other than that, it gives us not only the “black tax” explanation, but provides some good insights into black/white relationships.
I explained the term to a good friend of mine recently, a white guy, and just afterwards we watched “Gifted Hands,” the story of Ben Carson as one of the world’s leading pediatric neurosurgeons. I’ve seen the movie at least half a dozen times and my wife has read the book. Dr. Carson endured much racial discrimination as a child and in his early career.
Every time a scene in the movie depicted that, my friend quickly said “Black tax.” The concept, once understood, makes instances of racial discrimination jump out at you, especially the more subtle ones. Much racial discrimination these days is subtle, as people at least attempt to be politically correct, but it is almost an ever-present reality for our black friends.
Two blatant examples took place within days of each other last month (October) involving black female doctors flying on Delta Airlines. Two medical emergencies occurred, prompting flight attendants to ask for help from medically trained passengers. In both cases, the black doctors reportedly tried to answer the call to help, only to be rebuffed by the flight attendants because they couldn’t picture black women being doctors.
BLACK TAX!!! What embarrassing, shameful situations! There are millions of professional blacks in our country and in our world. To stereotype any race or culture as poor and uneducated is both shocking and sad. As I read about these accounts that took place on airplanes, I was more than ticked off, but I also had a sense of satisfaction thinking about one of my medical specialists. My primary care physician is a young Vietnamese doctor, and he referred me to a specialist for some tests who happened to be black. I didn’t care what color or gender he was; I just cared that he was a trained professional. He’s a great guy and a great doctor. After reading those black tax sickening accounts, I was especially glad that he was black!
Most of you reading this have a much better idea of what this part of the title means. My opinion is that most of you don’t fully understand just how large that benefit is and all of the ways it shows up in contrast to those of other races, especially blacks. One purpose of this blog is to educate whites about the plight of blacks, and to help us understand the breadth of the problem.
We white folks know a bit about slavery (but not nearly enough) and we also know generally what the Jim Crow laws were about. Those laws were designed to enforce segregation under the guise of a “separate but equal” banner. Those laws were deplorable and even the term separate but equal was a contradiction in terms. How can you be considered equal to the very ones that are subjecting you to staying separate from them?
I am now 74 years old as of October 27th. I grew up when the Jim Crow laws were in full force in my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. Of the many movies I’ve seen involving racism, “The Help” most closely approximates what the society of my youth was like. Unlike the other two movies that I mentioned earlier, this one had little to commend it and much to remind me of the sickness in the society in which I grew up.
As I tell my audiences when speaking about the movie, I only liked three parts of it: the commodes in the front yard of one bigot; the mother of the young white author finally getting enough gumption to kick another bigot off her property in no uncertain terms; and of course my favorite part: the chocolate pie incident!
Where We Are Headed in This Blog
Honestly, I am not quite sure where we are headed. I am quite sure that God put it on my heart to write on the subject, so he knows where we are headed. I want to help those of my race understand much more of what our black brothers and sisters are feeling and what they are facing. As I’ve said in recent lessons, they want us to begin by saying that we understand that we don’t understand what it is like to be black in America, but that we are committed to learning as much as we can and to helping them bear as many of their burdens as we can.
I also want to help both blacks and whites better understand what our Latino and Asian friends are feeling and facing as minorities in our society. Ultimately, I want all of us to understand how God views the different races he created and how he wants us to handle whatever injustices we encounter in a spiritual way ─ as we imitate Christ.
Jesus of Nazareth encountered discrimination of many types, and as we examine what he endured and how he responded to it, we will find our answers for the issues that we and those in our spiritual family face. The real issues are a part of the galactic battle taking place between God and Satan. 1 John 5:19 sums up the problem quite well in these words: “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
That is why Paul could describe our pre-Christian days in this manner: “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). The world is a mess and we are in it, but we cannot be of it (John 17:16). The world is not fair nor will it ever be, but in Christ we can cope with the challenges, however intense they are and may become. That ability to cope comes from the Holy Spirit’s power, often finding its way to us through our spiritual family.
With that we begin, and where we stop nobody knows (except God). I foresee sharing many of my experiences from my childhood and adulthood. I sometimes have stronger emotional reactions to historical racial mistreatment than my younger black friends do. They only heard about some of the worst days from their parents and grandparents. I experienced it, but only as a witness. But even from that vantage point, it marked me in some ways for life.
Sometimes I likely have stronger reactions than older blacks, because they had to learn to take what came their way with the attitude of “Oh well, it is what it is. Just smile and keep going.” I admire them for being able to actually do that and maintain a relatively even keel in their world at the time. I hurt for them as I look back to what their race had to endure for hundreds of years.
Although things are much improved in their lot in comparison to what it was like back in my early days, we are far from eliminating bigotry and discrimination. Black tax and white privilege abound, and I pray that my attempts to address it honestly and spiritually can help us all. I want you and me to both pay all of our taxes to King Jesus, and I want us to enjoy the privileges that belong to his children. In the end, our lives must be centered on him and his ways, but we need him and each other in order to do that. May he bless us to focus on the right tax and the right privileges, and not let the world squeeze us into its evil mould (Romans 12:2, Phillips translation). Until next time…