On a flight back home from Seattle, Washington last month I had a conversation with the lady seated next to me about the political situation in America today. She happens to be white and since I am a black man and happened to live in Baltimore I believe it was only natural that issues related to Black Lives Matter came up in conversation. She had the impression that the Black Lives Matter Movement was trying to limit access to their struggle by non-blacks. Before I continue though I must state that; I am in no way a representative of the Black Lives Matter Movement and as such any explanation given in that conversation was only based on my beliefs. Well my response to her observation was that on account of the history of black oppression in America which happens to continue in a different form today people of African descent tend to harbor some learned distrust of whites. The movement was most probably worried that over involvement by non-blacks will dilute the cause of the movement or possibly diverts its focus. This situation is in no way unique to the black lives matter movement.
In the early days of the feminist movement in America males were totally excluded which makes sense in a way for women. If you do not have a vagina you cannot understand what a woman feels and as such cannot be a real supporter. Early in the gay rights movement in the 1960s lesbians gays did not initially consider each other as allies. The movement has come a long way because now we hear of the LGBTQ Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer which is the composite term for individuals who do not fit the normative male female cis-gender stereotypes that we have been taught to be the norm.
Immigration issues have come into the forefront of the political agenda in America today and many undocumented immigrants are living in fear of deportation. This has given birth or really a new lease on life to a movement that is growing right under our very eyes. The Sanctuary Church Mission; this is a movement based on a clause in our immigration policy that prevents Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials from making any efforts aimed at arresting individuals from sensitive sites such as places of worship, hospital and schools to ensure access to these sites by undocumented immigrants. While this appears a reasonable clause what it means is that for an individual at risk of deportation to avoid deportation they must remain at these sites.
Since November 2016 with the election of President Trump the number of churches declaring sanctuary status has doubled. These churches are really doing what their religion teaches. Christians who actually read their bibles know exactly what the bible says about immigration. I will have to mention the names though of some important Christian leaders who are on the other side of this struggle. Franklin Graham son of Billy Graham who unfortunately sounds more like a politician than a Christian Leader says this is not a bible issue. The other great name in the Christian community who supports the Trump administration immigration policy is Jerry Falwell Jr, President of Liberty University a non-profit Christian university located in Lynchburg Virginia. In a prior blog post I quoted Matthew 25 vrs 34 – 40 to show the total lack of any biblical support for the views of these “Christian” leaders. Fortunately most of our Christian pastors and community churches know what they should do in such a situation.
Today’s struggles which appear to have divided America into the us versus them, is just part of larger wave of change that is sweeping over the world. The world has gotten smaller and we are all having to deal with beliefs and ideas that are very different from what our parents taught us.
Humans have always held self identity as a very important attribute of our humanity. In this context any idea, behavior or belief that fails to fall in line with our acquired sense of self can be very threatening. We all hold on to beliefs that do not work for us because we have been told that without those beliefs we are totally lost. I must admit that as a person who had struggled most of my life to shed off some of my held belief systems and ideas, you do really feel lost when you realize those beliefs are wrong and you have to give them up. All too often rather than abandon our beliefs we look for validation from other sources so we can go back to the safety of our old belief system.
White Americans today are struggling with a belief system that has been propagated over the years that America is a white country. Unfortunately when one looks at this in a different way one could say that America has to remain white because increasing minorities will create a third world America if I could use that term. This is the belief system that made the slogan “Make America great again” resonate with many Americans, in this case mostly white Americans. What most of these Americans heard candidate Trump say was ‘Make America white again’? It is therefore no surprise that the immigration ban and current immigration enforcement happens to be targeted towards mostly non-white immigrants.
Please let us all examine the beliefs that we hold dear to our hearts as closely and clearly as possible and ask ourselves this question “What do I really think of a person who has such a belief?”
Dr. Leonard Sowah is an internal medicine physician in Baltimore, Maryland