[Guest Post by Patrick Genova]
Because it is a kind of racial Rorschach (is it not?) into which each of these cases—not just Brown but all the others, from Trayvon Martin to Sean Bell to Patrick Dorismond to Aswan Watson and beyond—inevitably and without fail morph. That we see such different things when we look upon them must mean something. That so much of white America cannot see the shapes made out so clearly by most of black America cannot be a mere coincidence, nor is it likely an inherent defect in our vision. Rather, it is a socially-constructed astigmatism that blinds so many to the way in which black folks often experience law enforcement.-Tim Wise
I had great parents! I mean in my house growing up we never sat around and talked about how great white people were compared to the rest of the world. My house was like the United Nations, we had friends of all different cultures and never thought twice about it. My Mom and Dad were careful not to plant any stereotypes into our minds and really let us choose our friends, and girlfriends/boyfriends based on their merits. Being raised this way, I can say was only through the grace of God.
This is partly why I am so frustrated!
My wife, La Micia Genova (who is black) can’t understand why I am so troubled by this situation in Ferguson. She wonders why I am spending seemingly every moment reading the newest article, the latest “post”, etc… The reason is because being married to a black woman; this is an issue I need to make sure I have a stance on as it has and will continue to directly affect my wife and will affect the lives of our future kids. I must be honest that through this issue, I am being faced with something I am not able to digest, and it drives me crazy. I do not have the “stomach muscles” to digest what I am hearing from my black counter parts. What ends up happening is this emotional wavering back and forth between issues, I go through a crazy cycle of reading, posting, and deleting. I read something that rings true, I post a thought, and then I read something else that rings true to me that is contradictory, then I delete my previous post. It’s obvious that this is driving me crazy and I’m being tossed back and forth by nice arguments without arriving at a real conclusion. I want to do the work necessary to develop the muscles needed to digest this polarizing issue; it is the process of tearing my muscles in order to rebuild them.
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
-1 Corinthians 12:26
I am the type of person that pride’s myself on my ability to relate to other people and to be able to empathize with people regardless of background. I have experienced a lot of crazy situations in my life so God has given me the ability to understand a lot of people’s view points. However, with this issue in particular, it has not been that easy for me. I want so badly to be able to feel what my friends who deal or have dealt in the past with racism feel, especially my wife, my best friend! The fact my wife has to deal with this stuff and I never have, really bothers me. The fact that my wife feels pressure to change her name on applications and I never have bothers me, the fact that my wife constantly feels an identity crisis at work and I don’t, bothers me, the fact my wife and I will apply for the same job and I hear back and she doesn’t, bothers me. Even if I won’t ever experience these things, I know I must develop the muscles necessary for sensitivity, whatever those muscles are. I believe our interracial marriage is a microcosm for how to heal the pain racism has caused in America.
28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body.
Here’s an analogy, White and Black people in America, are married. I know that sounds crazy, but hear me out. For this analogy to hold up as long as possible, divorce is not an option in this particular marriage. We each have to deal with each other whether we like it or not, we each are coming into this relationship with baggage (some more than others), and this marriage can either feel like a life sentence in prison or heaven on earth if we work at it. The one difference between this marriage and traditional marriages is that in this marriage, the black spouse came into it with serious emotional and physical scars from years of abuse by someone who looked like you! Could you imagine marrying your spouse only to find out the level of emotional scars through years of torment they have received? You would be devastated to find out your spouse, whom you love, has had to deal with so much. You would love your spouse like never before when you realize this. Knowing this, you also would understand why that spouse reacts so strongly when they feel they are being taken advantage of by you (real or perceived). As the saying goes, “perception is reality.”
Indeed, African Americans have come into this marriage with a bad hand and accepting that is hard for the white community, because it means taking some responsibility, but we must do it in order to heal. The process of realizing racism truly does exist in America is the same as that white spouse realizing that their counterpart came into this marriage with very serious emotional and physical scars that although it is not necessarily “their fault” they still have to work through it together.
If the white spouse really is a loving spouse (as we claim) then wouldn’t the natural reaction be to love this spouse like they never had before? To really show them that they are appreciated and valued? What would you do if you realized your spouse had been abused before you were married?
We must come to grips with the fact that African Americans have deep emotional scars due to years of suffering at the hands of white racists. That doesn’t mean we need to acknowledge we are racist if that’s not true. For better or worse, for this relationship to work we cannot dismiss the way that has hurt and scarred our spouse. It might not have been by us (personally), but we still have to deal with the emotional trauma that this forced marriage has caused, and deal we must.
Looking at the reactions to Ferguson it is clear that the majority of African Americans are still experiencing racism on a regular basis, if you don’t believe this then you are disagreeing with 99.9% of the African American population. Can we really think we are right and everyone else is wrong? It is the same as dismissing all of your spouse’s feelings of not being loved or respected… Whatever you say to convince your wife (for example) you love them will not work if they do not feel loved, likewise, whatever you say to your husband to try and convince them you respect them won’t matter, if they don’t feel respected. In the same way you would be sensitive to your spouse that faced abuse, we should be sensitive to those in the black community who have suffered at the hands of racists (which is just about everyone in the black community).
In order for this marriage to work we need two things: The White spouse must have the courage to realize that this was a forced marriage with serious trauma and emotional scars. The black spouse must try to see the good in the white spouse and encourage them anytime they see them progress in their sensitivity. These two things, humility on the part of the white spouse and mercy on the part of the black spouse are possible only through aligning ourselves with God and drawing the strength to be humble, the strength to be merciful, and love to temper the two in a very practical way through him.
We must believe that Gods grace can shine through the cracks of imperfection.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”