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Pick Up the First Piece of Trash

If you don’t pick up the first piece of trash from your yard, you are likely to discover one day that your yard has become a garbage dump. In terms of race relations, we have created many garbage dumps but today I want to focus on a particular one which has been prompted by a few recent conversations.

The first conversation focuses upon the wonderful news of the release of Brittney Griner, the basketball player, from false imprisonment in Russia. While this is newsworthy and deserving thanksgiving on the part of everyone who is walking around trying to be committed to being a good human, it was not the case. The other conversation has to do with the manner in which the war news is reported from around the world and the hysteria that is surrounding Ukraine while hundreds of thousands of folks are being killed in African wars which are scarcely reported and get no such responses from folks in our country.

But the media took the time to give airtime to a handful of pseudo celebrity athletes of African descent and others taking a similar stand about the Griner release simply being about her being a black woman and the President seeking a photo opportunity. What an unfortunate reductionistic analysis which is grounded in nothing more than bias and an inability to transcend race to see the goodness of an act regardless of the injustice in this country. While race permeates all of life here, there are moments such as this when there is something that transcends the racial divide, and those moments deserve to be acknowledged.

The other moment lies at the feet of progressive whites who take upon themselves to be apologists and explainers of their fellow whites’ racism and expressions of it. Clearly the ways in which the news of wars in Africa is under reported and mostly not reported is grounded in the denigration of the region and the long history of white supremacy’s rape and ravage of the Continent. On the other hand, the Ukraine is not black. What is happening there is more than horrible and the world needs to know, but so does the world need to know that hundreds of thousands of folks have been and continue to be killed in Africa due to war as well. But in too many rooms where whites who believe themselves to be enlightened reside there will be many efforts made to explain this disparity and to validate the inequities in the news coverage practices by making the Ukraine a more desperate situation. Why is it? And the larger question is whether or not it is more desperate or just easier to find the path to empathy with those who look more like them than those who do not? This type of effort to explain, no matter its intent, leads to seeming to be a way to give racists whites a break and to make them appear a little better.

Both of these types of responses from people of African descent about Griner and whites about the war reporting are pieces of trash that have been left on the lawn far too long and are now a part of the garbage dump of racism’s almost impenetrable foundation. It is too late in the day to pick up the first piece of this trash, but it is not too late to clear the trash dump.

Here we are in December with the world’s great religions celebrating the closing out of one season and looking ahead to renewal, rebirth, new life and perhaps a light to lead us forward maybe to some place that feels like getting home when it comes to the brokenness and wounding that we bring to the table. Perhaps this will be the season that we decide to clear the trash dump from the front yard instead of engaging it and trying to manage it by wrapping selected pieces of it up in pretty paper, tying beautiful ribbons on and spraying it with the sweet smells of the holiday and exchanging one part of it for some other part of it.

Perhaps the light will come on in our hearts and minds in a new way that makes us refuse to keep recycling trash and trying to name it as something fresh. This might be the year that we allow the true Light to shine on us to the extent that our souls are set aflame, and we cannot tolerate the trash anymore. We can hope, after all, that is what this December flurry across the planet in the religious world is said to be about. What do you think?

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