Hear tell that that most black folks felt that race played a factor in the slow response of the federal government in helping the victims in New Orleans. Apparenly most whites feel the exact opposite, they don’t think that race had anything to do with it. It’s the O.J. trial all over again, but with one significant difference, I was (and still am) convinced that O.J. killed his ex-wife and her friend, so I sided with the white folks on that one. In fact, I was pretty mad that most of the black community was getting behind a narcissistic ex-athlete who did not care boo about them.
However, for anyone to think that race had no factor at all with regards to the slow and ineffectual response by the government on all levels, must be living in denial. I would add that this also demonstrates a lack of sensivity of the ongoing problem that we have with race and class. I assume that the problem is ongoing because of human nature. Though racism is not as ugly or as in your face as it used to be, I don’t think that human nature is getting better. No, I think we are as messed up as we have ever been. We still need Jesus because we are all a bunch of sinners who are expert at running away from God and hurting, abusing, and killing one another both physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Having said all the above, believe it or not I am actually hopeful. I actually think that President Bush is beginning to show signs of a broken heart. May be it is wishful thinking on my part, but I suspect that Jesus is speaking to him through the shame, degradation, and squalor of poor black folk from New Orleans. I know that I am operating completey by faith here, but I am a person of faith so that is allowed. I just don’t think that he was mouthing empty words, I really think that maybe he is beginning to get it. Maybe, just maybe,he finally has eyes to see.
You know, it is funny, many pundits have spoken how Katrina revealed the problem of race and class for the country to see. That is kind of strange because this was never new to many of us. It certainly was not new to most of us black folk. When I saw the images of the black and poor trapped in New Orleans I felt a strange sense of shame, as if it was me it was happening to. I don’t think that my white friends feel the same way when this happens to poor whites, or even middle class whites. Yet some how I was taking it personally, along with hundreds and thousands of other blacks in this country when we saw black people looting t.v. sets and dvd players in New Orleans. Now I would never dream about doing such a thing, so why would I feel this sense of shame? Welcome to my world and to a small picture on how racism works in this country. However, that is not my main point in this paragraph. No, it is about seeing. I think that it is impossible to care about some one unless you can see him. I learned this several years ago from my then mentor and current pastor when he was teaching out of Matthew 9:36, “When Jesus saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless like sheep with out a shepherd”. Notice that Jesus first saw the crowds before He had compassion on them. I remember seeing a news reports back in the 1980s when I was in college in Atlanta of Mayor Andrew Young dressed up like a homeless person to see if his friends would notice him. No one did. White or black. He was unseen. Unrecognized. Unknown. But Jesus always sees what we don’t. Perhaps this is why He says, “When you have done this for the least of these my brothers, you have done it for me”. He always sees.
This is why I think that Jesus is breaking President Bush’s heart, to get him to see so that can he finally begin to care. So I pray that my president will have the eyes of Jesus so that he can see what He sees and do something about it.