all-lives-matterI remember the first time I was called a racist.

I was seven years old and my neighbour and I were going for a bike ride. My neighbour was black, he was also my best friend at the time. As we rode our bikes we met some other kids from the neighbourhood and we all rode together. Eventually, we hit a point where my neighbour said he couldn’t go any further. His parents had set boundaries on how far he was allowed to go and we had reached that point.

My parents had set no boundaries, not because they cared less, but because they didn’t know how far we were going in the first place. The other kids began taunting my neighbour and to my shame I joined in. It was the usual chorus of calling him ‘chicken’ and asking ‘what are you afraid of?’

My neighbour went home and I kept riding. I discovered that the only thing past the magic line he couldn’t cross were more houses. I quickly turned around and went home, feeling badly over what happened.

When I arrived home my neigbhour was crying and his father was outside. I can recall his dad asking why we had teased him, was it the colour of his skin? 

I was confused. I genuinely did not understand why his skin colour would matter. I was also embarrassed by what had happened, stammered an explanation and an apology and went inside.

So there it was, the first time I have been accused of discriminating against someone because of their race. I am as confused now about issues of racism as I was then. Confused because I cannot understand what brings people to discriminate and hate based on skin colour.

I was raised in the east end of Toronto in the ’80s and ’90s. The families who lived on both sides of ours were black. To one side my first best friend, on the other my first baby-sitter. I was raised in a tolerant family in a neighbourhood full of ethnic diversity. Growing up my friends were black, white, asian and indian as reflected the diversity of the neighbourhood.

Over the past few weeks the Internet and Social Media have exploded in the wake of racist acts in the United States. The attack on the AME Church in Charleston has triggered much of the recent debate. However, over the past year a variety of incidents in the United States have brought the issue of race to the forefront. The issue of race is one that is staring the United States in the face, along with the issue of gun control but that is a debate for another day. Yet, for as long as the issue of racism in the United States has existed little has really changed. Whether it is Charelston, Ferguson or Trayvon Martin or countless other incidents which are not reported as widely nothing is changing. These are only issues that have come to light in the past few years.

Go back a few decades to the ’90s and we have Rodeny King. Go back a few more and we have Martin Luther King Jr and the Civil Rights movement. Only the other day the Confederate Flag was found placed at Martin Luther Kings’ church.

What has really changed?

It is why the movement, slogan and hashtag #blacklivesmatter, matters. Attention needs to be drawn past just the tragedy of death and to celebrate the sacredness of life.

All lives matter. However, sometimes the pendulum needs to swing past the center to show us the disparity of the situation. Let’s be honest that if we believe the pendulum has been in the middle, celebrating and demonstrating equality then we have been living under a rock. The pendulum of public opinion and media awareness needs to move to demonstrate just how far we are from where we should be.

We are reminded of the words from Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).

Under God and before God we are one people. It is time to pull the walls of division down and embrace the oneness that we have in Christ Jesus.

How this happens in concrete steps I do not know. I do know that a way forward can be found through prayer, forgiveness and humility.

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