Racism, Jurassic Park, and Historical Dementia
There's a great scene in the second Jurassic Park movie: "The Lost World." John Hammond tries to convince Dr. Ian Malcolm to return to a dino-infested island after his first tragic bout with the infamous T-Rex. Hammond says "Don't worry, I'm not making the same mistakes again." Dr. Malcolm replies "No, you're making all new ones."
Recently, we moved my 89 year old grandmother into her new assisted living apartment. She suffers from alzheimer's disease, a common form of dementia that causes memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Watching someone you love and grew up with slowly fade in both body and mind is tough. She was only a dissertation away from a doctorate degree in Physical Education, and until late she most likely could last longer in a marathon than most people half her age. She was instrumental in my formative years. My brother and I stayed with her and my grandfather (now in heaven) everyday after school and they insured that we wouldn't want for anything (especially diet coke, for some reason).
I owe many "first experiences" to my grandparents. My first trip to Disneyland where my grandfather ensured we'd always sit in the front of every ride, or my first road trip to another state (Arizona), or even yearly summer vacations in Big Bear where we fished and enjoyed the lake activities. Unfortunately, there's one other first experience and ideology I was introduced to by my grandparents: Racism.
My first experience with Racism:
When I was 8, my parents adopted my youngest brother Michael. He'd been in the foster system for the first 18 months of his life. Michael was Mexican - or as the "politically correct" would put it - Michael was a "person of color." From my 8-year-old perspective, I never saw a different color skin, I only saw the blessing of one of the cutest human beings to ever grace the planet, and another foot soldier in the army of boys in our household (of whom I could convince to try just about any dangerous thing I'd throw at him). I changed his diapers, snuck him cookies after bedtime, and tortured his favorite stuffed animal. He'd reciprocate by tearing apart my room while I was away at school, and of course he'd get away with it because he was the baby of the household. Michael was my brother just as much as my biological brother Ryan. I saw no difference, but my Grandparents did.
I was slowly introduced to an unfamiliar idea. Michael was not invited on our trips to disneyland, Arizona, and Big Bear. I listened to my Dad remind my grandparents that they now had 3 grandchildren, as they responded "we only have 2." My grandmother would only refer to Michael as "that boy," and would make it more clear through statements like "he's not my blood," or "at least we got 2 good grandchildren out of it." When christmas rolled around, my brother Ryan and I would unwrap hundreds of dollars worth of the latest toys we craved, as Michael was handed an unwrapped dollar store gift. This forced my parents to open up a conversation about the concept of Racism. We were not taught about racism from a textbook, hashtag, or cleverly worded sign. Instead, I watched the evidence and effects of it within my own family, and had to learn how to deal with the rift it created throughout our lives and in the lives of 2 people I loved with all of my heart. I learned from the experience, and was able to formulate my own ideology through the lens of the Bible, and example of Christ as taught by my parents
My Daughter's First Experience with Racism:
On Sunday November 13th, 2016 I sat with my family in California Pizza Kitchen at the Plaza in Riverside, CA. As we ate, we watched a crowd of protesters outside with signs that read "BLACK LIVES MATTER." My 8 year old daughter asked my wife and I what they were doing. We did our best to explain that there are people throughout history, and in our world that would feel superior to and discriminate against someone of a different race based on the belief that their own race is better. First, she seemed perplexed at the idea, and why something like this could exist. Second- she was still confused as to why the people outside the restaurant were so upset. The hardest part of the ordeal is that I could not give her a definitive answer. The best I could say is that racism is wrong, destructive, and not in God's design. My heart aches that she has now been opened to the ideology.
It's interesting to me that both my daughter and I were introduced to the concept at the same age, but I'm troubled at the catalyst in the latter. My introduction to it was through watching it happen, but my daughter's introduction was through being told that it is happening. I believe there are racist people in this country. That fact cannot be denied, and will likely never change, unfortunately. My problem with the issue is that the narrative lately is that people in this country are racists. There's a poison making it's way through our culture, and in the process of attempting to abolish all signs of racism, we are slowly waking and feeding a sleeping monster. To quote Dr. Martin Luther King Jr:
"I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word."
I believe that the unarmed truth is that the Church is not adequately doing it's part in declaring the final word. And the best way to declare that word is through unconditional love. To quote Willie Jordan, leader of The Fred Jordan Mission in downtown LA: "You can't separate the great commandment from the great commission."
I don't want to suggest that we should allow a level of historical Dementia to creep in. I believe in studying history to avoid making the same mistakes again, but I pray that in the process of not making the same mistakes again, we don't make all new ones.
I'm starting a video series soon on subjects like this and other cultural issues, as seen through the lens of the book of Acts on my YouTube channel... I'd love for you to subscribe, and join the conversation. CLICK HERE to do so.