the race card

The Race Card

For a long time I have stayed away from talking about race issues on my blog. Mainly because it’s controversial, but also because I’m white, and really, what do white people know about racism?

The fact of the matter is, although I am white, my wife is black and to the majority of the community that we live in, my kids are black. As a matter of fact, there are other white people out there who think of me as black because of the mere fact that I married outside my race.

This may resonate very little with you, my readers, based on the fact that the majority are white, but please stay with me for a little longer. I’m not going to rant about racism, I just wanted to make it painfully clear that it still exists.

Late last year, we watched as rioting occurred in Ferguson, Missouri after an officer was acquitted by a grand jury of his peers in the shooting death of Michael Brown. (The officer and his peers were white and Michael Brown was black). We watched in awe as racial tensions grew to new levels in America, but as Canadians we kept our blinders on that this wouldn’t happen in Canada. Racism isn’t a problem here.

I’m not sure how many times I’ve had people tell my wife and I that they can’t believe racism exists in Canada. Well it does, so get over it. It may not happen on an overt scale as in the US, but it happens. Just last week as we were in the mall, my wife and daughters walked into a cosmetic store ahead of me by a about thirty seconds. When I walked in the clerk in the store came over to me and asked if I needed any help (I was standing by the Bobbi Brown counter looking for mascara for my 14 year old daughter). My wife was on the other side of the store. Here was a black woman, with three kids, no apparent father around, and can you guess what happened? If you said nothing you are absolutely correct. Not a single person working in this high end cosmetics store offered them help. Racism? Maybe not, but racial profiling, definitely.

It really happens all the time for us. Perhaps we bring it on ourselves because we decided to be renegades and marry for love and not for the color of our skin. Or maybe we brought it upon ourselves by not only getting married but by having children together. Three beautiful girls that look more middle eastern or Mediterranean than either black or white. My wife has actually been asked if she was the nanny while she was standing with me and the girls.

This is ridiculous. Shortly after the birth of our first daughter a couple came up to us at church to “congratulate” us. He looked at my daughter and said, “Oh, she didn’t come out too dark, that’s good.” That was at a church, a “dear brother in Christ” as it were.

The anecdotes are endless I’m sure; as could be my rambling. The point of it all, is that racism is real, it exists, it hurts people’s feelings. However, you will not hear me as a white man say that black people were racist against me. Movies like “Dear White People” and “White Chicks” seem to offend some white folk, but to me they are real portrayals of our society. When a fellow moviegoer commented about White Chicks, “That’s so racist.” My wife quickly retorted, “Hang some of your ancestors from a tree and then we can talk.”

It all comes down to perspective. If you refuse to put on glasses that allow you to see clearly, your perspective will be off. In case you need a pair for a minute, you can borrow mine.

likeagirl

#LikeAGirl

Its been a few weeks since the Superbowl, and I’m late to the party in talking about this, but what I have to say goes beyond a group of men getting paid ridiculous amounts of money to play a game. I’m not a Patriots or Seahawks fan. I’m not going to question Pete Carroll’s decision to throw on 2nd and goal from the 1 yard line with one of the best running backs in the league and the best quarterback at executing a read option. Hey, he’s been a coach for 30 years and gets paid $7 million a year, he must know something.

No, I’ve been thinking about the twelve minutes at halftime and the commercial that immediately followed.

Firstly, the half time show. What I witnessed was a young lady being sold. I saw a puppet of a male dominated, misogynistic, entertainment industry on display. Sure, they got her to ride on top of a mechanical tiger and portray a woman of power, a woman in control. But then again, that’s what they’d like you to think. They also had her dressed like wonder woman so that they could relive boyhood fantasies of being powerless to her golden lasso and forced to tell the truth. Guess what? There was no truth involved. The truth is, there was a young lady who has a fair amount of talent being sold to the highest bidder.

One of the bidders that night was Procter & Gamble, the parent company that owns Always brand feminine hygiene products. P&G paid at least $8 million for a one minute ad spot. The commercial was a condensed version of a 3 minute video that went viral last summer. The #LikeAGirl spot takes issue with generations of playground taunts about people running, throwing or fighting “like a girl.” It asks: “When did doing something ‘like a girl’ become an insult?”

Rather than showing true women athletes running, throwing and fighting, it showed the young girls, awkwardly running on the spot (something no one looks powerful doing), throwing an imaginary ball (again, awkward) and throwing wild punches into the air (very little control and no intended target). Rather than showing women’s 200m world record holder Florence Griffith Joyner running to gold in Seoul in 1988 or heptathlon world record holder Jackie Joyner-Kersee running, jumping and throwing her way to gold in Seoul in 1988 or Laila Ali, who had a professional record of 24-0-0, throwing real punches.These women were elite athletes, truly respected in their individual sports (oh they’re all African-American as well, but I’m not getting into race issues, or how the media continues to portray blonde haired, blue-eyed, white women as the epitome of beauty in this post).

What I witnessed was a media campaign, designed around emotion to get you to rethink the term “Like A Girl.” Well, for the most part it just reconfirmed the fact that young girls running, throwing and punching look like young girls running, throwing and punching. The other point of the ad spot was to discuss how a girl’s self esteem drops during puberty. My solution to this…be present in their lives and encourage them in everything they do. A solution to a young girl’s self esteem probably won’t be helped by an ad for feminine hygiene products, but it will be helped by a father who is present in their lives and encourages them in achieving whatever goal it is they have set for themselves.

I’m okay with my daughters running, throwing and punching like girls, because, well, they are. I’m also okay with my daughters dancing like girls. It would look funny if they danced like boys, even if that boy was Mikhail Baryshnikov.

one word

One Word

Last year I saw people posting their word for the year, their theme, their mantra. As I watched on at people posting their word for the year I scoffed. I thought it was ridiculous to choose one word. It was as though they were Gollum and their one word was the One Ring…their precious.

Fast forward 365 days and I was laying in bed, waking up to a New Year and a verse in the bible. Like anyone else I grabbed my phone on New Year’s day and opened the bible app. The chapter I happened to open up to was 1 Peter 3. The verse that caught my attention was 1 Peter 3:7:

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.

I Instantly knew…

This was more than coincidence. As I began to read the next morning the following verses were brought to my attention.

Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly. Colossians 3:19
Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged. Colossians 3:21
God was definitely saying something to me.
Turns out I discovered I have a word for the year…

Love

That’s it. Love my wife and daughters. Honor them. Respect them.

Each morning since, I have read those verses and prayed that I would live them out in my daily life.

The nice thing about having one word to focus on is that it simplifies life. Instead of focusing on multiple themes, multiple goals, multiple tasks, I have one core value to focus on, one thing to rule them all. So hear I sit a year out from scoffing at people who chose one word, writing about the word that will guide my actions through the year.

So what about you? What are your thoughts on one word? Do you have one? I’d love to hear about it. Share it in the comments.

howard's house2

Howard’s house

A couple years ago I was in Trinidad for New Year’s. The main difference between Trinidad and Alberta is the weather. It was hot that day. But seriously, it was a New Year’s Day like I’ve never had in Canada.

If you do a google news search for Trinidad, you’ll probably read about the latest rash of murders or carnival or Scrunter’s Pork Dance (I added the last one because the guy’s name is Scrunter and he has an annual pork dance and a song called “Piece Ah Pork“). But the Trinidad I saw that day was one that welcomed outsiders with ease, that made you feel like part of the family.

I went to Howard’s house. I had never met Howard before, he is a neighbour of my wife’s aunt. My wife grew up knowing Howard, but she hadn’t seen him in at least 16 years. I’m pretty sure my wife’s aunt didn’t call ahead and ask if it would be okay of I came, and I hadn’t sent an RSVP note. However, despite all this I was welcomed with hugs and handshakes. And remember this as well, I was the only white guy in a crowd of about 50. I looked a tad bit out of place, but never felt it for a second.

The people I met were a blur, I remember Howard because he was my host, I remember the entire family gathering around the food, joining hands and giving thanks, I remember non-stop food (including pork) and a feeling of belonging. Being the introvert I am, I didn’t say much, and I didn’t go out of my way to meet people, however, it felt like home.

I think the one thing I learned that day is that the real Trinidad, the one you won’t read about in the news, is about friends and family and people who like to have a good time. The real Trinidad, the one I can’t get out of my mind and the one my heart breaks for when I read about the latest rash of murders or the ongoing issues of the government, is a place of beauty, and a place of friendship. I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to Howard’s for New Year’s Day, but I know I will remember it forever.

Our turn

My wife and I are having people over for dinner on New Year’s Day, I think we might be starting somewhat of a tradition. If we can’t be at Howard’s, we can be like Howard and open our home to friends to build community and develop deeper relationships.

Your turn

How about you? How do you celebrate New Year’s Day? What will the day consist of? College Football? IIHF World Juniors Hockey? Whatever it is, make sure and spend intentional time with family, set the tone for the new year by being with those you love and care for, giving thanks for the year behind you and giving thanks for the upcoming year. It is an incredible opportunity to start something new. Begin today.

 

justice

Justice

Do you believe justice exists? In a world riddled with news stories about injustice, whether it be Michael Brown, Eric Garner, or even the attack this week by the Taliban on the school in Peshawar, Pakistan. I suppose some would say justice was done in the case in Peshawar given that the attackers were all killed, however, do seven lives account for the loss of 141?

What about on the streets of our cities? Is there justice for the trafficked men, women and children who are forced into acts of servitude? My eyes have been opened recently to the injustices happening in my city, to things that I only thought happened in movies or in major metropolitan areas. To keep it simple, it makes me sick and my heart wrenches for the victims.

Is there Justice?

When society is dominated by people who may fit my description, that is, white males, can justice ever be had? When the lawmakers and policy setters come from a particular worldview and income bracket, can justice ever truly be had? When the focus is on morality issues versus deeper societal root causes, can justice be had? When lines are drawn based on political, cultural and religious lines, can justice be had?

I have more questions than answers that is obvious. I also think  that most of us try and ignore some of these issues because for the most part they don’t impact our daily lives. But at the end of the day, each one of the victims is our neighbor. We cannot and must not sit idly by with our blinders on as we drive through marginalized parts of our cities. That restaurant on the right may be the place where human trafficking occurs.

I personally believe that justice will be served. One day. It will be served when Jesus returns to claim His bride. However, until that time comes, we will continue to live in a fallen world. I just ask that you don’t ignore the brokenness around you. Do not deny the presence of evil. Also, do not deny the power of God.

I wrote a poem about injustice and the answer to it. Read it. Digest it. Do you think justice exists?

Human Condition

Misery, death, destruction, we see it everyday.

Children die, Mothers cry

Innocence is ripped away.

A 12 year old girl-

pregnant

by her uncle.

Satan gains,

another foothold.

A politician’s lies,

infidelities rise,

constituents outraged,

his wife and children

wonder why.

Another broken home.

Victory-

for the wrong team.

The human condition-

exposed.

 

BANG

 

Gunshots fired,

another school shooting,

children left bleeding.

 

BANG

 

Gunshots fired,

children stolen,

forced

into

slavery

forced

to

 

BANG

 

The AK47 goes off,

a gun becomes,

a teddy bear,

his only comfort,

his trusted friend.

 

BANG

 

He shot at me first general

 

BANG

 

He wouldn’t drop the knife captain

BANG

Disposable children

in a hospital waste bin

the uncle’s problem

disposed

a 12 year girl

beaten

no questions asked

no bastard born.

The human condition-

Depraved.

 

A perfect man,

a perfect life,

a perfect

sacrifice.

Beaten within an inch of existence.

Battered

Bruised

Mocked

Spat upon

Cursed

 

BANG

 

Nails driven

through hands

and feet

crucified

left to die

 

BANG

 

Thunder claps

veil is torn

separation over.

 

BANG

 

The tomb sealed

Three days

The serpent choked

The keys taken back

The gates of hell are locked

with

a

 

BANG

 

He’s not here

He’s been raised

The human condition-

Saved