Dee Wilson’s Black & White Hymnal is currently my favorite album.
I’m a creature of habit. And I easily get stuck on albums. Rather than searching for another one I might like as much, I just go with what I know.
And it’s a good album to be stuck on.
A really good album.
The Black & White Hymnal is mostly a worship album, but it does contain a song of lament.
It’s called Rose Petals.
“The blood of my brother was spilled on the concrete,” Wilson croons. “He was the rose that grew out of the concrete.”
To drive the point home, Wilson then begins to name each petal.
“I’m asking you to look at all these petals on the ground,” he continued, “they call this one Travyon Martin.”
In the live version of the song, Wilson concludes Rose Petals by transitioning into Lift Every Voice and Sing, the negro national anthem. By combining the two songs, Wilson’s point is clear.
It’s the artist’s way of connecting the struggles of African-Americans in the past to African-Americans in the present.
Christians believe every human has worth because each person is created in the image of God. The fight for blacks in this country has often been to have that God-given worth recognized.
On February 23rd, we added another name to the rose petals.
A runner named Ahmaud Arbery.
RUNNING WITH AHMAUD
He’s also from Brunswick, GA – The ‘Wick’ as he calls it – and he’s been telling me about the Ahmaud Arbery story since early March. (Read his recent contribution to Christianity Today on Ahmaud Arbery here.)
Hearing my friend explain the story made me sick.
I grieved for my friend.
I grieved for “The Wick.”
I grieved for Ahmaud’s family.
I couldn’t grasp the double pain of losing a beloved family member in a traumatic way on one hand, and knowing that no one was being held accountable for it one the other hand.
And then the video came out.
A video that pushed the case into the national consciousness.
A video that demanded justice for Ahmaud.
A video – like so many others – that I’ll personally never be able to watch.
The church’s doctrine of the Imago Dei means that every person – black, white and all shades in between – bears God’s image.
No one is three-fifths human.
Have you ever asked yourself how mathematically they arrived at the fact that blacks were only three-fifths human? Why not 58 percent? Why not 62 percent?
Historically, in order to perpetuate crimes against blacks in this country, there has had to be reason to believe blacks were less than human.
In other words, made in God’s image less than other races.
The people group bearing Ham’s curse in Genesis.
Intellectually or genetically inferior.
Sexual predators who didn’t possess souls.
It’s not only other races that hold these stereotypes about black people, either. Brady Goodwin’s song Navigating the N-Word shows how we as blacks see ourselves.
To borrow a popular phrase, the idea of blacks being less than human is fake news.
But old stereotypes die hard.
And when African-Americans are killed and no one is charged – so clearly articulated in Derek Minor’s song Free – it’s evokes historical imagery of times when blacks were regarded as three-fifths human.
There’s an old saying that proximity breeds compassion, but distance creates contempt. When we don’t have deep, abiding relationships with each other, we’re left to base our assumptions on stereotypes.
Every race gets stereotyped.
In the case of African-Americans, the stereotypes often generates fear of black folks.
A sometimes deadly fear.
So I live life forever mindful that my skin puts fear in some people.
If you know me, to you I’m just C Lass, or Ron and Linda’s son, or Isaiah’s dad or Mr. Lassiter.
But if you don’t, I could just be the guy who “fits the description.”
I could be Trayvon.
I could be Ahmaud.
NOT WITHOUT HOPE
Collectively, much of the African-American community aches when we hear stories like Ahmaud’s.
We cry out for justice.
And, for those of us who have placed our eternal hope in Christ, we look forward to the promises of God.
The good news of the gospel is that through Christ God has made me a new creation.
And the good news doesn’t stop there.
He’s promised to renew all of creation through Christ.
There will be no more racism, murder or injustice in the new heavens and new earth. In the meantime, we as the church are left to make disciples and seek to see God’s beauty, God’s justice and God’s kingdom established on earth as it in heaven.
Until that day comes, we’ll continue to lift every voice and sing.
“Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on ’til victory is won.”