Juneteenth is the celebration of the final freeing of slaves in a Confederate state during the US Civil War. On June 19, 1865, one General Gordon Granger proclaimed all slaves in Texas free, ending Confederate slavery once and for all.1
Because of the history of oppression against Black people by white people, and because of the number of right wing “dog whistles” used by racists to signal their racism while sounding perfectly innocent,2 as a white person I have to have some care in how I celebrate this holiday.
That in mind, I am watching one of my favorite movies, Tyler Perry’s excellent Why Did I Get Married which arrived by coincidence early enough for me to watch it this evening (it was supposed to arrive Sunday, but arrived yesterday instead).
Also, by coincidence, as I was in the grocery store this afternoon, I saw a magazine with Tyler Perry’s photo on the cover and an article from him about George Floyd’s death and what it means for him as a Black person.
The movie is an excellent movie, one of my favorites. It starts off a little slow—with some eight main characters, we need some time to meet and get to know these people before we get to the meat of the story.
It’s a story about the struggles of marriage. But, it’s about so much more. It brings to light the kinds of rationalizations men make when they decide to commit adultery, and lets us see up close the consequences. It’s a story about overcoming adversity.
And, it’s a story of faith. Unlike many movies, we see characters openly proclaim their faith in God and we see people pray and talk about praying. This is a movie where God is openly at work, helping our characters in unexpected ways.
It ends with a beautiful scene where Janet Jackson says “love God, yourself, and others”—which is a summary of my faith in God and how I try to follow God.
Tyler Perry says he is “exhausted from all of the hate and the division”. I feel the same way. I’m not happy with the way George Floyd died. I am not happy that, for all the progress our society has made in reducing racism, it is still a big part of our world.
And, yes, I am tired of all the cancel culture going on, trying to get people fired who did things which were not intentionally, much less maliciously, racist. That just results in more division, less reconciliation.
In finding a solution, I reach for my faith in God. My solution is this: Don’t blame anyone or look at anyone else’s sin except my own. My solution is to look in the mirror and ask God to find a way to have me be part of the solution, to be part of making a color blind world.
Perry talks about his five year old child. In reply to that, I am very proud to say that, when my daughter, at four, noticed one of her friends had “brown” skin, she told me that she wished she had brown skin like her. Whatever institutional racism I may have, my daughter learned none of it; she just thought her Black friend had a beautiful color of skin.
Seeing all of the young people protesting George Floyd’s tragic death gives me hope. It gives me hope that Perry’s son and my daughter’s Black friend will grow up in a world more color blind than the world I grew up in, the world Perry grew up in.
With God, all things are possible.
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