A Bag of M & M’s

In the 1994 film: Forrest Gump, the lead character Forrest Gump (played by Tom Hanks) says: “My momma always said life was like a box of chocolate. You never know what you’re going to get.” Well, that may very well be true, but have you ever thought about the fact that the issues of race and skin color are like a bag of M & M’s?

I grew up, eating M & M’s and even today, I will occasionally indulge myself with a small bag. Now, the interesting thing about M & M’s is that they come in all different colors and two main types. You can get the ones with peanuts on the inside (my favorite) or the ones that are just chocolate on the inside. But whether they are just plain chocolate or peanuts, they come with a candy coating of reds, blues, greens, yellows, and other different colors. But here is the real interesting thing about M & M’s: No matter what color they are on the outside, they are all the same on the inside! In fact, even with the different coloring of the outside, they all taste the same! You can’t taste the difference between the reds and the blues or the greens and the browns! In fact, you could have a bag of M & M’s, all the same color and if you were blind-folded, you couldn’t taste the difference between that bag and a bag with assorted colors! Why? Because there is no difference! All M & M’s are exactly the same! The chocolate on the inside taste exactly the same and the candy-coating on the outside taste exactly the same! The only difference in M & M’s is the color on the outside, which, as far as taste, makes no difference at all!

Well, differences between the various races of people are like the differences between the M & M’s! We come in various different colors on the outside, but we all are exactly the same on the inside! We live in an age of advance medical technology. Organ transplants occur on a daily basis! Medical technology has demonstrated, too many times to deny that there is no structural or any other type of difference between the heart of a Black person and the heart of a White, Latino, Asian or person of any other ethnic group! All of our internal organs are the same! All of our blood-types are the same! The only difference is the color of our skin, the texture of our hair, the slant of our eyes, the structure of our cheek-bones, and some other minute details that really don’t matter.

So, what’s the big deal? Why is race and skin-color such an issue? When we boil it down to the essence and peel away all of the artificial excuses and fallacies, the real issue is fear. As humans, we naturally tend to fear what we perceive to be different and is unknown to us. But, the fear can be alleviated by knowledge.

When it is all said and done, we all are just like a bag of M & M’s! We have different coloring on the outside, but we are exactly the same on the inside! We have different skin-coloring, but we all have red blood! Our internal organs are the exactly the same! That’s why doctors can transplant the heart or lungs of a Black person into a White person or the liver and kidneys of a White person into a Black person! We are all the same physically, mentally and spiritually! When we all are ready to acknowledge that, the racial issues in this country will dissipate to a great degree. Most of the racial problems in America today are fueled by ignorance and fear. There is a connection between the two; ignorance breeds fear and fear impedes the acquisition of the knowledge which would eliminate the fear.

There is also a lot of historical baggage that we must sort out! But that’s another post for another day! I just wanted us, for this post, to look at a bag of M & M’s and learn from them! Can you imagine what it would be like to go to the store and all the M & M’s were bagged according to their colors? All the greens in one bag, all the reds in one bag and all the yellows in one bag. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t like that! I like all those different colors bunch together in one bag! I know it’s just psychological because, like I said earlier, they all taste the same! Even in the candy coating on the outside, there is no difference in the taste between the red coating and the yellow coating! But it’s just more pleasing to the eyes to have that variety of colors! A bag of all green M & M’s or all red M & M’s would be a boring bag! Perhaps that is what our Creator was thinking when the various races and ethnic groups were created. Variety is the spice of life! Just like a bag of all red M & M’s or all green M & M’s, life would be boring and dull if we all were exactly the same on the outside!

Diamonds On Black Velvet

diamonds on black velvetIf you walk into any jewelry store, you will notice that most of the jewelry, especially the diamonds, are laid out on black velvet. The store does this because the black velvet or any dark background provides a contrast that accentuates or brings out the brightness and beauty of the jewelry.

Well, I was meeting with a group of clergy the other day and we were discussing what the church’s response should be to the recent racial tension that has gripped our nation because of what happened in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas. As we sat there, it occurred to me that the fact that we were sitting there, discussing what we “should” do was an indictment against us because of what we haven’t been doing! Let me show you what I’m talking about:

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” (Phil. 2:14-15 ESV) Jesus said to his disciples: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14-16 ESV) Do you know when light shines the brightest? When it is surrounded by darkness! I used to think that the stars only came out at night. But the scientific truth is that the stars are shining all the time! But we are only able to see their brilliance and beauty at night because of the darkness!

What am I saying? I am saying that the best response for the church and for any Christian in light of what is happening in our nation is not to do anything extra or special, but to just simply be what Christians and the church suppose to be in the first place! Be a city that sits on a hill that cannot be hidden! Be a bright light in a dark place! Shine like stars; brightly lighting up the sky on a dark night! In the midst of the darkness of racism, hatred, and gun violence, those who are truly Christians shine like stars on a dark night! The real followers of Christ are so different from the world that they contrast like diamonds on black velvet!

The problem with the church has been that, all too often, the church has been trying to be “like the world” in order to attract the world! But our calling is to be different! When you “be” like something, you actually become that! While the church is trying to be like the world to attract the world, the world really wishes the church would actually be different because the world is sick of itself and really doesn’t want to be the way that it is! The world is hungry for something authentic and real! The world is hungry for the Living Bread! No! Our calling is to be a stark contrast to the world! Our calling is to be like stars shining on a dark night! Our calling is to be like diamonds on black velvet!

Black, White, Brown and Gold

golden ruleIn view of the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri it is quite obvious that we have some serious racial problems in America! However, the problems are not just about race, they are also about economics, respect for authority, personal responsibility, and government abuse!

Let me first express my sympathy and condolences to the family and friends of Michael Brown. Losing a loved-one so suddenly in such a tragic manner is beyond my personal comprehension and experience. My prayers and thoughts are ever with that mother and father, along with the rest of the family. Having said that, let me get to the gist of my thoughts for this post.

First, I want to speak to my people; the Black people in America! No matter what has happened in the past, we’ve got to give up the victim mentality! Although White America must rightfully bear some to the blame, everything that goes awry in the Black community is not “the White man’s” fault! I understand the frustration when blatant injustices occur, but how does looting and burning our own neighborhoods fix the problem? It’s amazing to me that whenever something like this happens, people take advantage of it and use it as an excuse to loot, rob and steal! One really has nothing to do with the other! Burning a store and stealing a 60-inch television set has nothing to do with what happened to Michael Brown!

If we want “other” people to respect us, we must respect ourselves! We get all up in arms whenever a White person or the police kill a Black person! We rally and protest for justice but too often we are strangely quiet and dis-interested in the untold numbers of Blacks who are killed by other Blacks on a daily basis in our communities! What is it? Is a Black life only considered a loss and valuable when it is taken by a White person or by the police? Seriously! We have ran the Klu Klux Klan out of business! A couple of generations ago, a Black mother’s greatest fear was that of her son being killed by the Klan. Today her greatest fear is that her son will be killed by other Black men! We’ve got to draw the line and say: “Enough is enough!” The biggest problem in the Black community is not White folks! The biggest problem in the Black community is Black folks! We must respect ourselves! If we don’t want White people using the n-word in reference to us, then we must stop using it to refer to ourselves! It doesn’t matter what the color of the mouth that speaks it; it’s still a degrading, dehumanizing and disrespectful word! We must learn to protect and respect our women and children! We’ve got to change our values to that which is positive and productive instead of that which is negative and destructive. We can’t really blame other folks too much for looking at us with suspicion if we are routinely engaged in suspicious activity! In other words, it’s unrealistic to expect not to be treated like a thug if you routinely act, dress and talk like one! Our young ladies (and some of the old ones too!) need to understand that if you want to be treated like a lady, then you must act and dress like a lady! It doesn’t make sense to get upset when a man doesn’t respect you when you don’t respect yourself! You don’t have to “show everything” to get a (real) man! If all you got going for you is just a nice body, then sooner or later you won’t have much going for you at all! Parents, we’ve misplaced our values also! Too many of us are too concerned about our children looking good when they go to school instead of them getting an education when they get there! We routinely spend hundreds of dollars for a pair of sneakers, but see no value in investing in computers and educational software! We don’t show up for parent conferences, but yet we want to raise “unholy hell” at the suspension hearings!

But if we don’t respect ourselves, who will? Therefore, we should refuse to tolerate or financially support any rapper,and any other recording artist that produces material that degrades our women and children or any other aspect of our culture! They say they are just “keeping it real” by singing about what’s happening in the streets, but the narrative can be changed! Instead of rapping about what is and thereby perpetuating the status quo, why not rap about “what could be” or “what should be” and inspire others to make positive change? I can almost promise you that if we (the Black community and the buying public) would stop buying their music, the lyrics would change! After all, no matter how they tell us they are just keeping it real, it’s really all about the paper. (Cheese, cheddar, benjamins, money, or whatever the current lingo is)! If the negative, degrading and abusive music being produced today wasn’t selling, they wouldn’t be producing it!

Now, a word to my White brothers and sisters who might read this: Much of the rationale and reasoning of Black people in America might be perplexing to you, but some of the frustration experienced in the Black community is because of “White privilege.” You might not want to admit it, but you enjoy certain privileges and opportunities in America simply because you are White! For you, a BMW is a German luxury car, but for many Black people it is not a luxury at all, it is a “Black-Man-Working” a decent job! You are not routinely subjected to police suspicion simply because you drive a nice car. Therefore, you cannot understand what it’s like to be discriminated against because of the color of your skin because it doesn’t routinely happen to you! And although you may not contribute to the situation personally, you still reap the benefits from those who have gone on before you who did! Historically, there was much done to destroy the psyche of the Black man in America! Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that many White people in America didn’t think that Black people were even (whole) people! (If I remember my American History correctly, I think a Black man was considered three-fifths of a person!)

And now a word about Michael Brown. As of this post, no one knows what really happened on that fateful day in August when Mike Brown was killed. But the environment that produced the situation is well-known! Some say that he was shot by the police officer while he had his hands raised in surrender. If that was the case, there is really no excuse for the officer’s actions. Some have suggested that there was a physical confrontation in which Mr. Brown tried to take the officer’s gun. If that was the case, the officer was merely defending himself because he, no doubt feared for his own life. Perhaps the whole situation could have been avoided if Mr. Brown and his companion were walking on the side of the street instead of in the middle of it. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that walking in the middle of the street is a capital offense worthy of death, I’m just simply commenting on the fact that in many communities I know of today, young people routinely walk down the middle of the street in defiance, daring cars to hit them! That blatant disregard for authority and disrespect for others is often the fodder for such unfortunate confrontations!

Speaking of respect and regard for others, let me now deal with my last color. We’ve talked about Black (people), White (people) and the tragedy with (Michael) Brown, now let me introduce a possible solution with the color; Gold! The color Gold is for the “Golden Rule!” “Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you!” If we all ascribed to the Gold, we would have a better world! Gold is the answer to the issues between the Black and the White! Adhering to the Gold could have quite possibly prevented the unfortunate incident that happened with Mr. Brown! If we would all seek to live by the Gold, many of our societal issues would be resolved! Of course, I am not so naive to think that everyone would do this, but if enough of us did, it would make a world of a difference! And even if no one else does it, if you do it, it would make a tremendous difference in your world!

No matter what the outcome of the Michael Brown case, all of us; Black and White should let what happened cause us to examine ourselves! It really doesn’t take much to fix the blame, but what we really need is to dedicate ourselves to fix the problem! Some claim that they know what to do! They say it is as simple as black and white! I don’t know about that, but I am sure there are some intriguing possibilities for a greater and better community if enough of us would seriously consider the Gold!