“There definitely are the sore spots, the ‘don’t touch’ spots as it relates to race relations. I believe it exists within the church as much as it does in the secular world,” said Garry Fraser.
Added Oscar Lewis, “I really think it’s sometimes a historical issue. In the sense of those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. ... There are some sore spots in America’s history. Like my history teacher said, the racial divide is the black eye of America.”
J. Anthony Taylor said the issues go beyond race and into gender differences.
“... We try to ignore the big, pink elephant in the room and not say anything about that. Not only in race, but in gender,” Taylor said. “There are certain things we are afraid to address when it comes to gender, like roles of leadership.”
All three men have experienced the young black man’s perspective growing up in America.
Fraser said differences still lie beyond the color of their skin. His family is from the Caribbean. He said there was a difference between himself and someone whose family was from American South.
“I could not openly criticize black Americans and black Americans could not openly criticize Caribbeans because you would end up with a war,” Fraser said. “That is just a little bit of a microcosm to show you it is not simply about racial differences.”
Continued Fraser, “Sometimes it is about cultural differences. Sometimes it is about economic differences.”
All three men agreed there were varying levels of discomfort associated with discussing these issues. They also said only open communication would effect change.
Fraser suggested offering open and even criticism of everyone.
“I may have a criticism of somebody’s performance, but I may back away from the criticism because I do not want them to think I am doing this due to their skin color [etc.],” Fraser said.
“In all actuality, it is not because of those factors. It is just because I do not like your performance.”
Fraser suggested another roadblock in communication.
“We have a great disconnect when it comes to criticism. Public discourse of the day has so devolved to a level of angst and guile, no one looks at each other any more as people,” Fraser said. “We look at each other as enemies, pure enemies.”
Fraser said there are unresolved issues in the way of resolving a larger issue of inequality.
“Many white Americans are afraid to sit down and deal with the issue because they feel like they themselves are paying for something they did not do,” Fraser said.
“Many black Americans are not fair in their assessment of their white brothers because they feel they are owed something, which was never taken from them.”
Continued Fraser, “You’ve got one group paying the price for something in this day and age they cannot be responsible for, but some members are perpetuating this mentality because they do not want to touch the sore spot.”
An action by PTS has received figurative applause from the three young men. Next week, PTS and the Black Ministries Department of the Church of God are hosting an Awareness Celebration in honor of Black History Month.
Speakers will address racial issues and challenge the public to a new perspective. All events are open to the public. The first begins on Tuesday, Feb. 12, at 11 a.m. in the Seminary Chapel. Bishop Brandon B. Porter will be speaking.
Taylor said the church belongs at the forefront of race relations.
“The forefront of the Civil Rights movement was the black church. Dr. King was a minister and even Malcom X was involved in religion as a Muslim,” Taylor said. “Even though he was not a Christian, he was a religious leader.”
He said he sees the church healing more than just racial divides.
“The church is the only institution where you see multiple generations in one place in one hour at one time,” Taylor said.
He said Jesus was the first Civil Rights leader.
“We are supposed to be Christians, the word being Christ-like,” Taylor said. “Jesus was the first civil rights leader.”
Taylor cited Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan and his conversation with the women at the well.
“The church needs to do that. We get so locked up in color,” Taylor said.
Fraser agreed with Taylor.
“Jesus’ life was about tearing down the false pretenses men had established and getting to the heart of the matter, which was the heart of the man,” Fraser said.
Continued Fraser, “Racial diversity is God’s plan, not the world’s plan. The world is the one who seems to be presenting it to the church as, ‘This is the way it is supposed to be.’ Instead of the Church leading the way. ...”
“How can we step up and take our rightful place as leaders, as God-given leaders, when it appears we are being pulled along?”