Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Yeah I got Privilege

I was at Rachel's on Saturday night calmly talking about the movie we had just finished when next door we heard a gunshot. I leapt from the couch and ran to the window looking out in the direction of the shot to see the shadow of a man running down the alley.

Naturally I freaked. Rachel was at the window with me and as I ran into the kitchen to put on my shoes she started telling me not to go outside.

"Babe, someone might be bleeding to death in the street."

"Josh, this isn't the neighborhood where you go out in the streets late at night. It's dangerous."

She was right. She lives in a bad neighborhood, and I didn't think it was the safest thing for me to go outside. I told her that we were at least calling the police. So I dialed 911.

While I was on the phone with the woman, she asked me to hold for a second. Then I heard her hand cover the phone and she said,

"Do you think she's coming over tonight? I talked to her earlier and she said she didn't know if she was going to come by... Okay. Well, catch me before you leave and we'll set up plans."

I couldn't believe it. The 911 operator had me on hold because she was trying to make plans.

After I made the call, I convinced Rachel to let me go outside, but she made me promise not to leave the yard. So I walked outside. I was outside, quite scared. Every security light on Shuttle Way was awake and staring at me. I sat in the back yard with the dew collecting on the hems of my pajama pants. I sat there worried and scared for a good fifteen minutes while Rachel sent me text messages asking me to come inside.

Finally the Police arrived. This is getting the the whole point of my post. The cop got to the alley and I walked around the corner to talk to him.

"I'm the guy who called it in. We were up in my girlfriend's apartment when we heard the gunshot go off. So I went to the window and saw the shadow of a man running down the alley headed this way."

To which the cop replied, "Was it a black guy?"

Now mind you... I saw the guy's shadow. I cocked my head and looked at the cop. "I don't know if it was a black guy or not... all I saw was the shadow."

"Would you say it looked like the shadow of an African American?"

Let me repeat: "Would you say it looked like the shadow of an African American?" What are you supposed to say to that? Did the shadow look like a black guy's? Um, yeah... it looked like a black guy's shadow because it was black? It couldn't have been a white guy's shadow because it wasn't white? It couldn't have been a white guy because white guy's don't shoot guns? It must have been a black guy sir, because well, black people like to shoot other people. Black people commit crimes, white people don't so yeah... it was a black guy's shadow.

I was pissed. I looked the cop in the eye and said "It is impossible for me to discern the race of the individual based solely on his shadow sir."

"But still, there's a lot of black people in the area, I think it's safe to say it was a black guy don't you?"

No. No it is not safe to immediately assume that the man was black. It is not safe at all. I replied: "It could have been a black guy, it could have been a white guy, it could have been a chinaman. I don't know sir, I saw a shadow. Just a shadow."

"Okay. Well let's go take a look."

Then we took a walk and found that there was no bodies, no dead people, all was safe and sound, and the cop drove off. I don't think I need to say anything about the story... I'm just amazed that the conversation happened at all. You can go ahead and deny that you have your white privilege all you like... but you've got it. You're not responsible for it, but you've got it, and you've got to deal with it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


I work as an Area Coordinator at a small university in Wheeling West Virginia. Which means I eat in the cafeteria every day. Usually, eating in the cafeteria of a small university means eating overcooked green beans and mushy carrots with meatloaf and pizza every night. But not here. Here at Wheeling Jesuit University the food in the cafeteria is top notch. For example:

Last night we had the following options to choose from for dinner:
1) Chicken and Bean burrito supremes
2) Grilled Tuna Steaks
3) Crab-stuffed tortellinis
4) Pizza/Hamburger/all that other stuff
5) or Blue Cheese and spinach stuffed Filet Mignon!

No kidding. Last night they were serving filet freaking mignon in the cafeteria. Imagine my chagrin then, when last night a student complained that the lemon zested grilled tuna steaks could be more tender. MORE TENDER!! I ate sheperd's pie every night for four years. My college cafeteria was a glorified salt-lick dipped in laxatives, and students are complaining because the grilled tuna steaks could be more tender! Talk about being upset because your wallet is too small for all your fifties and your diamond shoes are too tight.

This type of attitude stems from something in America that many, many of us have bought into. We believe we are entitled to the things that we have been fortunate enough to receive on a regular basis. I believe I am entitled to clean running water. I am entitled to take a shower for as long as I want. I am entitled to throw as much garbage on the corner as I want. I am entitled to plant whatever I want in my backyard regardless of whether or not it is an invasive species. I am entitled to cover my grass in fertilizer that will pollute the water table. I am entitled to eat as much meat as I want regardless of the living conditions of the animals slaughtered for my benefit. I am entitled to eat as much as I want, sleep as much as I want, play as much as I want, drink as much as I want, smoke as much as I want, and so help me when someone gets in my way I'm going to scream that they are judging me. Thank goodness holding people accountable has fallen out of fashion.

The problem with this entitlement is that it takes advantage of those with no voice. As long as someone or something is unable to speak up for itself, I don't hear it. The earth is screaming at me through melting ice caps, desertification, rising ocean levels, increased hurricane activity, increased seizmic activity etc... but it isn't speaking english, so I don't listen.

Children in Africa and India and China are screaming at me with flies on their eyes, but Sally Struthers doesn't let them talk, and I don't like her anyway, so I don't listen. Pass the tuna please.

Millions have been cut to shreds in the streets of Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, the The Sudan, Rwanda, The Congo, but do I care? Not really. I mean it bothers me, but I'm entitled to change the channel. Honestly. I get a little sad that rivers are actually dammed witht he corpses of boys and men, but it all just makes for an interesting soap box. I don't do anything.

The penal system in America is shouting through clogged prisons, and a racially biased court system. I am paying to put people to death because they couldn't afford a lawyer, while I watch murderers get paid millions to catch a football. But it isn't polite to talk about politics or race, so we ignore it. Football on the other hand is the common bond among all men, so let's not jeapordize the sport.

Thousands of babies are being cut out and thrown away every year. But they don't breath yet so they aren't even human. Let's go ahead and call those tiny little babies by their true title: parasites. To the curb. It's my right.

I can't help but think what will happen to me? Will I eventually understand that the Earth has a voice? That chickens and corn and Africa and the poor in America all deserve to be noticed? Will I begin to look at myself as a tender of the garden instead of the conqueror of a foreign land with women to rape and homes to burn? Will I begin to understand that without intentionally taking care of my home, I will soon be swimming in my own sewage? I hope so, but frankly... there isn't much hope. I won't see the consequences of increased hurricanes because I don't live by the coast. I won't see the effects of American injustice, genocide, famine, abortion, and global starvation in my backyard, so I'll change the channel. More football, pass the chili and beer.

I know that it won't do me any good to hold my head and cry because the world is falling apart. But I guess it's time I stepped up and did my part. It's time I started paying a little extra to eat free-range chicken. It's time I started turning off the shower while I lather and turn it on again to rinse. I should shut off the water in the sink while I'm shaving. I should turn off the lights, and drive slowly to conserve gas. I should carpool, and donate money to the World Food Programme. I should go on a trip to Mississippi to help rebuild after the destruction of Katrina. Maybe after I start doing something about the broken system, I won't feel guilty when I watch football on Sunday.

I just hope I do more than say something. I hope I fall into action and I pray that the rest of entitled America catches up before we set fire to the bed.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Seeking Proper Fear

I wonder what it means to fear God. I have had many people tell me many different things regarding this particular command, but the fact is, I just don't quite get it yet. I have no one who has told me something that makes perfect sense. Because, honestly, I think fear is a healthy reaction to the person of God. I mean fear. True fear. I think we should be afraid. Maybe that's why when the angels appear to men, they immediately say "Have no fear." They don't want men to fear them, because men are to fear God. I understand that this fear should be healthy, mixed with and authored from love, but the fact is: God should be a little more frightening. I'm still wrestling with the idea.

I hope that undersanding the proper way to fear God will enrich my life with Him. I don't want to go overboard with this, and fear Him to the point where I'm chaining myself to the law as if it were a millstone, but I do want a healthy balance of love and fear when it comes to God. I'm still trying to figure out just how we're supposed to fear God, but it's something I'm willing to wrestle with. It's something I'm willing to figure out.

I've spent the past several years of my life focusing on the love God has for me, now I think I need to focus more on the fear I should have for Him.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Been a While

Sorry I haven't been able to post in the past few months. Instead of trying to flesh out all my thoughts from that time I have decided to compile a list of witty cliches that capture the top ten things that have been on my mind. In a nutshell, here's what I've been thinking about:

1. My girlfriend Rachel.

2. There are too many people in the world blaming themselves.

3. Integrity comes when we start expecting it from others.

5. Money binds and gags us, stuffs us in the trunk, and leaves us for dead.

6. God forgives us because he wants to.

7. If we had said "I forgive you" after 9/11 we would have changed the world.

8. The protestant church has forgotten her past.

9. The excess of piety is pride.

10. There is no such thing as too much free pizza.

That about sums up my thoughts for two months. I'm sure I'll be fleshing some of these out later. That's just to keep you up to date for now. I welcome your reactions to any of them.