Four characters living out the drama of racism in America in the headlines.
Professor Henry Louis Gates, a prominent Harvard professor, returns home from a long trip and can't get the door of his house open. Enlisting the aid of his cab driver, he tries to push the door open. He identified himself as the owner and yet seems to have lost his temper. Would you if someone was still questioning you in your own house?
A neighbor, Lucia Whalen, responds to the request of an elderly neighbor who saw the men tryiing to get into the house by calling the police. Is she being a good neighbor to the elderly woman or her community when someone sees something unusual?
A well-respected police officer, Sargent James Crowley, responds to a 911 call. He is a trainer for helping prevent racial profiling. What overrode his own training in the heat of the moment?
The President of the United States hears about the incident and comments in such a way that ratchets the conversation. Later he reflects a little on what it's like to be a black man in America and calls it a "teachable moment."
Later today they are all, except the woman who called 911, expected to have a beer together in Washington. I think it's good modeling that they will sit down together and I hope we'll have enough of a window on the conversation to allow it to truly be a "teachable moment" in how to talk about racism.
In a predominantly Euro-American state with our diversity in many different ethnic and racial groups, it's easy for us as Minnesotans to ignore the realities of racism. And yet every day there are incidents in our own state with our neighbors who are Native Americans, Hmong, Hispanic, African, African American and the rest of our emerging diversity of peoples. Our neighbors are literally next door to us in all of our neighborhoods as individuals and as churches. Many of our churches are located in neighborhoods filled with people who don't look like those of us worshiping in the buildings.
How are we making this headline news item a "teachable moment?" What do we have to learn from this incident? And what do we have to teach from it as Christians and in the context of gathering as people of faith for worship, Bible study and prayer? What are we saying? How are we praying?
Is it a teachable moment?