3 minutes reading time (536 words)

My America

My America

In 1967 at Stanford University, Dr. King delivered a speech entitled, The Other America. With characteristic eloquence he described the very different economic, social and political conditions under which black and white Americans lived.

Much has changed since Dr. King's speech. But if you could ask Ahmaud Arbery or George Floyd if things have changed enough, and if they could answer, they would tell you that we still live in two Americas.

In my America, I can wander into a house under construction and look around, or jog down a street, or roam a city park and no one is going to suspect me of anything other than curiosity, a passion for fitness or an interest in nature.

But not everyone lives in my America.

In the country I live in, I can shop at any retail establishment and never be followed by security or stopped and questioned by store employees.

But not everyone lives in my America.

In my country, I can be – and have been – pulled over by the police, but never once had the thought that I might be in danger of getting anything other than a ticket. I have two sons, both of whom are strong willed, sometimes short-tempered, and always outspoken. I have never had "the talk" with them – the one where I explain how to behave if they encounter the police.

But not everyone lives my America.

In that Stanford speech, Dr. King reflected on the Civil Rights Act, passed three years earlier, saying that it worked to subpoena the conscience of many to appear before the judgement seat of morality. What happened to Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd issues yet another summons to all of us.

It is a summons to acknowledge that while progress has been made, we have not yet reached the other side of the mountain.

We are summoned to admit that while violent riots are the wrong response to injustice, they are not morally equivalent to what happened to Mr. Arbery or Mr. Floyd. A brick through a window is not the same as a knee on man's neck. Or a shotgun blast to his chest.

We are called to recognize that there is a time and place to voice support for police, and a time to condemn police brutality.

Those of us who live in my America are summoned to confess that we experience the world very differently than those who live in the other one – and that their experience is real.

And all of us, regardless of which America we live in, are called to recognize that we need each other. As Dr. King said, the one needs the other to free them from fear. The other needs the one to free them from guilt. And all of us need Jesus. He came, Paul said, to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, (Ephesians 2:15).

As long as it is my America or yours or somebody else's, it won't be safe for any of us. It won't even be safe if it becomes ours. Only when it all becomes His, will it be a place and we become a people of peace. 

New Series on Ephesians: The Book of Peace
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Monday, 17 May 2021

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