But what will happen to me? On discrimination

I imagine that the first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But by the very nature of his concern, the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

I read from Karen Armstrong that Step 1 on leading a compassionate life is to learn about compassion.

So I read Bible verses on compassion. I read from different faiths, different people: Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi (“Compassion is a muscle that gets stronger with use”).

And this week I read Martin Luther King, Jr.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

And I want to cry.

I watch a Martin Luther King video at church. We’re all moved and clap when it’s over. But I watch my black friends nod a little extra when the pastor says we’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.

I remember losing friends who fled to private schools when our public school integrated in 3rd grade. I remember being scared in 6th grade when a black/white riot broke out in the hallways.

I see Auburn University celebrating 50 years of Integration, because before Harold Franklin on January 4, 1964, no African-American students were allowed in. Harold-Franklin-AU

I hear modern voices, like Osheta Moore and Brittney Cooper, reflect on the silence about racism from white bloggers and on the noise about it by Phil Robertson.

I wonder how much discrimination is still felt by those I know, those in minorities, whether by race or by sex or by whatever way we draw our lines. And I’m shamed by prejudices in different shapes still in my own heart.

But what can I do about it?  

I know the call. It’s to “do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17).

But how?

  • See the face behind the stereotype.
  • Hear the voice under the cries.
  • Lift the hand of the struggling.

Speak up when I have a voice. Do something when I have the power.

And sit with the bullied, the slandered, those made to feel “less than” just because of who they are.

Because it’s not enough just to stand for something; I need to sit with someone.

Be with, not just for.

Our missionary efforts fail when they are based on pity, rather than true compassion. Instead of seeking to do something with the African and Asian peoples, we have too often sought only to do something for them.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

What will happen to us when we interfere with discrimination? When we let down our privilege and shake off our blindness? What will happen when we flip the question

“What will happen to me if I do?”
“What will happen to her if I don’t?

Maybe life gets a little harder. But compassion never makes us weaker. It makes us stronger. More like Jesus.

What will happen when a once-silenced voice starts to sing? We all get to dance to the music.

We’re not finished yet . . .

In the final analysis, I must not ignore the wounded man on life’s Jericho Road, because he is a part of me and I am a part of him. His agony diminishes me, and his salvation enlarges me.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

[If you can’t see the video (it’s less than a minute), watch here “Put racism in the right place”.]

* * *

Where do you still see discrimination? Feel discrimination? What could change things? Please share.


34 thoughts on “But what will happen to me? On discrimination

  1. Mia

    Dear Lisa
    I have read the book of Phillip Yancey some years ago when he spoke about people like Gandhi, Annie Dillard, Dr Paul Brandt and a few others. I will always remember the words do Gandhi, when he said that he likes the God of Christians very much, but not the Christians. He was in South Africa when he said that and I was so sad when I read that. My son and I just spoke about this the other day that we just cannot be human the way Pappa has designed us to be without Jesus’ life and love poured in our hearts to feel true compassion and His love towards others. What an empty life people must have who haven’t yet discovered the great joy of giving.
    Blessings XX

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I know you’ve probably seen and heard of much discrimination through the years in your country as we have in ours. It’s a hard thing wherever it is. Yes, without Jesus, how can we live out our design? We end up turning on each other. It’s good that you have these kinds of conversations with your son. You’re a good mother, Mia.

  2. Linda@Creekside

    It’s easy to sit on the sidelines, tossing out opinions and observations. But you’re talking about wading right in there, where the pain is, where the woundedness festers. You are living out your 2014 word, Lisa. And spreading seeds of love and hope as you do it.

    I am admiring you … and learning from you.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I appreciate your encouragement, Linda. I want to be more brave about jumping in. I dip my toe in but I rarely dive headfirst. I think the key for me is being aware of where the pain is; until I see it, I surely won’t act on it. Lord, more vision!

  3. Eyvonne

    This is a profoundly powerful statement:

    “Because it’s not enough just to stand for something; I need to sit with someone.”

    This is how we are to live and love. Seeing others, regardless of their circumstances and people to be with and come along side…

  4. Holly Barrett

    “And sit with the bullied, the slandered, those made to feel “less than” just because of who they are.

    Because it’s not enough just to stand for something; I need to sit with someone.”

    This is good stuff, Lisa! May we all sit with someone who needs to feel important and loved.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m thinking this is often easiest for us to do with children–they show their hurts so much more plainly, and we feel more empowered to help them. But with adults? It’s not always as obvious, and I tend to feel more helpess. But with God’s grace, we can…

  5. Beth

    Oooh! I love the line, “Because it’s not enough just to stand for something; I need to sit with someone.” I’m going to tweet that and challenge myself to up the ante this year in doing just that, Lisa! Thanks for your compassionate heart!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I appreciate your camaraderie, Beth. I know you have your own special challenges this year so I’m wishing I could come alongside and sit with you. At least I can do it through prayers and spirit, if not in body.

  6. Beverley

    Recently as i was sat in a taxi been driven by one of the few white taxi drivers in the city, he begins to negate against his fellow Asian work colleagues and then when i didn’t say anything back he just looked at me and my face must have said it all, he went to say ‘well i know them’ and as i stepped out of the taxi i replied ‘what all of them?’ We cannot judge a person by their skin colour only by their deeds and if we judge someone by their deeds make sure that we know them first.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks for sharing this story, Beverly. It’s interesting to me to hear views from my friends around the world. Isn’t it amazing how even our faces can speak volumes. You stood up for the Asian taxi drivers by refusing to slander them and made an impression on this man.

  7. Mari-Anna Stålnacke @flowingfaith

    Such a thought-provoking post for #MLKday. Thank you, Lisa. I am trying to approach every person by remembering we are all humans. It works no matter how powerful or how voiceless they are. When humans interact we are at the same level. So much more work to do, though. Thanks for pushing us further. BLESSINGS!

  8. Jean Wise

    I read this post twice – lots of good, challenging stuff here, Lisa. I know the first step is learning. I have been doing that with a growing compassion/passion for global women’s issue, including human trafficking. But there comes a time when we do need to step into the arena and join the fight. May both of us find the courage and hear the call.

    1. Lisa

      Exactly, Jean. We often don’t really learn until we actually do. I know that is true for me. I can read about something, but until I experience it, it’s hard to feel real to me. I admire your passion against human trafficking. It’s an issue that I wasn’t even aware of until just a few short years ago. May the Lord continue to show you ways to stay in the arena and help others of us know how to help.

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  10. bluecottonmemory

    When I was little, Catholic schools didn’t have 1st grade, so I went to the public school. It was about 1968 – and there was segregation – all the white children in one classroom and all the black children in the other. When I went to the Catholic school, the classrooms were fully integrated. So much has changed since 1968. It saddens me that there are still people out there who don’t live life color blind. “Because it’s not enough just to stand for something; I need to sit with someone” – it’s about loving, having relationship, sitting down at the table, breaking bread:)

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      “…it’s about loving, having relationship, sitting down at the table, breaking bread”

      Yes, that is it exactly. I’m so glad things have changed since we were little girls. But yet you’re right that we still aren’t there. I had a long conversation about this last night with my husband. I think in another 50 years, our children/grandchildren will hopefully have seen even more changes.

  11. Alison Hector

    “It’s not enough just to stand for something; I need to sit with someone.” This is what separates the children from the adults, Lisa. It’s where the hard work begins and the crowds dissipate. May we be found faithful in this call to “sit with”. Thanks for framing the discussion in those very poignant terms.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I think about Jesus doing important work when he would sit down at meals with those his fellow religious Jews would not have sat with. There are so many things like that we each can do if we just will. Yes, may we be found faithful in those things! Thanks, Alison.

  12. Rebekah Hughes

    This! “Because it’s not enough just to stand for something; I need to sit with someone.
    Be with, not just for.”
    Great one-word! How you will change this year living compassion!
    Mine is ‘with’, so that line above caught me and put a whole new twist on my word. Thank you!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, I’m jealous of your one-word (even though I need mine). “With” has been such a theme with me for the past several months that I’ve often wondered if that should have been my word. But “with” is so integral to “compassion” that they blend together. Praying you have an amazing year “with”!

  13. Nancy Sturm

    The more we integrate and learn about others who are different from us, the more we learn that we are all, in essence, the same. We love, we laugh, we cry, we long for companionship and understanding, we need a Savior. Thanks for such a wonderful post.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Very well said, Nancy. It reminds me of how we are when we’re young–little kids will play with anybody. It’s only when we get older that we start to seek out those who are “like us” and start the downward climb into segregating ourselves. But with intention, we can reverse that and get back to the commonalities that we all share. Blessings to you, friend.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      A very fitting quote. I read through the others too; thanks for the link!

      This one is also applicable:

      “We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer. The only profitable relationship to others — and especially to our weaker brethren — is one of love, and that means the will to hold fellowship with them. God himself did not despise humanity, but became man for men’s sake.”
      – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  14. David Rupert

    In many ways, I just treat everyone the same. There are those who discrimate — both ways. But it’s my call to see with God-eyes (best I can) and honor every person.. I can’t fix the world. When I see so many things around the planet, I feel helpless. But I can change me.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Good point–discrimination can go both ways. If we’ll just show everyone the same respect, we’ll be doing well. And if everyone who could do that, it would go a long way in fixing the world. However, you’re right that we can’t change anyone but ourselves (and only that by the Spirit, and never quick enough for me!).

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