White People Should Work Cotton Fields: When An Inside Joke Goes Too Far

Too far?
Too far?

So I wake up this morning and the day is going pretty good.  I’m just a little bummed about possibly not being able to play hoops tonight because of a sprained MCL, but besides that things were looking good.  Then I got a text message:

BREAKING NEWS: All white people must report to the cotton fields at 7:00 a.m. to begin orientation. 

Seriously?  This one got to me.  No chuckle.  No smile cracked.  It elicited frustration.  Listen, many of the inside jokes about Obama winning were pretty cute (yes, even the one about leaving kool-aid packets near the water cooler at work).  And I do think that many of them were done in good taste.  For some reason, this one got to me.  I have spent the past several months trying to convince others that there are certain areas in this country that are still racially divisive.  I was born and raised in Georgia, so I know all too well about how divisive and sensitive racial issues can become.  I think the final electoral college map represents the residue of racism in our nation.  If we are all honest with ourselves, there are many people who could not bring themselves to vote for Obama because of his race (and vice versa).  On the other hand, there are others who thought Obama was the candidate who addressed issues that resonated with them personally and could have cared less if he was red, yellow, black, or white.

Which brings me back to the aforementioned text message.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know it was said in jest and was a joke.  But if the adage that “there is a little truth in every joke” is true, then this really leaves me wondering if this race issue will ever go away.  I came to Fuller Seminary because I desire to be a part of a community that demonstrates its unity through diversity.  I attended two HBCU’s for both my undergraduate and graduate level coursework.  I had an opportunity to attend another (shout out to ITC in Atlanta) for my theological education but decided against it.  Don’t get me wrong, the education I received at Morehouse College and Howard University was top notch.  And I would do it again in a heartbeat.  I just have a personal conviction of “cultural displacement.”  By that I mean I personally feel that it was my duty as a believer is to displace myself culturally in order to fulfill the call of God on my life.  As a future potential church planter, I desire to have a multicultural ministry that transcends race and gender issues.  Not to get all preachy, but this is exactly what Jesus did according to Philippians 2.  He left a place of familiarity to immerse Himself in another culture.  If God has truly committed to us the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19) why does racism still exist (even in the church)?

I truly hope that the unity spoken of the past two days is a reality.  Although the rhetoric was regarding unity between the parties, it is my hope that this unity also occurs across racial lines.  And I’m not too sure if that can happen if anyone (black or white) feels that the text message above was appropriate.  Maybe no one else was offended, but it certainly struck a personal chord.  For me, it just feeds the fear that race will be an issue for a long time.  Yet, it gives me hope that I am doing the right thing in continuing this journey of displacement in order to reconcile.