On April 29, 1992, I was one month away from graduating from high school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I had just finished my third and final year on my school’s basketball team. Even though I didn’t play much, I tried as hard as I could to fit in and be a benefit to the team. My team was made of primarily African-American young men, who I loved then and I love now! My parents raised me to love people and see them as valuable in the eyes of God, and not judge anyone based on skin color. Because many of my memories from high school came from my interactions from that basketball team, many of my closest from high school are black. We didn’t talk that much about their backgrounds or their parents struggle growing up in the 60’s and 70’s with racial inequality and racism. I never looked at them as “different” from me because I loved them regardless of skin color. But something changed in my heart on April 29, 1992.
After four years at a public high school, and three years with friends on a basketball team, I watched on TV that day in ’92 as Los Angeles erupted in violence over the wrongful acquittal of four white LA Police officers, after they were indicted from beating Rodney King after a traffic stop. From the moment that I watched that violence, rage, and frustration on television, I suddenly saw my African-American brothers much differently. I couldn’t identify with decades upon decades of racial inequality, because I did not grow up with that pain and frustration in my life…but I felt for them and what they and their families had to have dealt with over the years in a world of inequality that I did not fully understand.
I hate racial inequality. I do not mind using the word “hate” in that context, but I honestly hate it. I hate anyone being treated as “less than” for any reason, whether that is skin color, financial background, education level or any other reason. From the moment I saw the rage on the TV screen, all I could say was that “I get it,” but I would never really understand. How could I completely or even partially understand a world in which I didn’t live? How could I dismiss or explain away the pain people feel for being put down or looked down on by their skin color? While I certainly wish the events of April 29, 1992, would have gone much differently and peacefully, I can comprehend the need to express that anger and frustration in some way.
I just finished watching a documentary called, “Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992,” in which a good bit of the show chronicled the Rodney King beating, the trial, and the riots that ensued after the verdict was read on April 29, 1992. But there were other stories than just Rodney King. And more than just police brutality. A 15 year old African-American girl was shot in the back of the head as she walked out of a convenience store, after being accused of stealing juice and getting into an altercation with the female clerk. The clerk, who was of Korean descent, was put on trial, and was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, and could have received 16 years in prison, but instead was given 400 hours of community service and a $500 fine. That’s wrong. A life is worth more than that, no matter the skin color.
Whether it’s the refusal to stand for the National Anthem, a protest march or a demonstration of some sort, I can mentally understand the frustration with police brutality and the inequality in the justice system, even if I have never experienced it personally. However….my heart breaks because I know kneeling during the national anthem is not going to change inequality. Setting a liquor store on fire after a miscarriage of justice is not going to change things. Beating a white truck driver on the corner of Florence and Normandie in South Central Los Angeles because he was in the right place at the wrong time is not going to take away the pain in anyone’s life, and will only bring pain into someone else’s life.
The only way to bring about change that lasts is to bring people to Jesus. God’s only Son came to be born as a Jew, to die in a cruel Roman fashion, to be the hope of salvation for the world. God created the world with one race…the human race! We all have the same internal problem of sin, and only Jesus can forgive us of that sin and give us a heart to love all people every where all the time!
As we share the message of Jesus with the world, we must all learn to love each other and treat each other with compassion and with respect. You may be rich or poor, you may be black or white, you may have a lot of money or very little, you may have many degrees of education or not, but YOU are worth more than you will ever know to God who created you and who loves you!
And because God made you, and because Jesus died for you, I love you too!