Rosie-Colored Glasses

modern-houses-snow-country-house-designs-8It was a bright day as the sun glittered on the freshly fallen snow.  The roofs of the nice houses were covered as were the luxury vehicles that sat in their driveways.  It was a perfect scene from a Norman Rockwell painting or perhaps from Home Alone before everything went haywire.  Except for the suspicious looking man in the Lexus driving through the neighborhood.  When the officer noticed him, he could tell that he was clearly out of place.  After all, the man was African-American and not only did he not belong in this affluent neighborhood, but in all likelihood, the Lexus he was driving was stolen.  Black folk couldn’t afford such luxuries.

The officer pulled the man over and asked him if he knew why he’d been pulled over.  A lovely little trick that cops use when they clearly have no reason to be pulling someone over.  Perhaps he expected the man to flinch or even give a confession right on the spot.  It worked.  The man did confess to his crime. 

“Yes, officer.  DWOTW,” the man answered.

“What the hell does that mean?” the officer asked as he squinted his eyes suspiciously.  This boy was toying with him.

“Driving while other than white,” the man explained.

The officer was not remotely amused and asked the man to get out of the vehicle so that the officer could search it.  An African-American in a nice car in an affluent neighborhood could only be up to no good.  There had to be drugs or weapons in the car.  It didn’t matter that the officer had no cause for search nor seizure.  There wasn’t something that looked like a gun handle sticking up barely in sight in the glovebox.  There was no bag with white powder sticking out from under the seat.  No, the man’s crime was simply “driving while other than white.” 

The driver pointed out the officer’s folly and rubbed a little extra egg on his face as he pointed out that, not only was the Lexus he was driving his own, but that was his big house on the end of the street with his kids and wife waiting inside for him.  This particular driver was a graduate of Northwestern University where he played defensive back.  He was later drafted by the San Diego Chargers and after retirement from the NFL, finished his graduate work and is now employed as a nuclear physicist overseeing the 17 nuclear power plants east of the Mississippi.  This man is also one of Westyn’s football coaches.

Roosevelt Groves (or Rosie, as we call him), told me this story as we was taping up Westyn’s hand after blocking a PAT and taking a boot in the back of the hand.  When one of the coaches asked Rosie if he had a knife to cut the makeshift splint that they had created to fit Westyn’s hand, he replied jokingly, “Cops shoot black folks who carry knives so I don’t carry one anymore.”  I laughed along with him, but it wasn’t really funny.

Lest anyone think I am anti-police or even overly critical, I am pointing out something that does not merely exist within the police force, but within all of us.

What if Rosie had been an African-American teenager in a hoodie sitting down low in a beat up Chevy Monte Carlo blasting rap music when he cruised through this neighborhood?  Then would the officer have been justified in pulling him over?  As hard as it is to say out loud, must of us would say yes. 

All races have equal rights in the U.S.  Civil rights became a reality 50 years ago.  There’s nothing wrong with society.  We see our world through rose-colored glasses and things appear much better than they really are because we are the privileged.  We should know something is horribly wrong when even our prophet, Lord, and God incarnate uses racial slurs.  Maybe instead of looking at everything through rose-colored glasses, we need to start seeing it through Rosie-colored glasses.

When we read the Bible in snippets as given by the lectionary, we tend to lose the overall meaning.  The narrative is taken apart in chunks and we end up with a misinterpretation of the intended lesson.  One important aspect of this story is that Jesus choses to go to “the other side.”  He doesn’t merely go to the other side of the tracks, he goes where the people on the other side of the tracks came from

The Jews didn’t only look down on those who lived in the surrounding territories, they hated them.  These were the people whose ancestors tried to keep them from claiming their God-given land.  I don’t imagine the “foreigners” liked the Jews any more.  It took a lot of courage and a big swallow of pride for this Syrophoenician woman to go to Jesus and ask for help.  The love she had for her daughter compelled her to go to this Palestinian Jew who had a reputation for being a healer.  And what she received in return was a slap in the face.

I’m not sure what this woman expected Jesus would say when she went to him.  After all, she wasn’t only a foreigner, but she was a woman.  Jesus was supposed to be different, but he proved to be just like the rest. 

Go away dog, what I have to give is for the Jews only. 

Yes, but even the dogs get to collect the crumbs that fall at their master’s feet.

I imagine that Jesus was clapping in his heart when she said this.  She stood up for herself and didn’t allow even the Sophia of God to put her down when her daughter was suffering. 

Did Jesus use this opportunity to teach a lesson to the disciples?  He had just gotten done teaching that it was what came out of our mouths that defiled and now what went in.  Perhaps he was showing them how words could hurt.  Or maybe he just wanted to test the woman and see what she would do.  Then again, maybe Jesus was just a bigot like everyone else.   

This woman’s daughter was afflicted by a demon.  While the people of that area believed in the supernatural and demon possession was not out of the question in their worldview, it was also code for something that was torturing the mind.  Something was bringing this girl down and tormenting her.  Perhaps she was bullied by her peers.  Maybe somebody called her a dog.  We will never know.  What we do know is that Jesus taught this woman a valuable lesson – don’t ever let yourself be put down by others.

This was a moment much like when Jacob wrestled with the Angel of God until morning – I will not let go of you until you bless me.  Jesus threw some cruel words at her, but she did not back down.  She, in essence, said I will not go away until you do what I know only you can do.  The correlation surely was not lost on Jesus.

I have done what you asked for.  Go back to your daughter and teach her to do as you have done.  Don’t let her be pushed down by those who would seek to oppress her.  Teach her to have pride and never, ever, hang her head and believe that she is any less than anyone else.

This story would be powerful all by itself without a follow-up.  But Jesus wasn’t done.  When he was headed through Tyre on his way back, he came across a man who was deaf and mute.  It’s a little gross to think how Jesus basically spit in his mouth, but it’s very powerful to consider what the result was.  Was the man really deaf and mute?  Or was he doing what most of us do on a daily basis?  Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. 

Before Jesus said ephphatha, or open, he looked up to heaven and sighed.  How long will these people keep on this way?  How long will those who have been created in your image continue to treat each other like dogs? 

Jesus opened the man’s mouth and ears and told him to stop being silent and start speaking up.  Don’t pretend you can’t hear injustices spoken.  Don’t act like everything is ok.  Jesus’s message was the same to him as it is to us: I have given you a voice, now use it.

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One Response to “Rosie-Colored Glasses”

  1. John Lovestrand Says:

    This made for a powerful sermon recently as well.

    Although we have made strides… 50 years later … it may be of the Texas 2-Step (one step forward, two steps back) variety.

    Stories like Rosie’s remain far too prevalent in our so-called “post-racial” society.

    Sometimes it seems that Rosa Parks quietly audacious refusal was only yesterday, as witness Rosie’s encounter today.

    The Supremes opined recently that the 1965 Voting Rights Act served its purpose, so no need to renew that for another 50 years hence.

    Tell that to the many trying to vote while being other than white, with today’s more coded versions of yesterday’s poll tax now in effect in too many areas of the country.

    Free at last? Free at last?? Not by a long stretch … .

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