We’re pretty much in a war zone these days between police, black people and just about everyone else being the shooter or the shot. I find it hard to really say anything meaningful about it.
One of the “spin-offs” of my PhD pursuits is riding the “city” bus. Actually we have a regional authority called CARTA which runs the buses. Although I’ve ridden mass transit off and on since my first trip to London forty years ago this summer, this is the first time I’ve used it on a sustained basis. It’s free to those of us at UTC (well, students pay a fee) so it’s beats driving in distracted traffic and hunting for a parking space.
Riding the bus has civil rights overtones here. Rosa Parks didn’t start the movement by refusing to ride in the back down in Montgomery, but it was close. Part of the problem is that the “back” was constantly being redefined by the racial mix on the bus. Nobody likes it when others keep moving the goalposts, but as Bill Clinton and his spouse remind us, some people down here are really good at it.
The bus still has racial overtones, because white people around here generally don’t ride the bus. That’s unfortunate because it’s an experience that people really need to have if they want to get a better feel for what’s going on in the community around them. I’ve sat in on discussions of shootings here in Chattanooga, and it’s not pleasant. Of course immigration has made the bus more diverse, and we have Hispanics, Asians and Muslims riding as well.
Probably the most memorable moment I had riding the bus is when I had to get off. I got off to meet my wife away from home, at a stop not far from where our own terrorist shooting started about this time last year. This is a small town in many ways; you greet the bus driver when you get on and, if you get off at the front, you greet him or her upon departure. As I got off, I told the black bus driver, “You have a blessed day.”
He responded, “You have a blessed day too, bro.”
I count that as a high honour. So what did I do to get that? As I said, this is a small town. I’ve been known to talk to people about Jesus on the bus, and I think the word got around. The black church is still alive and well around here, and the church folk appreciate it when someone–anyone–expresses their faith seriously.
People wonder how we can bridge racial divides. I don’t think we’re ever going to get anywhere with this until those of us who profess and call ourselves Christians consider ourselves that first and whatever else second. The problem we’ve got is that we’ve wrapped our relationship with God around our ethnicity, and that’s a mistake. Jesus Christ came so that we could all be of one bloodline–his–and not be divided by ethnicity. That’s a lesson that still seems hard to understand, and my years working for the Church of God tell me that we’ve got a long way to go.
In the meanwhile, there’s still the bus. It’s slow and not always the smoothest ride, but it’s still a good one. The road to racial reconciliation is a rough one too, but we must take it.
Have a blessed day.