It’s time to declare a “War on Broken Bones”

It was on October 14, 1982 President Ronald Regan declared a “War on Drugs.”  It was a time in our country’s history when less than 2% of Americans viewed drugs as the most important issue facing the country.  By the 1980’s the number of arrests for all crime rose 28% while the number of arrests for drug related offenses rose 128%.  In 1999, crime statistics show that blacks were the most likely group to be arrested for drug crimes.  In some states in the mid 90’s 90% of those admitted to prison for drug offenses were either black or brown. Let’s reimagine this for a moment.  Let’s suppose the in 1982 “broken bones due to sports” was declared the new war.  In order to get this epidemic under control the government declares all broken bones due to sports activities a felony with a new mandatory minimum sentences and an additional “3 strikes and you’re out” law.

Seems silly doesn’t it?  You don’t fix a broken bone issue by sending the person to jail.  You get them medical attention and then develop more effective pads and game rules.

Why then do we think that the drug problem can be solved by stiffer mandatory jail sentences?  Drug addiction is a problem, but putting people in jail for addiction is silly at best and morally wrong at worst.  Drugs like broken bones are best dealt with by medical professionals.  One of the more embarrassing realities of this War on Drugs is that Christians have more often than not allowed politicians to define who is criminal and what activities constitute criminal behavior.

Maybe it is time to call the War on Drugs what it really was – a political ploy designed to motivate people to vote for and support a particular President.  It is important to note that every presidential candidate since has used some form of “get tough on crime (read drugs)” rhetoric.

According to Matthews’s gospel one characteristics of Christians is how we treat the prisoner.  I can’t help but wonder if he included this in his gospel because deciding who is bad and who is good is something we will get wrong more often than right.

Finding Nemo - A story about White Privilege

One of my favorite movies is Finding Nemo.  It tells the story of a father’s love for his ever maturing and adventurous child.  One day in a fit of frustration with his father’s overprotective nature, Nemo ventures away from the reef to touch the bottom of a fishing boat.  He is captured by a scuba diver and taken away.  The rest of the movie tells the story of Marlin, Nemo’s father and Dory, an unexpected friend, as they search for Nemo. One of the first “characters” they meet is Bruce the shark.  Marlin and Dory are immediately brought to an “AA-type” meeting for sharks.  The gathering begins with a pledge “fish are friends not food.”

As I have been replaying this scene in my mind, one question keeps surfacing.  When a Great White shark tells a small fish that he has become a vegetarian, who has to have the faith that the relationship will work out?  Bruce can change his convictions at any time and without any warning.  What assurances do Marlin and Dory have that Bruce will stick to his new diet?

Some of the biggest challenges facing folks who want to move beyond the evils of White Privilege have to to with relationship and reconciliation.  How do Anglos get to a place of honest peer-to-peer relationships with persons of color?

Many who are White have owned and are owning the privilege(s) which have come simply because of skin color.  We have also recognized that privilege can be costly, especially for persons of color.  We have received preferential treatment when looking for work.  We are much less likely to be stopped for routine traffic violations.  The War on Drugs has been waged primarily in communities of color.  Life has not always been easy for White folks, but our privilege has secured as world that is clearly tilted in our favor.

In many ways to be White is much like being a Great White Shark.  When we reach out to others asking for forgiveness, seeking reconciliation and honesty desiring relationship, it is critical to never forget who we are – sharks, people with access to power and privilege.  I for one never asked to be born with the power and privilege that comes to me simply because of the color of my skin.

Just because I reach out to a person of color with an honest desire to be friends does immediately imply that I have quit being scary.  It is important to never forget that it takes a tremendous amount of faith to look past the teeth of a Great White Shark and see a potential friend.