Is it only Race? Or is it the power of the group?


That’s all I could think when I saw the ubiquitous racial profiling video making its way through the facebook feeds. If you haven’t seen the news clip it is well worth the 4 minutes. I promise it will stay with you.

If you have watched it, then likely you felt the ouch followed by the “What would I have done?” question.  Or, the more honest question, “When did I last do that?”, i.e. give the white person a pass while suspiciously questioning the black one. 

I tend to be a “get involver” sort of person. I’ve confronted people in the grocery store for opening up the Ziploc boxes to compare the bag sizes before leaving the opened –and now unsellable–  box on the shelf. I’ve inquired (politely I thought) about the unseen disability of drivers who leap out of their cars in the handicap parking. In short I’m kind of a pain in the ass. (It’s a quality from which I’m asking Jesus to deliver me ). 

Perhaps this it why it occurred to me that maybe there’s another dynamic going on in this video. And it’s this: the white people feel safe confronting the black guy when they’re surrounded by other white people. But put the lonely caucasian passer-by in a largely African-American environment and my money is betting they wouldn’t have said a word to a black guy sawing away at the chain. Ditto on the reverse: put the white thief in the black neighborhood and I suspect he’d be approached within minutes. 

It doesn’t diminish the power of racism that’s in the video, but it does highlight the power of the group.  We do the things our tribe expects us to do. We adjust our courage or cowardice to fit the perceived support we have around us. 

Which again, points out just how iconoclastic Jesus was. How little he conformed to the prevailing group norms and how serious he is about his followers doing the same. He challenged the Pharisees in their own homes, at their own dinner tables. He questioned the assumed opinions of the crowds in the open. And he incisively revealed Pilate’s deeper mis-judgement, all by refusing to accomodate to what others thought he should do. 

Yes. Racial profiling is a poison. So is not questioning the group in the first place. 


2 thoughts on “Is it only Race? Or is it the power of the group?

  1. Challenging the Pharisees at their own dinner tables: hmm, good point. It’s really hard to challenge anyone in a quiet setting where they have ample opportunity to argue right back.

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