When you have seven kids, a simple trip to a restaurant for dinner is not only a major logistical operation, it’s a huge financial undertaking. Hence, it doesn’t happen very often.
This past Sunday being Fathers’ Day, however, we decided to go to an all-u-can-eat buffet in Waco, Tex. The kids could serve themselves, thus making logistics easier. The cost of the meal would top $100, but given that there was all-you-can-eat steak and shrimp on the buffet, the benefits outweighed the costs. And so we went.
This particular establishment was packed. Yet, despite the crowded conditions, everyone got along great. People helped kids load their plates, patrons courteously allowed other patrons ahead of them in the catfish line, and everyone was having a good time.
What made the harmony among the people so amazing was that, not only was this restaurant overcrowded, but the crowd consisted of a diverse group of people. There were multiple ethnic groups represented, ranging from Caucasian, to African American, to Hispanic, to Middle Eastern, to Asian. There were also people of different lifestyles, ranging from Christians arriving for a Fathers’ Day meal after Sunday worship, to LGBTQ, tattooed and non-tattoo’ed.
Everyone got along. There was harmony. There was friendliness. One African-American lady even complimented me on my looks. (That never happens to me, by the way.)
I should not have been surprised by the harmony and congenial atmosphere experienced that day. The same thing happened at another all-you-can-eat franchise in Washington, DC, during a visit I made there two years ago. But, given the political climate of the day, I expected more cold shoulders, and less comments about my beautiful red hair.
When you read articles on social media, you are treated to a barrage of racial incidents, and commentary which tells us that racial-tensions are at an all-time high, and race-relations are at an all-time low. Turn on the news, and you see BLM protesters blocking freeways in cities where police shootings have claimed the lives of African-American citizens. These are tragic circumstances and are not to be minimized.
But if those instances are indicative of the culture at large, the deep racial divisions in our country were not manifested in my recent trip to the buffet line. Here’s what I think is really happening.
Tragedies are happening. A police officer shoots an unarmed African-American motorist. The news media sensationalizes the story, because in the 21st Century media economy, page views and impressions are everything. Sensational headlines generate traffic, which generates ad revenue, so the story is sensationalized.
Activists groups then use the tragedy as a publicity and fundraising tool, and protesters take to the streets furthering the story, which goes viral on social media as those who have been victims of racism want to show solidarity, and those who have not wish for the problem to go away.
Then, CNN does a story about race relations being at an all-time low, which generates web traffic and TV viewership, the nation debates the issue, and the drama continues online.
Meanwhile, at a buffet in Texas, African Americans, Hispanics, Middle Easterners, Caucasians and Asians are gathered together at the table of brotherhood which is adorned by an endless supply of steak, shrimp, fried chicken, fried fish, and all the fixin’s.
I could draw the conclusion that people are people, regardless of race, who just want to live their lives, enjoy good things, and get along with everybody. At my core, I believe that to be true.
On the other hand, perhaps we all got along because we were drawn together by a common cause: steak and shrimp. Perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned. Perhaps the leaders and voices of our nation could draw people together by reminding us of the things that we hold dear, that we ALL hold dear, while offering comfort in the aftermath of tragedy.
Perhaps the leaders of our country could unify the country by reminding us of how great our country is, in spite of the tragedies that happen.
But that will never happen. The key to winning elections today is to divide and conquer. Convince one group that others are out to get them, and that you are the only one who can offer protection, and you have that group’s vote. Plus, calling someone a racist gets more page views than posts about unity. Our leaders and media sources will take the easy way out every time, to the detriment of our society.
So, it’s up to us. It’s up to us to see the humanity of each other. To see that the man across the table who has a different skin color, a different world view, and possibly a different religion is still a man. He has a life, responsibilities, worries and a family just like we do. He is, after all, a man.
In that humanity, we have a common bond. Once we recognize that, true healing and unity can take place in our nation, if it hasn’t started already.
I fear blogging about racial issues. I fear that my words will come off as calloused, uninformed, or even offensive.
But know this, regardless of who you are, I will pray for you, I will pray with you, and I want the best for you. And if your freedom is threatened, I will go to bat for you.
May God bless you, my friend.