His Story Our Story

February has been designated as Black History month where we honor and recognize the achievements of Black Americans throughout our history. I took it as an opportunity to refresh, educate, and relearn the stories of men and women who have contributed to and shaped our society. I was amazed to read about inventors like Marie Van Brittan Brown, who received a patent in 1969 for a closed-circuit TV security system; Alexander Miles who invented automated elevator doors (1867); Dr. Patricia Bath who invented a laser cataract treatment devise called Laserphaco Probe (1986); and Alice H. Parker who invented the natural gas central heating furnace (1919). It was inspiring to learn of these brilliant men and women that our history books have largely overlooked.

But the reading that was most enriching and moving for me was reading a timeline of major events and milestones in our nation’s history of the Black community’s experience from 1619 when the first slave ship arrived in Virginia to the election of the first Black/Asian female Vice President in 2020. Even though this sweeping article chronicled poignant events directly related to the Black American experience with understandable references to White Americans, I didn’t read it as a disconnected third-party bystander. This history was my history. I share in it. I’ve been impacted by it.

As I read of this long and arduous trek, there was a theme that emerged that is captured in the word ‘struggle’. At every juncture to be treated as people made in the image of God, with equal rights, equal dignity, and equal opportunity, it was a struggle. Nothing was achieved without it. Freedom had to be won through a bloody civil war. Opportunity was thwarted by Black codes and Jim Crow laws. Voting was suppressed by poll taxes, literacy tests, and violence. Equal education was denied by Plessy v. Ferguson. Access to housing was restricted by red lining and discrimination covenants. Gaining civil rights had to go through the gauntlet of beatings, terror, and assassinations.

Between 1975-1979, Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime inflicted devastating pain on their country during Pol Pot’s genocidal dictatorship. Over forty years later, the country is still suffering from those four brutal years. The Black community has suffered four hundred years of oppression and it shouldn’t surprise us that there are still long-lasting repercussions from this trauma. Demanding that we simply move on without an understanding and appreciation for this traumatic history is both naïve and hurtful. Moving forward in our race relationships requires that we at least be better acquainted with this historical pain and the struggle for every inch of opportunity that has been fought for.

The Bible has been described as God’s story. The Bible is indispensable in our relationship with God because through it we get to know Him. Through the Bible, we learn about the way the Lord worked through the lives of biblical characters, the nation of Israel, the disciples, and the early church. Reading the Gospels, we are moved by the stories of Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection. It’s thrilling to read the accounts of the Holy Spirit moving in the infant church. Indeed, loving God requires us to know His story. Loving others requires no less. While Black History month provides us with an annual reminder to learn more about the Black community, our regular habit should be to listen and learn each other’s stories so our love for all might be better informed and more authentic. Perhaps when we do this, we will truly be known by the world for our love for one another.

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