Standing up to Prejudice
Prejudice – Standing up to it – I read where a white woman encountered a group of Aboriginal Australian men on a train. The Aboriginal people are a definite minority in Australia, much as Native Americans are in the USA. Other similarities are assigned reservations, land-rights issues, and high unemployment. I summarize below using her own words what happened to the woman on the train (you can read the full story by clicking on the link):
• At the train station I managed to squeeze into the last carriage. All the seats were taken, except one. Three Aboriginal men were sitting in a four-berth seat so I asked if the fourth seat was being used. The man sitting next to the empty seat smiled and said, “No, you can sit here, please”. So I did.
• We discussed the in-city footy match (called Showdown) which had just finished. We also discovered some of the same places we had visited up north. The men came from Alice Springs.
• As the men reached their destination, they stood up and called out goodbyes. From behind me I heard the words ‘‘Thank God”. Then I was tapped on the shoulder. “Bet you’re relieved — those people really shouldn’t be allowed to drink!” followed by nervous giggling. I turned to see a group of women sitting behind, and looking concerned for me.
• I took a deep breath. “Excuse me!
Those men were the friendliest, most polite people I have sat with on a train in years. As for the alcohol you believed you could smell on them, yes, they have been at the football and had a couple of drinks. But the alcohol you can smell is from me. I served hundreds of people today at the footy match and am covered in beer and wine. You should be ashamed of yourselves”.
• One of the women started crying, and the rest pretended they had not heard me. But I did what I was raised to do, and stood up for what was right. My family has traveled extensively through the Outback on holidays. I was brought up to be aware of, respectful towards, and involved with indigenous Australian culture.
• Of British descent, I understand as much as I can what happened in Australia’s history, and how the effects will be felt forever. But to be confronted with it first-hand in 2014 by people who an hour earlier were cheering in adulation for Eddie Betts was so hypocritical and disappointing. (Betts is aboriginal, and virtually won the game for the Adelaide Crows with his clever goal-kicking in the last quarter of the match).
• I just hope to one day live in an Australia without division.
To me (the Gray Nomad), the one thing which makes this story different is the way the white woman stood up to the prejudice. This took courage!
Another face of this issue: I had some work done this morning by an Afro-American employee. He told me he had some disreputable offenses in his background, and because of this people refused to give him a job. Except for one young employer (white) with a similar background who did give him the job he has, stating that ‘everyone needs a second chance’. The employee did a super job for me, and I was very happy.
Yet a third face of this issue: Jim Jackson, the recently-retired pastor of one of the largest United Methodist churches in the USA, spoke to his essentially white congregation. “I wish we didn’t all look the same. I wish we didn’t love only those who are like us” (words paraphrased by me). Zinger! This stung me, and got my attention. But it certainly wasn’t true of Jesus, who was criticized by the religious authorities for hobnobbing with prostitutes, sinners and tax-collectors. He was helping the lost and the sick back to hope!
The Gray Nomad, Probing the practice of Christian believers……
The Bible story below is long but fascinating, because before this incident it was against Jewish (and Christian) law for Peter to associate with or visit a Gentile such as Cornelius. But an angel changed all that! The clear lesson is to love not only those who are like ourselves.
Cornelius Calls for Peter
At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing. He gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision.
He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”
When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.
About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds.
Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there. While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”
Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?” The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.
Peter at Cornelius’s House
The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along. The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.” While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?”
Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’ So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”
Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
“We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen. By us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.
Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
(Acts chapter 10).
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What a timely reminder, on the eve before our American Independence Day, in the face of ugly border protests in California, and Palestinians being knocked off their land in Israel. Two examples out of many, too many.
Good comment Dave. I am realizing how much I have to learn about prejudice. Thanks for sharing.