You see, Herod, who was a front man of the Roman empire, ruled over Israel. When Jesus was born, word got to him that others were calling Jesus the King of the Jews. He sent wise men to see the boy. Herod told them it was so that he could honor him, but really he wanted to know his whereabouts so he could kill him. The wise men, after laying their gifts before Jesus, are warned in a dream not to return to Herod, and Jesus’ father Joseph is always warned in a dream to flee with his family. When Herod learned that he had been outwitted, he ordered the murder of every boy in Bethlehem under the age of two. This is known as the Slaughter of the Innocence and fulfills the prophesy of Jeremiah:
weeping and much lament.
Rachel weeping for her children,
Rachel refusing all comfort,
Her children gone, dead and buried
Racism isn’t an inconvenient social construct. It is a deadly way to control others. Herod killed the babies of Bethlehem because he was afraid, afraid of Jesus’ power. So he killed innocent ones to keep himself feeling safe.
I will never forget the day I realized that my walk in the world was different from that of my friend of color. In college, one of my professors (yes, one) was black. Every day he came to class dressed so dapper. In an era when jeans and flannel shirts were the rule, he stood out by his three piece suits and hat, even though he was only about 5 years older than the students he taught. He told us about how not once, not twice, but nearly every time he drove through the town to get to work, he would be pulled over by police. This wasn’t Birmingham in the 50’s, it was New Jersey in the 70’s. And whether with a colleague or his children, he would suffer the indignity of the police asking him to step out of the car for questioning. His crime? Guilty while driving black.
“Once [gay] people began to say who they were, you found that it was your next-door neighbor or it could be your child, and we found people we admired,” she said. “That understanding still doesn’t exist with race; you still have separation of neighborhoods, where the races are not mixed. It’s the familiarity with people who are gay that still doesn’t exist for race and will remain that way for a long time as long as where we live remains divided.”
Some have noted that while once the most segregated time in America is no longer Sundays at 11am, but it is noon lunch hour at work.
Proximity doesn’t breed contempt, distance does. Proximity breeds a familiarity that gives birth to empathy.