On Monday, July 11, 2016, I reported to jury duty at the Baldwin County Courthouse.
Initially, I sat in the hallway, awaiting, as were many others, the opening of the courtroom to take our seats. I sat at the end of a pew-like bench, staring at my twitter feed and listening to a conversation between three other members of the jury pool about relatives who were serving time in prison.
The doors opened and we squeezed ourselves into the packed benches of the courtroom, answered the roll-call, raised our right hands and took the jury oath that was read by the presiding judge.
We were a diverse group, many shades of brown faces filled the room.
From this larger jury pool, names were called and we took our place in the jury box. Once twelve members were seated, our names were called again. According to the judges instructions, we stood, repeated our name, verbally gave our address, our place of employment, the name of our spouse and their place of employment. This was repeated, many times over throughout the day.
We were there, together, tasked to serve by some computer algorithm. We gathered, together, in the name of duty and justice…I guess.
It was an inspiring moment, in some ways. I was inspired by the diversity of the group. I was inspired by the camaraderie I witnessed among the group, as I saw complete strangers give preference to one another in seating, etc. We were there, as citizen-servants.
As I reflect on that day, though, I have become increasingly uncomfortable within myself.
As I revisit the day in my mind, I see the faces, hear the names, the place of employment, etc. I have begun to realize something.
Every person of color I know, those whose skin is a much darker shade of brown than mine…I really don’t share my life with them. The fact is, I know little more about them than what I now know about those who were in the jury pool on Monday. I know their name, sometimes, because I have trouble remembering anyone’s name. I may know where they work. I may know the name of their spouse. I may even sit on a bench with them, at church, BUT I really don’t share my life with them. I shake their hand. I hug them. I may even say, “Great to see you…love you, brother/sister,” and I do believe I am telling the truth when I say those things, BUT I really don’t share my life with them. I’ve never shared a meal with them. I’ve never shared my home with them. Other than a few brief moments during a week and an occasional wave on the street…I REALLY DON’T share my life with them.
Am I a hypocrite? Am I a racist? Are my Likes, Comments and Shares of posts on social media that relate to our need to listen, explore and love those who have/are experiencing the bite of injustice just a cover for a deeper problem within my heart?
I guess I am coming to terms with the fact that I have so far to go in this journey. We all do.
In the style of Paul in Philippians 3, I must confess, “I have not arrived. That is I’m not perfect in performance, in regards to my relationships with those of a different cultural or ethnic group. BUT, I press on toward the goal, that upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Am I a racist? No, I don’t believe so.
Do I have room to grow? Yes.
Do I have changes to make? Yes.
How about you? I’d love to read your response in the comments…