Thursday, July 25, 2013

Classism in America

With the recent verdict declaring George Zimmerman not guilty of murder in the killing of Trevon Martin, there’s been a lot of talk about racism in America. These are good discussions to have, but missing from much of rhetoric is another “ism”, classism. Let me give you a few examples of classism:

Suppose you were walking down a city street late at night, and a young black guy in a hoodie and jeans approaches you. Would you be apprehensive? Most likely you would.

Now, suppose you are on the same street late at night and a well-dressed young black man approaches you. Would you be apprehensive? Most likely you would not.

What’s the difference? The well-dressed young man is perceived to be of a better class and therefore less likely to rob you than the supposedly lower class guy. We trust better dressed clean-cut people of any race.

My guess is that if Trevon hadn’t been wearing a hoodie, he might not have been followed by Zimmerman. Wearing a hoodie that hides your face automatically makes you suspect in some people’s minds.

But dress isn’t everything. As we saw, we’d be apprehensive if a black guy in hoodie and jeans approached us late at night on a city street. Now suppose we noticed that he’s carrying a Bible. Would we be less apprehensive? I suspect we would.

While racism in various forms certainly does exist, so do other “isms” that are just as pernicious. Why do we have such persistent prejudices? It’s the fallen human condition. If you had a society in which the inhabitants were homogeneous except for the color of their eyes, do you think there would be no prejudice? My guess is that the brown-eyed people would hate the blue-eyed people, and vice-versa.

As long as we keep our eyes (no matter what color) on people and not on God, we’ll fall short. As long as we ignore God’s command (found in various forms in most religions) to “love your neighbor” and “do unto others” then we’ll have prejudice, persecution, tribalism, and war.

Let’s keep our eyes on God, who created heaven and earth (and it was good), and made human beings in his image.

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