Pride: The unseen problem behind Henry Louis Gates’ arrest
A few weeks ago, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates returned home from a trip to China. He was in China filming for a documentary tracing the ancestry of cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
When he got to his house, he tried to open his front door, but it was jammed. He tried to force his way in.
A neighbor called the police on Gates.
When the police arrived, after some choice words, including some “yo mama’s,” Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct.
Though charges were eventually dropped, in light of all that has happened, especially the 24-7 media coverage of the incident, I’m sure Gates probably wished he had stayed in China a few more days.
If he had extended his trip, maybe he would’ve avoided the arrest and all the hoopla that has followed.
He wouldn’t have people scrutinizing his comments to the police or wondering if he reacted prematurely.
Life would’ve still been simple for “Skip.” He’d be busy with speaking engagements and being scholarly–researching genealogies and stuff.
Instead “new” revelations concerning his case are coming out every day.
Personally, I’m glad that this happened to Gates.
Not because he was arrested or felt harassed in his own home, but because the post-racial fantasyland in which many Americans were living is on the outs, and reality is making a come back.
It doesn’t matter if Gates was actually a victim of racism or not. The fact that he can tick the “racism” box is telling.
It tells me that racism is alive and well in the United States.
Anybody who says it’s not hasn’t been reading or watching the news lately.
Examples of racism are everywhere: Little black children getting kicked out of swimming pools; TV pundits alienating entire people groups; black and white only proms, and the list goes on.
After Barack Obama was elected last year, it was easy to think that people of color had finally broken through the racial glass ceiling.
And maybe we have, but even if a glass ceiling is broken, it takes time for everyone to reap the benefits for which a pioneer makes strides.
If blatant racism is still taking place in 2009, America is still not “there” yet.
How do we get there?
First we have to realize that there is a problem. Though racism exists, the problem isn’t racism. There’s something deeper going on. If we peeled back the surface of racism, we’d see something deeper— the sin of pride.
Saint Augustine described pride as “the love of one’s own excellence.”
As such, pride makes us think we are better than each other. That’s why the person with blond hair and blue eyes or the person with a dark complexion is able to assume he’s better than everyone else.
C.S. Lewis said of pride in Mere Christianity, “It is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.”
“Other vices may sometimes bring people together: you may find good fellowship and jokes and friendliness among drunken people or unchaste people. But Pride always means enmity–it is enmity. And not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God.”
Pride transcends race and is the root of other forms of discrimination as well.
Pride is the reason the person with a doctorate is esteemed more than the person who only has a GED.
Pride is also part of the reason taxpayers are paying to ship the homeless out of their city centers, so that City A is a “clean” place where people can be proud to live.
I know it sounds “pie in the sky,” but once we get rid of our pride, then we will be blessed.
Jesus said in Matthew 5, that those who are poor in spirit, or humble, will be blessed.
2 Chronicles 7:14 says something similar: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
As the opposite of pride is humility, if we turn from our pride, we will actually be able live in an environment in which we can truly accept each other –We’ll live in a post racial world, and care not about how much melanin a person has.
Then, and only then will racism disappear from the front pages of our newspapers. People who look Middle Eastern won’t be subjected to racial profiling.
Glen Beck won’t feel like he has to call Obama a racist, and Brian Kilmeade won’t have to apologize for making statements concerning the racial purity of Americans.
In the church, black people won’t feel like they have to go to black churches, or white people to their own enclaves.
People would just be people, and love each other – just the way Christ demands.