Looking For Peter…
In the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico, medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos made a public statement about the America that they lived in, loved and competed for. After winning the gold and bronze medal respectively, Smith and Carlos bowed their heads and raised gloved fists into the air as a statement for human rights and a demonstration against the unjust treatment of black Americans at the time.
What you may not notice in the photo is the unassuming silver medalist, Australian Peter Norman, who quietly but strongly sports an OPHR (Olympic Project for Human Rights) badge on his track suit. While Smith and Carlos are the most vocal, Norman may have made the most difficult sacrifice.
Norman’s Australia had its own racial issues at the time with its “White Australia Policy.” Norman saw racial injustice, felt the pain of his fellow sprinters, and joined them in speaking against the racial injustice of the time. He wasn’t as loud, but he was clear. When he returned home, he was ostracized and ridiculed because of the statement he made. He did not make the team for the following Olympics, although he qualified 13 times. Peter Norman sacrificed his white privilege that day for what he thought was right.
Over the past 10 days, there have been many demonstrations and protests about the racial injustices currently going on in our country. Many have made vocal statements against such…
Amongst my white evangelical friends, those who have sat in seminary classrooms with me… have sat in denominational meetings with me… have complimented my preaching… have hugged me and called me brother… I’ve been looking for Peter.
I’m looking for Peter, who might not protest as loudly as I might, but will open their eyes to the reality of systemic racial injustice, and be crystal clear in their opposition to it.
I’m looking for Peter, who will venture out into uncomfortable territory. Who is willing to challenge the viewpoints of his peers, and potentially be ostracized and ridiculed in his church, his circle and/or on social media.
I’m looking for Peter, who will talk to me about what I mean when I say #BlackLivesMatter before they conclude that I’m racist, anti-police, or anti-American. (D. None of the Above)
I’m looking for Peter, who will resist the temptation to hold back grieving for image-bearers like Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, waiting to find out if they were deserving of their death.
I’m looking for Peter, who won’t let themselves off the hook by saying, “my job is to preach the gospel, not talk about politics.” First, because a complete gospel includes seeking justice for those who are poor and oppressed. Secondly, because it’s hard to take you seriously when there are more quotes on your Facebook page from political pundits than from the Scripture.
I’m looking for Peter, who can see past their own white privilege to recognize that racism exists today and is not something made up by black people so we can feel sorry for ourselves. (I read on one of my seminary classmates’ Facebook page that we don’t have a race problem, we have a “thug breeding” problem. Really?).
Of course, like in the 200M sprint in the ’68 Olympics, this can’t happen unless we run in lanes next to each other. Close proximity, candid conversation and patient love are necessary for this to work. As long as we fail to connect, we will also fail to shed our bias and see each other as true brothers.
I’m looking for Peter! Are you there?