“Many times they have persecuted me from my youth up, Yet they have not prevailed against me.
I sat in an office in tears, too upset and angry to utter a complete coherent thought. I spent weeks trying in my own strength to escape a bad work situation and at last, I finally saw a way out. Just as I was beginning to see a light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel, I got a call from the superintendent requesting to meet with me. I had seen the superintendent on numerous occasions but he had never spoken to me or even acknowledge my existence before. Why was he requesting a meeting now?
A million and one thoughts rushed through my mind. Was he trying to get me to change my mind about leaving? Was he offering me the promotion that I felt cheated out of? I was extremely nervous before entering his office but it wasn’t like stage fright or typical jitters. It was a strange feeling but somehow it seemed familiar. I couldn’t remember when I had felt like this before. I was finally called back to his office and once I arrived I remembered exactly why the feeling was so familiar.
I was ushered into the conference room and seated at a table with two individuals that I recognized immediately. The instant I saw them it became apparent that there was nothing positive about this meeting. I was being accused of something terrible. I realized at that moment why it was so difficult to recall the feeling I was experiencing.
I had a hard time remembering it because it was about 30 years since the first time I felt it. It was 1989, I was 9 years old and sitting on the floor watching TV in my family’s shared bedroom. The next thing I know two police officers burst into the room and ordered me not to move. They were looking for someone who, “fit my description.” They believed they saw him run into our apartment. My mom quickly explained that I was only 9 and had not been out of the house and was eventually able to convince them that I wasn’t who they were looking for. They eventually left but not before threatening my mom and telling her not to report their illegal search. Later on, we discovered they were searching for someone much older than I was.
The shock, humiliation, and utter terror that I felt at that moment, way back in 1989, was being relived 30 years later in my supervisor’s office. As an elementary student all those years ago, I was questioned about and accused of doing something that I had no knowledge of. In 2019, I was asked to give my account of a meeting that had occurred three months prior. When I explained that I didn’t remember the meeting I was accused of forging documents and signing off on a meeting that I had not attended. Even though I produced evidence to the contrary I was still threatened with a written reprimand, which would have made it nearly impossible to get a job anywhere if I chose to leave. Definitely one of the lowest points of my life. My fear and frustration was compounded by the fact that the accusations only came after I expressed to another supervisor about what I believed to discrimininatory hiring practices.
So here we are months past the meeting where a superintendent and a group of individuals nearly ruined my career and now everything is ok. The reprimand was refuted and rendered useless (countered with the realest thing I ever wrote), I started a higher paying job. I’m still doing what I love, and I work fewer hours. I think back to how much I stressed over the situation. Do I feel as if I was discriminated against? Yes, of course! Do I feel like I wasn’t given the benefit of the doubt because of my race? Definitely! But, if I could have remembered this verse I would have been ok. I could have avoided the stress and depression.
In Psalm 129:1 -2, David says that people had been trying to hurt not just him but his people since the beginning. It should not be a surprise. But try as they might, they have not prevailed. I’ve had people assume the worst about me for my entire life, why would I be surprised in 2019?
Up until this point I hadn’t used the word racism because most people don’t truly understand what it means, especially in 2019. It’s a rare occasion for an individual to go out and simply say that they don’t like people of a certain ethnic background. I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen but it is rare. What is more likely to occur is institutionalized racism. What that looks like in a work setting is this, “I will give this person the benefit of the doubt because I can relate to him or her.” That is all it is, the benefit of the doubt. In a recent professional development the speaker called it affinity bias. Its a social preference for people who are like you. In the work place this leads to a leadership team where everyone looks a like.
You see it in law enforcement in instances like the one I shared earlier. You see it in education in the disproportionality of suspensions for African American males when compared to their peers, and I definitely felt it when promotions were given to people with less experience and fewer accomplishments. I felt it, even more, when I had to defend myself against ridiculous accusations during what felt like an interrogation. As upsetting as this situation was Psalm 129:2 reminds me that I shouldn’t be surprised when this stuff happens and despite it all they have not and will prevail against me. Not because of my strength or personality but because God’s word says that they cannot win. And when I say, “they” I don’t mean this superintendent, I mean this…
Ephesians 6:12 New King James Version (NKJV)
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of [a]the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.