Last week I visited a good friend who is serving time in the Denver detention center for a regrettable decision. The weight of his words as he was struggling to describe his stay in the jail continues to lay heavy on my mind. "Ryan, nobody sees me here. We get herded around like cattle to slaughter. I’m just a number and nobody cares to know my name.”
At the end of our 30 minutes of assigned time I did my best to deliberately look into the windows of his soul and call him by his name, but the implications of his pain soaked words unsettled me and they serve as a poignant reminder during this 2012 Lenten season.
The jailers have a job to do. Their very occupation is to display authority and power without much of a priority on seeing and valuing the basic humanity of the individuals they've been placed in charge of.
Sadly, this normative lack of consideration and critical reflection isn’t just a standard trait of correctional facility workers. The reality is the same brutal perspective unconsciously characterizes most of us within the privileged Christian middle-class matrix.
We don't have to understand the Trayvon Martin case with perfect clarity to recognize that we, the privileged, have severe issues in regards to inconsiderate profiling according to economic class, race, and even style of dress. To say it differently we have issues with compassion. Conversations get too awkward and unproductive. Time feels wasted and therefore we cannot pursue the necessary journey of getting to know and eventually suffer with another in the way of Jesus.
The hard truth? I become so accustomed to daily middle-class activities such as filling the gas tank of my car, meeting a friend for specialty coffee, and stopping at the market on my way home for an avocado that I easily overlook the fact that these quite ordinary mundane activities of mine of which I unconsciously feel entitled to make up the unique lifestyle of a privileged minority. The very ordinary routines and expectations within my lifestyle of privilege become toxins that lead to my blindness and prevent me from truly seeing my marginalized brothers and sisters.