Author: Stacey D. Wheeler
I am prayerfully and carefully choosing my words for this personal post. As many of you know, last summer Tony and I moved to Grandview, Missouri. We have loved living here. God led us to a beautiful home and neighborhood, and we love our church family and the International House of Prayer, which now has had over 20 years of continuous 24/7 worship and prayer, and you can feel the presence of God when you walk into this sacred room. People from all over the world and almost every denomination have come here to seek God, pray, and worship.
When we were prayerfully considering where God wanted us to live, around November of 2018, I had spent 3 days fasting and Tony and I had been intently discussing and praying about where God wanted us for the next season of our lives. We have always lived kind of like the Israelites who left Egypt: when the cloud moves on, and the fire moves on, we move on, too. We knew it was a moving time, and we were listening. One Saturday morning we went for a drive. The Indiana country farmland is so beautiful, but on this day we were intent on seeking the Lord for our next steps.
Tony was ready for a driving break, so he pulled over onto a side street and stopped the car. We sat and talked for a while, discussing the pros and cons of different places, and then we paused for a minute to observe our surroundings, and looked up to see every mailbox with the name of that street on it: Grandview Way. For us, this was all we needed to know. We knew exactly where we would go. We would go the Grandview Way!
We’ve been coming to Grandview, MO. for over 25 years to go to the Forerunner Church (formerly the Metro Vineyard) and the IHOP. We began rejoicing, as we knew God had released us to move to a place we’ve wanted to live for years! It took us 7 months to get here, from November to June—to sell our house, buy a new house, and relocate. Seven months, but we finally made it. God works in mysterious ways.
Fast forward to May 25th and George Floyd’s senseless murder that went around the world through every form of media. I was upset and sad, almost depressed in my spirit. For days, like most of us, I followed the story on the news and through social media, trying to figure out what in the world went wrong. What happened? I watched the entire, almost, 8-minute-46-second-video and mourned the death of this man. What kind of a person—what kind of people—would put so much pressure for so long on a man to the point of death, when George was crying for his mom and telling the officers, “I can’t breathe.” I don’t care what he did or how he resisted or what kind of drugs were in his system: there is no justification for what happened to George Floyd. None. It shouldn’t have happened.
In the beginning, with the peaceful protests, my heart was aching and full of grief, not just for Floyd, but for any and every black person who has had to feel fear and terror because of the color of their skin. I watched the people marching with their fists in the air. I saw their signs saying, “I can’t breathe.” I watched White men marching by Black women marching by Latinos and Asians. It didn’t matter what color you were. Injustice is injustice in any color. In this case, in this season, the marching was for a black man and for black people who have undeniably faced generational, systemic racism. Unless you’ve been there, you just can’t understand it. I know I don’t understand it, which is why I’ve basically stayed silent until now.
I’m going to stop here to tell you a brief, true story. Over 150 years ago a man named Jack Daniels became interested in making whiskey. As he pursued his dream of developing a whiskey business, he was introduced to a slave named Nathan, nicknamed Nearest, Green, a slave who knew all about distilleries and making whiskey. The New York Times explains, “. . . Green was rented out by his owners, a firm called Landis & Green, to farmers around Lynchburg, including Dan Call, a wealthy landowner and preacher who also employed a teenager named Jack Daniel to help make whiskey. Green, already adept at distilling, took Daniel under his wing and, after the Civil War and the end of slavery, went to work for him in his fledgling whiskey operation.” This article goes on to explain that after 150 years, the company that owns Jack Daniel’s Whiskey has now finally replaced Jack Daniel as the first master distiller for the brand. That honor now goes to Nearest Green, (My understanding is that he’s the first black slave to ever have this honor). Daniel is now listed as the second master distiller. (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/15/dining/jack-daniels-whiskey-slave-nearest-green.html)
Jack Daniel’s sells over $3 Billion a year in revenue. Let that number sink in. As far as I can tell, not one penny goes to the family of Nearest Green.
This article shows a picture of Green’s great, great, granddaughter who currently works for Jack Daniel’s in Tennessee, as do other family members. Imagine how she must feel knowing she must earn a regular salary, like any other employee, from the company her great, great, grandfather helped start, the mentor to Jack Daniel, while Jack Daniel’s relatives become millionaires and billionaires. Because Green was black and owned by another man, initially, he did not earn the rights of ownership in the whiskey company that might have been partially his had he been white and free, most likely would have.
When reparations of money or land are discussed, this is the type of story I think about: Justice. Where is the justice? God is a God of grace, but he is also a God of justice. He hears the cries of his people when they are unfairly treated.
Don’t be surprised if you hear more about the Jack Daniel’s story in the coming months. It’s a great example of mistreatment from the past that directly affects people in the present.
Most systemic racism being discussed today, though, seems to surround other areas of injustice, and there are many, I believe: Home ownership. Educational opportunities. Job placement, etc. And, of course, Police brutality.
I don’t know anyone who believes what happened to George Floyd was acceptable. The whole world grieved, from what I could tell. At first, I sympathized with the protesters and even replied on Facebook in a comment once #blacklivesmatter. I do believe black lives matter. But I had to remove this hashtag when I continued to watch a shift occur.
A week or so into the peaceful protesting, the BLM protesting movement turned violent and nasty. Supposedly there were criminals and paid protesters instigating the destruction. I don’t know who it was, but I know it was disturbing. We watched people steal, kill, and destroy. We watched angry mobs. From what I saw it was mostly young black men and some women breaking windows, stealing products, and growing increasingly violent.
We heard stories about 3-year-olds and 7-year-old black kids and teenagers being shot and killed in these protests. We watched the American flag being burned. We saw national monuments defaced and destroyed. We watched buildings burn to the ground and businesses left in ruins. I personally believe it is only a very small percentage of people doing the majority of these violent acts in the major cities. Most of the people I saw protesting were doing it peacefully, and I completely respect that and applaud that.
All of these disturbing acts of theft and violence happened far away, on television and on social media. Until they didn’t.
Three weeks ago, my brother came to Grandview, helping us with our kitchen renovation. Tony asked me to go get everyone a cold drink. I went to our local gas station convenience store. While I was checking out, a man came up to the register in a bit of a panic:
“I just saw three black man come into the store and grab three cases of beer and walk out that door.” He pointed to the door on the south side.
“Thank you for letting me know.”
“Aren’t you going to do something?”
“Our store policy states I cannot go after them. It would be dangerous.”
“Well, that makes sense. They had a gun.”
This was all happening while I was standing there checking out. Who knows what could have happened?
Just today, in the later afternoon, we went back to this same store. I went in while Tony waited in the car. When I got back in the car Tony asked me if I saw the black man with tattoos, wearing the bandana. Yes, I saw him. “Well, he just walked in that door, took a pair of gloves off the rack, and walked back out again.” Again, black men stealing, right in front of us, something we’ve never personally witnessed before.
Do Whites, Latinos, Asians, Indians, etc., steal? Of course they do. Have we had many, many experiences with Black people here who are absolutely wonderful? Yes, of course. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying.
My point is that we are personally observing some black people take advantage of the current BLM bullying culture, an attitude, I can only assume, of “You hurt me, so I will hurt you back. White. Black. Brown. Doesn’t matter to me as I long as I get what I want.” If this type of behavior is allowed to continue unchecked, what will be the result? Because many people feel as I do, that justice HAS NOT been served completely for Black people, I think they are just “turning a blind eye” as the saying goes, and allowing crimes to be committed. Is this the right solution to bring justice? I don’t think so. Because it’s not true justice.
Let me tell you one more story. Last week we went to Illinois to help our daughter and son-in-law move here. While there, Tony and Ben and Isaac went to the UHaul store to pick up the truck. While they were waiting in a fairly long line, two black women came into the store, acting very arrogant and brash, and walked right up to the front of the line.
“We want a truck,” one woman said to the UHaul rep.
“Unless you called ahead, it’s first-come-first-served.”
“We’re at the front and we want a truck now.”
Tattooed on the backs of her upper thighs were the words “Royal” on one thigh and “Pride” on the other. The other woman had a t-shirt with picture of George Floyd on the front and “Fear Me” on the back. This incident was not a coincidence. These women had an agenda to bring fear to white people through bullying and demanding.
I have watched BLM go from being a peaceful movement to a bullying movement. To be honest with you, based on how I feel about bullying, I will resist this tactic and believe it should not be tolerated. When you read the BLM ideology on their website, you see they are also coming against the traditional family and embracing LGBTQ pride.
Haven’t we spent the last two decades teaching our children that bullying is wrong? Aren’t many people still facing the traumatic consequences of bullying and violence from either personal school experiences or, even, from acts of terrorism, another grave form of bullying?
I am not saying that everyone who supports BLM believes you should be a bully, or embraces all of the Black Lives Matter ideology, but I will say that for me, as a person who literally ministers from our own marriage and family to other marriages and families through one-on-one ministry and through seminars–and understands the importance of a child having a mother and a father in the home or in their lives, and as a Christ-follower who believes God designed sex to be within marriage between a man and a woman, I cannot and will not support the current movement Black Lives Matter as long as they hold these beliefs which I believe to be evil.
This DOES NOT in ANY WAY mean I don’t support the Black cause. I do, more than most, I believe. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. My mom was born in Kenya, surrounded by black people, of course. I went to school my entire life with black students in public schools in Wichita, KS. A black man walked me down the aisle when my oldest daughter got married. I have black friends. Harriet Tubman has always been and will always be one of my greatest heroines. I have studied African American Literature and South African Literature in my master’s level courses, with great interest. Slavery was and is WRONG. Racism was and is WRONG.
Yes, I WILL say these things to show I am not racist, as I do not believe I am racist, even though there are memes and FB posts discouraging me from saying these things.
Do I understand what it means to face black racism? Of course not! I willingly admit this. How can I? I am not black, but I am a white person who cares. I know black lives matter (with lower case letters, not the BLM movement), and I know they have faced persecution like most white people will never face or understand—just because of the color of their skin. Do I think this justifies Theft? Murder? Burning our flag? Tearing our country down? Burning homes or businesses? No, I don’t think that’s going to help their cause the way they (BLM) think it is.
Honestly, in many ways the current, bullying BLM movement reminds me of the Black Panthers back in the day. To me, they were arrogant, rude, carried guns, committed crimes, bullied others, and destroyed lives—including their own, a form of terrorism. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had it right. Resist. Protest peacefully. Pray. When you can, stand strong, like Rosa Parks and others. Rely on God to go before you and bring justice. MLK Jr. was assassinated for his beliefs, but his legacy lives on forever. He created true and lasting, beautiful change.
I hope real change happens as a result of the George Floyd movement. I hope young kids determine to become teachers in black school districts. I hope bright, young college students decide to run for political office to make real and lasting change for Black people and all people. I’m even for reparations, as we can figure out how to do it, like with Jack Daniels. Change definitely needs to happen within the police departments to prevent black lives from being killed at the hands or knees or guns of police officers.
Change needs to happen in our hearts and within our families as we discuss these issues around the kitchen table and in our churches and businesses. The solution to many of our problems is within our hearts, within our minds, in our ideologies first. The only way to change these internal structures is through the insight, revelation, and wisdom God brings us. The only way to find this revelation is to seek God, humble ourselves, and pray, asking God to show us the way to reconciliation with our black brothers and sisters for the ways they have been injured.
Our church last Sunday spent over an hour hosting a panel of three white and two black leaders in the church, discussing the current racial issues. One black sister shared that she has been torn up about all that is happening. As our church is predominantly white, she does not feel heard or understood. How could she be? She has had to go into her own private place to cry and tremble alone at all that is happening in our world to black people right now. This grieved my spirit when she shared this to the point that I was in tears, and our pastor said it’s not right that she should grieve alone and have to feel this way, misunderstood. He’s right. It’s not right. I believe Jesus himself would weep and has wept over the terrible injustices that have occurred against black people. It’s not right. It’s not fair.
(Some of the Forerunner service from July 5th, 2020 is available on YouTube. I HIGHLY recommend that you listen to these. Super informative, beginning to have the right conversations that will bring healthy solutions: Do an online search. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbDPGTgt6iE. Sunday Service | IHOPKC + Forerunner Church | July 5 | Isaac Bennett & Team: Panel on Racism, Part 3.)
As I have studied the Jack Daniel’s story, I looked up what these names mean. Jack means God is Gracious. Daniel means God is Just. Atrocities have been committed against African Americans. Were they freed from slavery? Yes. Have they been given some opportunities? Yes. Is it fair? Has justice been completely carried out and served for all black people? No. No, I don’t believe so.
During times of slavery their families were frequently and habitually separated from one another. Women were raped. Children abused and sold and separated. How do you recover from these generational iniquities? Fatherless families. God is Just. Unwanted pregnancies. God is Just. Poverty. God is just. Jack Daniel. Violence. God is Gracious. God is Just. God cares about black lives. They matter greatly to him.
Remember the name Nearest Green. Remember God is a God of Justice. Is bullying the answer? We’re told to treat others the way we want to be treated. I don’t want to be bullied. Do you? I don’t want to be mistreated because of the color of my skin. Do you?
To my black friends, (sisters and brothers in Christ for some of you, and some of you not) I say:
I am sorry for the ways you’ve been mistreated. I am sorry for every foul look, every slight, every missed opportunity. I am sorry you have been misunderstood and had to grieve alone. I am sorry for every act of violence against you in the past. I am sorry your families were separated and filled with pain and loss of every kind. I am sorry resources like money and land that you rightly deserved never passed into your hands. I am sorry for the terrible education many of your children have received. I have no excuses. I give no answers. As a country and as a family we must find the solutions together. The current state is unacceptable. God knows all and cares. He hears your cries for justice. He weeps along with you. I weep along with you.
What is the solution for justice? I don’t have the answers. But we must start by asking the right questions.
Our neighbor in Grandview, the one across the street on the corner, is a single black man. I pray that we can be good neighbors to one another. I hope we can respect each other and work together if the time ever came when we could do that or needed to do that. I hope it will be a Grand View in Grandview for us and for him. God brought us here for a reason, for such a time as this. I hope we can go the Grandview Way together, seeking God, humbling ourselves, honoring each other, and searching for the right questions to ask and answer together. God is Gracious. God is Just.
Here’s a question for you: Do black lives matter? Yes, very much.