From the Middle East to Missouri

Blog Post by the
Rev. Dr. Craig Howard
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
Transitional Leader
choward@glpby.org


Next week I will be traveling to Israel. I have the opportunity to lead a group of 15 African American clergy as part of Interfaith Partners For Peace. This 10 day trip will allow me to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, business people, politicians, and educators who are building bridges for peace in this difficult part of the world. I went on a similar trip last year as part of a group of clergy and rabbis. My purpose and rationale is to learn how people with deep disagreements, histories, and narratives, find ways to live together.

As I leave Missouri, I am going at a time the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) has issues a travel advisory for people of color who are coming to this state. Even though African Americans have a 75% greater chance than White people of being stopped by the police while driving, the advisory is pointing at a larger issue, SB43. This bill makes it more difficult for an employee to prove racial or gender discrimination. The bill also affects whistleblowers and the amounts they can collect. According to the Governor’s office, the bill is considered business friendly, and reduces the amount of frivolous lawsuits. I have yet to see statistics on the number of discrimination lawsuits being filed in Missouri, and I have not found how many of these lawsuits are deemed “frivolous.” By the way, the representative who submitted the original bill is being suited for racial discrimination in his small business. Business friendly indeed!

Traveling in certain parts of Missouri brings a sickening feeling in my stomach. I am less worried about traveling to the Middle East than I am driving to some of our Presbyterian churches. I have not been stopped by the police, called obscene names, or treated with any disrespect. But I know this reality is present; maybe at the next gas station I’m at, or restaurant I sit down in for coffee. There is fear on Missouri highways for African Americans, and it is palpable.

Tomorrow I will be standing with others at Canfield, in memory of Michael Brown’s shooting. His murder sparked protests and violence. But it also created the Ferguson Commission that has several strategies for approaching racism in our state.

Middle East tensions, NAACP travel advisory, Michael Brown. Could this all be connected? Perhaps it is about how we are different people, and how we can choose to live together in peace, or in bitterness and violence. Maybe the Middle East can teach the Midwest about the struggle for peaceful coexistence, and the consequences when we fail.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

9 Responses to “From the Middle East to Missouri”

  1. Jay Summerville on

    Yes, Craig. Fear of the “other” is universal. As a white, majority man, I can only imagine the fear and apprehension of African-Americans and Palestinians. I pray earnestly for both and can only hope that my way of life enacts those prayers. Godspeed, and safe travels. Jay

    Reply
  2. Cindy Fieg on

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us on a regular basis through your blog. Presbyterian Women of Giddings-Lovejoy will continue to keep you in prayer as you travel to the Middle East, in Missouri, and elsewhere. God Bless.

    Reply
    • Craig Howard on

      Jay,
      Thank you for your verbal and physical prayers! What a challenge for all of us to live the prayers that we speak. Craig.

      Reply
  3. Barbi Smith on

    Prayers for safe travels, my friend! I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

    Missouri’s race issues are disturbing to me in so many ways. And it’s personal, too – I have a bi-racial grandchild, and I want a better world for him and every other person of color. His older brother was called the N word at school last year. My heart broke – for him and every other person who has endured such an insult. And it breaks to hear that you are “bracing yourself” as you travel through the presbytery. How will we ever build the Kingdom with so much hate in the world?

    Reply
  4. Carolyn Newcomb on

    May you have safe travels in Israel and I look forward to your blogs following your return.
    How sad that Missouri is having such a difficult time accepting that all God’s people are equal and still take such archaic stands when it comes to all justice issues which includes racism.
    Let me also take this opportunity to thank you for all you are doing at GL Presbytery.

    Reply
  5. Will Mason on

    Dr. Howard, When I was a member of Giddings/Lovejoy, I once said at a conference that St. Louis was one of the most racist cities I had lived in. It is that, but I was wrong. There are other cities worthy of that title. Now here in Seattle, a liberal city, my wife and her family have been told there are just too many of them (dark skinned Asians) in Seattle. Our family from the Philippines spent 2 weeks with us to experience the welcome of the USA. The accuser was a lovely white woman. My wife was born and raised American/Seattle. It just so happens that she is dark skinned from her heritage from the Philippines. So the sin of racism is in Missouri and Washington state (as well as other places). It’s time for my white brothers and sisters to get ugly and call out other white folks for their racism when it happens, not afterward.

    Reply

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