In light of the recent events in Ferguson, MO, I would like to discuss equality with you. I am not going to attempt an opinion on the shooting of Michael Brown because I cannot begin to figure out what happened. Depending on the source, we either have the brutal shooting of an innocent, unarmed, black boy by a trigger-happy, white police officer or we have a white police officer defending himself against the violent assault of a three hundred pound black man and his friend after they robbed a store, ignored a directive to step onto the sidewalk, and resisted arrest. However, the protests that have resulted because of it have brought inequality to the forefront of our country’s mind. We are asking ourselves, “In a country that pledges ‘liberty and justice for all’ are people being treated unequally because of their skin color, their gender, their religious beliefs, or their sexual orientation?” The protestors in Ferguson would definitely say yes and our response is to recoil in horror. I think, however, that we have a child’s understanding of equality and have exaggerated the devastation that comes with inequality.
The outcries against inequality sound more to me like, “That’s just not fair!” than anything truly legitimate. Fairness is not about a smooth ride down easy street. The push for equality seems to be more for free handouts then for character-building opportunities. The loudest accusations of inequality seem to most often come when laws have been broken and justice served; that’s when the race card usually comes out. We live in a world that is filled with bias. Our upbringing conditions us to be partial towards what is familiar. It would be impossible for us to eradicate that tendency from our society. Why? Because there is no unbiased, impartial person to be found who can teach us about true equality.
–A perfectly level playing field: all members of the community grow up in the same area, eat the same food, receive the same education, live in the same style of house, have the same health experiences, etc. But we know this can never be the case. Each individual, including those growing up in the same household, has a slightly different entry into the world, as well as upbringing and personality. Every bit of this works to shape the individual’s perspective of and interaction with the world.
–The same rewards and consequences for all: Whether you are male or female, black or white, Christian or not, rich or poor, every action, attitude, or behavior would result in the same reward or consequence. Once again, we know that this is simply impossible. It would not be right for a child to receive the same penalty for breaking the law as an adult because he doesn’t understand the laws yet- and voila! We have already made our first exception to equality. Our expectation is that everyone who understands the law will receive the same rewards or consequences for following or breaking it.
–The same opportunity for everyone to succeed: Whether you are male or female, black or white, Christian or not, rich or poor, you should be able to do and become whatever you want. The difficulty with this is that some people have farther to travel or higher to climb than others because they had a different starting point. I might want to be a math professor at Stanford. I can certainly go for it, but the fact is that I struggle greatly with math. I could have one thousand math geniuses as my tutors, if I could afford it, but if my mind just doesn’t get it, teaching math at Stanford is not going to happen. Yet I have an equal opportunity to try.
The problem that I see in our society is that many people are avoiding the personal responsibility and hard work that real equality requires. When the playing field is not entirely level, it is sexism at play. When the rewards and consequences vary for individuals, it is the fault of the wealthy one percent. When someone can’t get the job they want or into the school of their choosing or the house that strikes their fancy, it is the result of racism. Granted, there are occasions when that reasoning is probably true, but most of the time I think the ones pulling the inequality card are simply not motivated enough to do what it takes to set goals and achieve them. In the case of Michael Brown, if his life was unjustly taken, then the police officer should be punished. Let’s not bring the race card into play for it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that he was willing to unjustly take the life of a citizen he had sworn to protect. If Michael Brown was not innocent, and he did seek to harm the police officer, a racist motive is not the issue. What is the issue is that he wanted to harm, not respect, a law enforcement officer. You see, it ultimately comes down to the heart and character of a person. Are we quicker to work or whine? Change ourselves or complain about others? Protest or progress?
In the Old Testament book of Numbers, chapters 15 and 16, we learn about the rebellion of the Israelite Korah and his followers. He approached Moses and Aaron with the words, “You have gone far enough, for all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?” In today’s words his statement would sound something like this: “You have gone far enough, for we are all good. We should all be given equal treatment and equal rights. Why do you think that you are better than us?” Does this sound familiar? The only true equality that we will ever experience in this life is our place before the Almighty God. Whether you are one of the masses in Calcutta, India, or President Obama in America, your status before God is equal – zero. None of us is holy, and it is only by His great mercy and the outpouring of His blood that we can ever begin to imagine a personal relationship with Him. How glorious that He will allow us to repent of our rebellion in order to gain the hope of eternity with Him! Otherwise our fate would be like Korah’s: the earth opened up and swallowed him, his followers, and all that belonged to them. God did not reason with them or explain His opinion to them; He did not justify or defend Himself. He is God and that is all that matters.
When we start to feel like life’s not fair or that we are not being treated the way we deserve, perhaps we should stop mid-complaint and realize that that might be a good thing.