Each night at YAV orientation the poem, Passover Remember, by Alla Rene Bozarth, was read by one or more of the small group leader. I had not heard this poem before, and honestly have not thought much of it since. But tonight, I was reminded of it’s opening line: “Pack nothing. Bring only your determination to serve and your willingness to be free.” Pack Nothing, a similar title to one of my previous blogs, was not a reference to what physical items I was should leave behind for this year, but rather the mindset I should have for it. This has been a year of learning in, what has seemed as a year of turmoil in this country. This may not be the case, as I was the most uniformed during my college years. But working in a non profit, social services setting, has really opened my eyes to the issues in this country. When California voted on reducing non violent drug felonies to misdemeanors, my friends with the Lord’s Lighthouse program were effected. When protesting broke out around the nation over a deeply rooted racial issue, many of the guest spoke out. And most recently, the Supreme Court Decision to create marriage equality in all 50 states has created reason to celebrate for many in the community I serve with. And with all of these issues, I have seen and heard the other side speak out and act about the hurts they felt. The Facebook posts about the heritage of the confederate flag have filled my news feed and I most recently saw a post called “How can churches protect themselves” in the wake of the Supreme Court Decision. Within the last year I have experienced and read about the impact that these decisions have. I have had conversations with people who fall on both sides of very heated topics. When I think of “pack nothing” as it pertains to this year specifically, I hear the call to be open to the world I live and work amongst. I came into this year having very strong opinions based mostly on my parents beliefs and the basic understanding I had of the world. What I did not have, was the ability to listen to the other side. I was not open to this willingness to be free in the sense that I think Bozarth meant. Be free in a way that lets us be with one another, regardless of our ideas and beliefs. Be free in a way that doesn’t let us miss the opportunities for growth. Be free in a way that looks first to understanding and compassion as opposed to fear, hatred, and bitterness. It’s easy for me to think that my opinions are right, and if you don’t share those, you’re wrong. But I’m working on unpacking my preconceived notion of the other and come to a place where we can all sit at the same table together.
In this last year, my experiences have molded my political and social beliefs more than any other time in my life. Most recently, I finished Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow. In this book, she outlines the history of repression among African Americans and argues that the War on Drugs is only newest form of this repression. The majority of inmates are in jail for non-violent drug possession charges. Studies have shown that all races commit all types of crime equally, including drug offences. In fact the National Institute on Drug Abuse states in a recent survey that white youth are 7 times more likely to use cocaine and heroin and 8 times more likely to use crack than black youth. But 80% of people sentenced under harsher crack cocaine laws were African American. Here is a list of facts and statistic that you might also be shocked to discover:
1. The war on drugs was announced by President Ronald Reagan in 1982, but crack cocaine was not introduced until 1985. Crack Cocaine was the most publicized drug when promoting the war on drugs and holds some the harshest sentencing.
2. Crack is is pharmacologically similar to cocaine, but is stronger so can be sold in smaller quantities for more affordable prices. However the mandatory minimum sentence is a “far more severe punishment for the distribution of crack.”
3.Since the beginning of the war on drugs, 31 million people have been arrested for drug offenses. But in 2005, 4 out of every 5 drug arrest were for possessions and not sales.
4. “Between 1980 and 1985 FBI anti-drug a funding increased from $8 million to $95 million.” But National Institute on Drug Abuse went from a budget of $274 million to $57 million.
5. The United States imprisons more racial minorities than any other country. In Washington D.C. “three out of four young black men can expect to serve time in prison.”
6.Three-fourths of all people imprisoned on drug crimes are black or Latino.
7.There are more African American men under the control of the correctional system (probation, prison, or parole) then were enslaved in the 1850’s
8. Alcohol related deaths account for roughly 100,000 people a year while drug related deaths, such as AIDS, over dose, and subsequent violence, only accounts for 21,000 people per year.
9.” In Vousia County, Florida, a reporter obtained 148 hours of video footage documenting more than 1,000 highway stops conducted by state troupers. Only 5 percent of drivers on the road were African American or Latino, but more than 80% of the people stopped and searched were minorities.”
10. In 1994, President Bill Clinton, endorsed the “three strikes your out” policy and authorized $16 billion for “state prison grants and expansion of state and local police” making the Clinton administration the time of the largest increase of prison inmates in American history.a
I can’t possibly retell all the points from this incredibly, eye opening book, and I won’t try. But if the recent months and even last few years have not shown that racism is alive and well in this country, then this book does. It shows that we as a nation have created a type of caste system which makes it possible for us to continue to discriminate against African Americans by labeling them as criminals. Once you are under the control of the criminal justice system, either in jail, or on probation or parole, you become ineligible for public housing. You cannot get food stamps and other government relief opportunities. Most housing options will deny you because you have an felony, and so will most employers. You are not eligible for student loans. Many higher educations will not admit you based on your criminal record. You may owe the government money for public defenders, court cases, and other fees. Many states laws currently say that you will not be allowed to vote until they are paid off (sound like a poll tax to you?). In the 1970’s, criminologist theorized that the prison system would be almost obsolete in 30 years. Instead, mostly due to the war on drugs, the prison population has quintupled.
In the two weeks since the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, six predominately African American churches have been burned down. There is hate and anger in these communities. But in light of the atrocities in Charleston, the families of the victims killed by Dylann Roof, forgave this young man, as we are called to do by Christ. This young man was afforded love and grace by this community that he devastated. This group of people truly know what it means to share Christ love better than most. It is often said the the Bible is the greatest love story ever written. When asked about the most important commandment, Jesus responds with two commandments, one old and one new. “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.” I am disheartened by the way this country is continuing to live with one another. We are suppose to be this great melting pot of beliefs and ideas. We are country that is suppose to be based on freedom. We are suppose to be one nation, under God. And yet we spew fear and hatred as our main message. We have to remember that we are one people, united by the fact that we dwell on this earth for a limited amount of time. We are human beings and we are responsible for each other. Jesus ate meals with tax collectors, prostitutes, leapers, and fisherman. He chose to walk beside all groups of people. He set the table that we are all invited to. It’s time that we set that table again, we need to be reminded of the love that exists at the table and we need to share it with all, not just the ones we agree with.
I can’t end a post about sitting at a table without posting a meal to serve at it! A few weeks on one of our weekly community days, I made breakfast for my housemates. I decided to go all out, so I learned how to make egg Benedict with all the fixins. Now to start, I have never poached an egg before. My mom has this great little insert for a pan that has these little cups that sit over water and it poaches the eggs. But once again, I am in a semi-well stocked kitchen without my own utensils. The poaching of the egg is the reason I have been hesitant to attempt to make this recipe before. There’s a scene in Julie and Julia, where Julie is learning to poach an egg, and she basically just scrambles it in water. I am not yet brave enough to attempt this. But as if by magic, a Pinterest post shared with me a great tidbit of information that said I could use aluminum cupcake liners in a pot of water to poach them. So that’s what I did. It makes them a little thick, but it works in a pinch.
As the eggs cooked, I started on a Hollandaise Sauce. For the 6 of us, I used 1/2 cup of butter, 4 egg yolks, juice from half a lemon, a dash of salt, and paprika. I really like paprika, so I tend to add more as I cook. Whisk it all together and set on the stove top on low heat. Keep whisking as it thickens. If it starts lump whip faster and constantly. Leave it on the the heat until it thickens up.
The great things about Eggs Benedict is that you can basically put anything on them. I cooked eggplant, spinach, bacon, and smoked salmon for ours. Ham, mushrooms, and tomatoes are also great. I also toasted English muffins as the base for the egg. Once everything is ready just plate your eggs. There is not really a wrong way to construct eggs Benedict, but I like my English muffin on the bottom and the hollandaise on top.