For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith expressing itself through love. Galatians 5:6
In society at large and even in Christian circles, negative profiles around race and gender still exist.
I was struck by this reality recently after the owner of the Carolina Panthers stated he would sell his professional football team at the end of the season. Several people made initial overtures. One of those apparently interested was Sean Combs (aka P Diddy, aka Puff Daddy). He is a 48-year-old, African American entrepreneur/businessman, actor, rapper and songwriter from New York.
When it was revealed that Combs’ personal net worth is estimated at $820 million, and his companies may exceed $2 billion, conversations ignited! It is yet to be seen whether this status can catapult Combs to The Panthers owner’s suite. It does however place him one hundred times over the minimum needed to be in the top 1% of wealth in the United States.
That is a phenomenal business success story all by itself. Yet I was taken aback by comments I heard on talk shows and other media. After all of his prolific and astounding success, many refused to entertain the thought that he had the tangible and intangible assets to own and run a professional sports team. It was as if main stream America would not acknowledge Combs as anything more than a rapper and street hustler.
I draw your attention to this because it is what many minorities go through–even within Christian settings. No matter how accomplished they may be, women and people of color fight uphill battles every day. When the stakes are highest, even a compassionate, progressive, white male-dominated structure like NFL team owners, can’t quite bring themselves to believe that those outside the power circle are up for the task.
Yes, I know over the years this credibility gap has closed tremendously. But in my opinion, the Combs’ situation is a reminder that there is still work to be done.
I am reminded of my own experience five years ago. I was traveling in a Southeastern city, around 9 am. I was pulled over in heavy traffic for passing a truck. By the officer’s own account, I was driving 71 miles per hour in a 70-mph speed limit zone. Thankfully, the officer did not cite me a ticket.
But after asking me where I was coming from and my business there, I explained to him about my role as a staff member of Desire Street, and that I primarily coach and care for our ministry partners. The officer looked me straight in the eye and said, “That sounds like the profile of a drug dealer.”
He then put me in his squad car, and called for backup and search dogs. They thoroughly searched my car, engine and trunk for any sort of contraband.
In many respects the marginalized have come a long way. But to see the promise of the Gospel, well, as the poet Frost said, “I’ve got miles to go before I sleep.”