Two hard conversations with African American clients I have come to admire culminated a recent week of counseling sessions.

For me, a key to successful therapy is being a counselor who cares about his clients and finds virtue in their courage and resolve. In these waning days of my counseling ministry, I find a deep compassion for immigrants and those who are descendants of slaves.

I admire the immigrant’s journey to the United States either with parents or as adults. Coming to America as an immigrant is not like traveling the world as a tourist.

In fact, I doubt that few settled, comfortable Americans can see this nation as immigrants see it. It is just the life we have always known. For them, most of them, it is the life they have never known.

I am fascinated by their stories. And in my heart, I want to make room for them to be my neighbor and for them to find in this nation what I have always experienced: stability, opportunity and freedom.

For African Americans, it is different. I see in their faces a resilience I do not understand but admire. Many are descendants of people who were forcefully brought to what is now the U.S.

Most of those whose ancestors were enslaved do not have a legacy of opportunity or equality. Rather, their very existence, their very presence is a testimony to the tenacious courage which could not be defeated, suppressed or oppressed.

So, with these men, only after I was sure they understood my respect and admiration for them did I speak as I did to both.

Both conversations ran along the same lines, as they were focused on criminal justice in the U.S. and in Williamson County Texas as it pertains to the African American male.

One client and his white wife are descending into alcoholism with all the associated behaviors of two people loudly, drunkenly, verbally duking it out. On one occasion, the neighbors called and told them to calm down and keep it down.

When he shared this incident, it afforded me the opportunity to say, “If you both continue down this road, at some point law enforcement will be called.” After a pause, I added, “And you will go to jail.”

He looked at me in disbelief. “Why would you say that?” he asked. To which I replied, “Because you are a man in a domestic situation with your wife, and you are an African American man in that disturbance with a white woman.”

“Surely, you know this!” I continued. “You are in Williamson County, and you know what their reputation is with African American men.”

After a minute, it all sunk in, and a deep sadness settled in for me.

These conversations should not be necessary, but I no longer live under the illusion that “justice is blind” in America. I no longer believe or accept the presupposition that the criminal justice system, the social system, the economic system is open to all or fair to all.

The second client – a veteran who has served with distinction in one of the branches of military service – recounted a situation (not involving alcohol) in which an angry wife hit him and then called law enforcement. He went to jail for the night.

Looking at these two men, I realize our nation cannot continue to avoid dismantling racism in all its forms. This can has been kicked down the road too long by the politicians who care more about power than leadership.

We have allowed too many people in our so-called “land of opportunity” to languish in lack of opportunity and structural racism for too long. We have excused too much, ignored too much, talked too much and done too little.

We are at the end of that road because, frankly, it is a “dead end” for all of us.

Some years ago, my middle son Joseph, while doing his post-doctoral studies at Cambridge University, said to me, “Dad, when you get away from America, you can see more clearly how racism has poisoned our whole American experience from the beginning.”

His words were prophetic for me because I could not make his journey. Yet, his insight helped me look again, think again, and begin to see what could be clearly seen if only one really wanted to see.

I have lost my patience with “whiney whites” who want to rage, curse, stomp and complain instead of putting their shoulders to the great work of moving this nation ahead toward a more perfect union where there is welcome for all, room for all and opportunity for all.

Ours should be a nation where justice is really justice for all without regard to wealth, culture, creed or color. Such is the nation, the national experience that imperfect men envisioned and that we have yet to create and fully fashion.

To such a task should be our labor moving forward throwing our strength and wealth into a labor of real love and service. If not us, who? If not now, when?

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