I first began reading the Bible for myself when I was a teenager — an exercise I would recommend to anyone, for a variety of reasons — and in the Gospel of Luke, I came across what is sometimes called the Parable of the Shrewd Manager.
In a nutshell, it’s the story of a business manager who realizes he’s in trouble with his boss and likely to be fired. So he goes to merchants who owe his boss money and cuts their debt. He does this so that when he loses his job, “people will welcome me into their houses.” Jesus commends the manager’s shrewdness.
The story didn’t make much sense to me at the time. At 16, I wondered why Jesus would praise someone who cheated his own boss. I didn’t understand then that debt is negotiable.
But I eventually got the deeper lesson, which is that the manager knew which way the wind was blowing and took steps to prepare what you might call a soft landing. Shrewd, indeed.
I thought about that parable recently while talking with a friend who is Hispanic — an accomplished businessman from an accomplished family who has contributed greatly to our community. Among other things, we discussed the unstoppable demographic changes occurring in America. By 2050, the U.S. Census Bureau reports, current minorities will make up more than 50 percent of the population and whites will essentially be a minority. We’re both dismayed at the “racial anxiety” — to be overly polite — that this change seems to elicit in some segments of the white population — and how that anxiety has been manipulated by a lucrative outrage industry and an underground white supremacist movement that is causing a great deal of harm in our society.
The “great replacement” conspiracy theory of demographic change, promoted on media outlets from Fox News to 8chan, was taken to heart by the killers who attacked in Charleston, S.C., Christchurch, New Zealand, and, most recently, in El Paso. It also seems to fuel President Trump’s efforts, not only to stop illegal immigration, but to remove other people of color from the country. This includes thousands of Nicaraguan refugees who were ordered to leave the country earlier this year, despite living here for decades, as well as the family members of Filipino World War II veterans, who were allowed to stay in the U.S. while waiting for their green cards until about a week ago, when Trump rescinded the permission.
But as hard as these people may try, they’re doomed to fail. They can no more stop the tide of demographic change than King Canute could stop the tide of the ocean.
In the process, though, many anxiety sufferers seem to be going out of their way to make things worse. A day hardly passes that we don’t see a new video of some idiot telling a person of color to “go back where you came from,” or read a story about some lady from Raleigh unrepentantly using the N-word in public. Worse, hate crimes against people of color have risen precipitously every year for about a decade now.
It’s almost as if their purveyors want to create as much racial resentment among black and brown people as they can.
Setting aside for a few moments the insidiousness of racism; its reliance on false, negative stereotypes; its unjust privilege and insistence that “this isn’t your land, this is my land”; it’s also stupid for practical reasons.
To the “racially anxious”: does it make sense to alienate the people who will make up a majority of the population? Does it make sense to lecture them about “assimilation” for only wanting to live their lives with the same kind of comfort and freedom in which you live yours?
A shrewd people, facing inevitable demographic changes, would reject the harsh voices of resentment that are telling them to be afraid and angry.
A shrewd people would learn how people of color see things, including their experiences with a white majority. Read their books. Watch their movies.
A shrewd people would promote a world-class education system, and one that is highly integrated, so that all of our children would be prepared to take the reins of leadership and work together with knowledge and compassion.
A shrewd people would know which way the wind blows and prepare a soft landing — for everyone.
Sure, there are cultural differences between white, black and brown people, and they may be uncomfortable. But we also have a shared humanity and a shared desire to be treated with dignity and respect. We all have the ability to find pleasure in learning about others and in creating friendships. There are goals that communities can share regardless of color.
A shrewd people would work for a shared future of peace rather than one of hatred, division and resentment.