My church is located in Franklin, TN, one of the wealthiest cities in the United States. However, the neighborhoods my church ministers in are not so wealthy. Our main neighborhood is called Hard Bargain and was the first African-American community in Franklin. Established right after the Civil War, the first inhabitants were freed slaves. Most of the residents in the neighborhood today trace their roots back to those freed slaves.
Hard Bargain is less then 1 mile from downtown Franklin. Within throwing distance of the neighborhood is a fire station, with EMTs. For some reason, any time something happens in the neighborhood, it takes a long time for the paramedics to walk across the street.
Recently, a little girl severely cut her arm in an accident with a glass door. It was bad. The neighborhood called 911 and it took 20 minutes for help to go around the corner! The community has a reputation for being more dangerous than it really is. As a result, city services are hesitant to go there without police presence. Even when it is not dark. I walk through the neighborhood by myself all the time and have never had a problem.
A young man in our church spent a few years in jail for selling drugs. Here is his story. I have verified the truth of it.
At the age of 18 he was working full-time. He had never sold drugs and did not do drugs. One morning, however, as he walked out of this house, the police arrested him for selling drugs. It was a “big arrest”, so all the local news channels were there to film it. He proclaimed his complete innocence and tried to tell the police they had arrested the wrong person. But no one listened. His face was all over the news. Eventually the charges were all thrown out, because like he said, they had the wrong guy.
However, because he was “arrested” and it was on the news, he lost his job and could not find another one. He had child support payments and some other bills that began escalating on him. He didn’t know what to do. One day a friend of his gave him a “bag” and told him to work it. He did and he continued to sell drugs and became good at it, making lots of money.
Now, you can say it was all his fault because it was his decision to start selling. And it was; and he accepts full responsibility. He did his time and he now works an honest job. However, he is convinced his life would be entirely different if the police would not have arrested him falsely the first time. He is also convinced it was racial profiling.
Why tell these two stories? Because we still live a world that too often judges people, and communities, by the color of their skin instead of the content of their character.