Social justice as a driving topic for evangelicals has been consistently framed with the black person as the main character. I don’t have a problem with this, but I think I bring a unique perspective to the table. I’ve had opportunity to do ministry in New Orleans and I currently do ministry in rural Kentucky. Believe it or not, I think there are more similarities than you might think.
I’ve been enthralled with the stories Eric Mason has been sharing in his forthcoming book, Woke Church. As I’ve been reading them, something struck me. The stories he shares (aside from those related to mistreatment based on skin color) are very similar to stories I see and encounter in rural Kentucky. This thought was further pushed when listening to Ramel “Smooth” Bradley on Kentucky Sports Radio.
Bradley grew up in Brooklyn and after playing Kentucky Basketball, is now working to develop opportunities for future generations in Eastern Kentucky. He said that he couldn’t help notice the similarities between his growing up and what the kids in these poorer counties are facing. Matt Jones, the host of KSR, added to this by saying that he’s always said those in the inner city and those in the country have more in common than we think.
So what are those commonalities? Here are three major things the hood and the holler have in common:
A common connection between the hood and the holler is that there is pattern of multi-generational poverty that is hard to get out of. Those living in both places are often forced into hard spots to help their families survive. People do what it takes to make ends meat. Students are pulled out or dropout of school to help their families. Therefore they don’t have the opportunity to get a good education, which will help them get better jobs.
Kentucky is in the top 10 states for meth use in the U.S. In our area, there are fires and deaths caused by exploding meth labs. People sell it to help alleviate their poverty issue, but they’re also using it as well. We also know drug use and sales are common in the inner city. There are drug lords who have made their wealth and built their empire through the sale and spread of recreational drugs.
Obviously these drugs are highly addictive contributing to the poverty these families in both areas face. Many families in my area can’t buy basic food for their children or pay their bills because they are using what little they have to get their next fix. Children in these families start using drugs at an early age and it becomes very difficult to break the cycle in these families.
A common thread in the inner city and black community in general is the absence of a father. Homes are broken, which make it hard for children to succeed. This is also a common thread running through the holler. Most families are broken. Many children live with a grandparent or a single parent. Many kids in these areas are missing positive male role models to look up to.
We live in a time where people are quick to point out differences and think we can’t understand each other. However, it can be helpful for us to take time to look at our similarities. Most people probably have never considered that the hood and the holler would have anything in common. However, we can probably find more in common than we find different.
A final thing they have in common is that they are both desperate for the gospel. One thing I love about Eric Mason is his emphasis on the primacy of the gospel. We need to make a lot of changes to help people in both areas, but both areas are need to know that the only place they can find hope is Jesus. No matter where God has you, realize that if you’re a Christian, you have good news that people are desperate to hear.