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Image by Panagiotis Nikoloutsopoulos

My Story, My Why

Hi, my name is Bob Fredericks. I'm a retired business owner in Southern California, where I have raised my family and been an elder in my local church for decades. My own journey towards racial unity began upon the death of George Floyd.  What could one person do in the midst of such tumult and discord?  I felt led to call African Americans to share my sorrow and grief, identifying with them. I shared with a group of friends about my idea; one exclaimed, “And they are rioting and looting.” I shared “We, white folk, don’t understand the African American experience–a lifetime of indignities and micro and overt aggression.” The next morning I began my calls.

At 9:00 AM, I called Edward, who told me, “Brother Bob, your call is a gift from God.  I woke up at 3:00 this morning.  I was so hurt and angry and hurt I couldn’t get back to sleep.”  Next, I called Henry, a chief technology officer who had posted on Facebook the day before “this morning when I wake up I don’t know is the day when I will….” continuing to list the many aggressions Black people commonly experience. Another acquaintance, Hubert, shared with me “Bob, the repeated killing of Black men is a constant pounding like PTSD.” These conversations stuck with me. 

What else could I do next?  I went off to introduce myself to African Americans in stores, parking lots, sidewalks, “good morning/afternoon, brother/sister, your life matters.”  Affirming them.  The first young Black man I greeted teared up and asked, “Are there more like you?”  Another called after me as we parted, “I love ya!”  Another yet leaped off his seat, “All right!”  I went on to repeat this 250-300 times over the next 12 months.  

I shared my experience with a Black pastor in South Africa; he laughed, “That’s weird!” During my trip, I found myself continuing to share my story. I spoke with a group of ex-gang members. During our conversation, one of them commented, “It is so meaningful to hear a white man in South Africa say my life matters, because for all of my life I have been led to believe my life doesn’t matter.” It may seem weird, and many times I felt weird. By stepping out of my comfort zone I felt that I could honor the dignity of Black and marginalized people. 

Stepping into this space was uncomfortable at times. In those moments, I was reminded of a simple sentence in a book I once read– “Faith is a risk.” Miles McPherson, author of The Third Option, sums it up as: listen, learn, love. I have taken those instructions to heart. Dallas Willard writes in his book Hearing God about listening, putting your antennae up, and quieting yourself to the gentle nudges of the Holy Spirit. Ethnos Kingdom Unity is the result of listening to God and putting my obedience into action. As I walk in the power of the Spirit, I trust that results are the domain of God. 

I am sharing my story as an invitation to join me in this work toward racial reconciliation. 

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