Recently, a friend of mine took his family out to the theater. While they were waiting for the movie to begin, they saw this trailer for the new Peanuts movie. If you haven’t seen it, take three minutes and watch it.
Like me, you’ll probably chuckle. My friend said that they, too, were tickled. Somewhere in the middle of the trailer, the whole gang is mentioned…
…with one exception: Franklin, the one kid of color in the gang. At this point, my friend, who was there with his wife and kids (they’re African American), looked at each other and said, “Really!?”
If you’re a white American, you may not even notice he’s not mentioned. However, if you’re a black American, it jumps out of the trailer at you.
Franklin was introduced in 1968 during an era of school segregation, Jim Crow Laws, upheavals over civil rights, Watts riots, poor race relations, etc., and proved to be controversial. Many newspapers threatened to cut the strip. Franklin is often portrayed as the one with, “…the best friendship with Charlie Brown…”. He is clearly featured in the film. So why isn’t he mentioned?
Blind spots are biases that emerge from deep within me often without noticing. They shape my likes and dislikes, and my judgments about people’s character, abilities, and potential. We all carry them:
- social class
- disability status
I think I have a blind spot. I’m glad my friend told me about his experience before I watched the trailer so I’ll never know… but would I have noticed the absence of Franklin? Maybe- at least I’d like to think so. Would I have known the name of the kid with color? I am quite sure I would NOT have known.
Charlie Brown is traditionally portrayed as clumsy, a “blockhead,” an outsider, and awkward. In the trailer, he’s often looking to his dog, Snoopy, and others in the gang for guidance and support…why not Franklin? Maybe the reason Franklin is so often portrayed as closest to Charlie Brown is because, in reality, he experiences similar “marginalization” and has the deepest empathy for Charlie Brown’s strong desire to be liked and included…but, despite ALL his efforts, isn’t really included.
My friend went on to say these are opportunities that beg the question of whether or not we will rise to their occasion. As Christ-followers, we are confronted with a moment…the question is whether or not we will rise to it…will I rise to it?
I strongly believe that as a follower of Jesus I am to develop the practice of continual self-examination, learning and self-correction. I believe in a strong call for continual and ongoing repentance from captivity to ideologies that create barriers, divisions and prisons for my mind and actions.
After hearing me talk about much of the content of this post in a public setting, one of my colleagues at Wycliffe wrote saying this is a “spiritual journey that is inner-reflective for each person…when people see that it’s part of their spiritual formation to lean into these areas and deal with their own healing, I think it will begin to birth more health towards racial inclusion…”.
“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
And I’d like to add, a time for vigorous self-examination and repentance from ideas that create barriers and divisions between us.
One thing that bugs me about the picture for this post is that Franklin is all by himself on one of the long sides of the table. Feels like “no one will sit with him” or that he is still slightly ostracized.
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