“Those People”

A few days ago, I wrote a piece titled “Are You a Bigot?” where I said “Probably not, but you’ve more than likely said bigoted things and didn’t even realize it.” In the last 24 hours, I saw two examples of this very thing. One has to do with the recent hoopla over Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries’ comments about why his company is rather exclusive. The second is from NewsOK, an online effort of The Oklahoman, who published “Time may be running out for Valley Brook coffee shop“. I think it’s safe to say these stories come from opposite ends of the spectrum and, really, that’s why I chose them. They illustrate the fact that anyone can say bigoted things and not even realize it.


I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Jeffries is an ass or that he made his remarks fully aware of how insensitive they were and he doesn’t really care about that. And, if it ended there, I probably wouldn’t be writing about it. But, yesterday, I saw this:

At first glance, you might be thinking this is a great idea. I mean, poor people are getting something they need and jerky boy Jeffries’ clothes are going to people that he would not consider “cool kids”. So, where’s the problem? Just that the underlying message is that the worst thing we can do a company is to give their product to homeless people. And, as Hugh Hollowell put it, this is “Yet another example of us casting the poor as extras in a movie about us.” When you stop and think about it, the whole idea is almost as bad as the comments that inspired it.

In Valley Brook, Oklahoma there’s a coffee shop that’s stirring up some controversy. Joe’s Addiction describes itself as a “Community of Hope”, a place for “people from various backgrounds who ‘hang out’ and do life together.” That sounds good, but NewsOK tells us that Joe’s “unapologetically counts sex offenders, the homeless, drug addicts and others living on the fringes of society as valued customers”. And, that’s a problem for the people of Valley Brook. As one resident put it “I don’t feel safe with those people around”.

Greg Karber, the fellow in the A & F video, thinks what he’s doing is a win-win situation: homeless people get clothes and Jeffries gets a finger in the eye. And, the gentleman in Oklahoma is concerned for autistic daughter’s safety. Neither of these men are trying to be offensive. Quite the contrary, they’re both attempting to “improve” their community. But each, in their own way, has made a distinction between themselves and those people.

Those people, meaning the people on the margins, the ones that Jesus himself hung out with while he was here and would most likely hang out with now. In fact, these folks are the current version of the people he talked about in Matthew 25, the ones in whom he said we would find him. Couple that with what he said in John, “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other”, and I have to say both approaches miss the mark. Any thoughts?