This is written from the comfort of my life which is characterized by ease. I’m raising four little boys who will never be pulled over because of the color of their skin. I have access and privilege, and frankly, I feel really lucky. I hate that about myself. This is my fight against racism, but also against myself. I don’t have all the answers, and my perspective is of course, limited. But, I think it’s a decent starting place for those of us who look like me, have the enormous privilege that I have. The only starting place any of us have is where we’re standing today. So, let’s begin.
Last night, I had dinner with a close friend. We talked for hours over a million different subjects, and eventually came to the topic of race. As a nurse who hopes to make a difference in public health, she commented on her lack of patience with the racism she keeps bumping into, her refusal to engage in the stereotypes that she grew up around, her determination to raise her children with wide open hearts and buckets of respect for every single person they meet. She is determined to be part of the solution in a complicated and age-old problem.
“Racism could be over today,” she declared with passion.
We didn’t know that 2,500 miles away racism was rising up in its truest and most heinous form, viciously slaughtering bodies bent in prayer.
Don’t you feel ill today? Don’t you feel the cracks in the earth and the frigid chill in the air?
I spent the last several days celebrating and believing with all my heart in the certainty of Shalom, and then this. Shalom feels like impossible work today, it feels like a shot in the dark, a childish hope that might not come true.
There’s anger in my soul today, there is blood crying out from the ground, and there are voices raising to the sky, “God, have mercy!” It’s a day of excruciating heartbreak, and we all ought to stop. Just stop and see it. There is no explaining this away, and how dare we try. How dare we do anything other than mourn, not just with those who mourn, but mourn ourselves in our own homes, in our own lives. Mourn that we belong to a species that is capable of such atrocities, that cannot see the light of God in each other’s eyes, no matter how brightly it shines. Light a candle and weep, my friends. This is brokenness at its prime.
Make some promises in your pain. We all can and we all should. Hasn’t this gone on long enough? Can’t we agree to fight harder, with a stubborn grasping for Shalom like we’ve never had? Can’t we admit that it’s time to let the pendulum swing to the other end of the scale, refusing to allow even a hint of anything that looks like disregard for another human, no matter how small or how innocent it may seem?
Because you know what? My friend is right. Racism could be over today. We can stop this insanity, this despicable notion that anyone’s life is worth more than anyone else’s, this evil and straight-from-the-pit-hell ideology that humans are disposable, are not each and everyone the sacred creation of God.
Stop telling jokes that classify by skin color, ethnic group, religious persuasion, mental ability etc. There is no such thing as “it’s just a joke” when you make light of a person’s dignity. Words matter. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it.
Acknowledge privilege, if you have it. And most likely, if you’re reading this blog, you do. Acknowledge and take up the responsibility of it without whining about how, “it’s not your fault” that you’re white/middle class/educated, etc. It’s not your fault. But it is absolutely your privilege and honor to levy what you have for the rights of others.
Tell your children the truth. Tell them that this evil exists. Teach them about the heroes who have fought against it. Encourage them to be one of those heroes.
Search your own heart, and without hesitation beg God to pry out any prejudice or bias you find there. Do this often, do it humbly. We are all guilty and we are all responsible to fight against our inherited or acquired judgements.
Stare our systems straight in the face and tell the truth about them. Don’t make excuses. Don’t assess the intention behind them or theories that justify their existence. Look at them and see what they’ve done. Good and bad. And if they are hurting a certain group of people, if they are promoting disadvantage among a class or race or ethnic or religious group, for the love of all, ADMIT it. Tell the truth and call it unacceptable. We are to be people of Justice, without qualification.
Open your hands to the consequences of the sins of our fathers. Yes, I know you and I weren’t there during the Civil War, we didn’t participate in segregation, but this is the reality of the human experience. Coming generations will pay for our sins, they will bear the burden of our blind spots and our own evil deeds. In the same way, we must pay for the missteps of generations past. There is no getting out of it, and no amount of refusal to do so will make it go away. Let’s engage with love and begin to undo the complicated strands of this tapestry of hate and prejudice. There is no other way forward.
Listen to the stories and experiences of others, and believe them. This matters so much.
With humility for our own sins, let’s agree to let the buck stop with us. If we hear the whispers of prejudice, smell the rancid fumes of it, feel the evil presence of it, let’s covenant to shine a light on it and call it out. Let’s promise that wherever and whenever we can, we will not allow God’s beloved to be characterized by anything other than his or her belovedness.
Pray. Oh yes, pray. Pray for those who are hurting. Pray for yourself. Pray for comfort and justice and Shalom. Pray. Pray. Pray.
I know this is complicated. I know we all have a lot of feelings about it all. But truly, I think the core of those feelings is that things are not as they should be. So let’s lay down our rights, our resources, our privilege, and let’s do it for one another. The God we claim to love has made it clear that this is the sacrifice we are called to. This is reconciliation. This is humility. This is love.