As a Christian, I’m often faced with the difficult choice of how to respond to certain events on social media. Do I speak out? Who in my faith circle will that offend? Do I stay quiet? What message does that give to my friends who don’t share my faith? ‘What would Jesus do’ becomes more than a kitschy phrase worn on a bracelet; it becomes a real question with teeth. It’s a question that matters.
Many times I get it wrong. Horribly wrong.
But right now, in the midst of a civil rights movement that has superseded a global health pandemic, I don’t wonder IF I should speak up. I wonder how.
It’s a tightrope, sometimes, trying to express passionate thoughts and ideas with just the right tone. I don’t want to sound sarcastic or dismissive or inconsiderate. I don’t want to be tone-deaf or come across as a know-it-all. The fact is, when it comes to the racial issues we are currently facing, I don’t know nearly as much as I should. My history books were largely void on the subject of racial inequalities. So much so, that for a good many years, I thought the battle against racism was largely gone. A battle fought and won by so many before I was even born.
I was wrong.
I have seen racism against black and brown people, not on the news, but first hand. I have witnessed the racial slurs and the hatred spewed out on kids who were doing everything right, but their skin…was wrong. I have seen that here, in my own small town. Guns being pulled on kids minding their own business after celebrating the independence of our great nation. An independence that they only read about, but don’t truly get to experience. Not like I do.
I know what it feels like to be pushed aside, to be marginalized, to be shushed for talking too loud. I get that. What I don’t know – not really – is what it feels like to be pulled over by a cop and rehearse everything my mama and my daddy told me about putting my arms just so and speaking in a calm and steady tone otherwise I might come off as threatening, giving that officer the idea he needs to protect himself. I don’t know what it’s like to watch my son walk out the front door and wonder if today is the day he won’t come home because he was wearing a hoodie downtown.
There’s so much I don’t know.
But I’m learning. I’m learning about how in 1932, 600 black men were used as medical research for untreated syphilis, without informed consent. That experiment went on until 1972. For 40 years, these black men were uninformed lab rats. It’s called the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male.” Look it up. I’m learning how racial bias plays a role in the lack of adequate health care given to the black community, even IF they have comparable insurance and financial resources.
I’m learning the disparities between predominately white schools and those that are predominately black. How do we assure that even in schools that are relatively diverse that students are being treated equitably? Are the brown kids being kept from the Talented and Gifted program because of the racial bias of their teachers?
These are big, deep problems. They go so far beyond the face of police brutality. Yes, our justice system is also broken. Our police stations are filled with Law Enforcement Officers, rather than Keepers of the Peace. There’s a difference there. It might seem like semantics, but it’s pervasive. It’s at the heart of it. When police are militarized, they’re bound to act more like soldiers. That’s what they’ve been trained to do. This is a problem, but it’s not the only problem.
You see, I know that I need to stand up and say something. I know I need to stand in the gap and be a friend to the marginalized. That’s the heart of Jesus. He, himself, spent time with people nobody else wanted to hang out with: tax collectors, prostitutes, adulterers, the poor, the sick, the afflicted. He came to serve the oppressed. He called me to do the same when he told the Pharisees that the two greatest commandments are these: Love God and Love People.
I know my actions and my words may not always be “right.” I know I am bound to offend someone during all this. I’ve counted the cost, and I’m willing to take that chance. I cannot be silent. I won’t be silent. We’ve been silent too long.
So, what’s my point? I guess I just want you to hear my heart. I have a lot of friends who are speaking up and a lot who aren’t. I also have a lot of friends who are taking the time to listen to what’s being said; they’re also learning like I am and getting educated so they feel comfortable enough to speak. Me…? Maybe I speak a little too off-the-cuff. I like to think that’s part of my charm. Regardless, I simply want you to know that the battle that is being fought is a Just one. It’s for the right reasons. It might be messy and chaotic and look like it’s making everything worse, but that’s what happens when systems are disrupted. Shoot, that’s what happens when furniture gets rearranged. This is so much more than that. It’s not going to be easy and it certainly won’t appeal to anyone’s aesthetic taste, but sometimes you have to upset some tables in order for people to pay attention.
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There are so many more articles on all these subjects. Please do your research. Also, be sure to learn about the Black Americans who have made incredible contributions to our world in art, music, literature, science, technology, space… They don’t get highlighted nearly enough.