I’m confused and broken today, moved by a burden to speak while convinced that no words can speak what has not already been eloquently said. Black and white and brown voices in my community are crying out in grief and outrage, and- I notice- the voices from my home states are largely silent.
I reflect that not with judgement but with heaviness. A year ago, when headlines would briefly force “Black Lives Matter” into my consciousness, I met those words with confusion, and not a small amount of over-sensitivity and judgement on my part. And yet, it felt important- itchy and nagging in that uncomfortable way that means something really matters. It was an invitation to a conversation- many conversations- that I have just begun, hard conversations with brave persons who wear differently colored skin from me, and thus wear very different lives.
It’s work I’m only starting, but I know this: A black man should not be 9 times more likely than other Americans to be killed by police. Having a tail light out, reaching for a wallet, carrying a firearm in an open-carry state, or selling bootleg CD’s does not justify deadly force (force that is statistically 5 times less likely to be used on a white man of the same demographic.)
I used to believe, with values shaped by growing up in a place where right and wrong were clearly delineated and where I was automatically given the resources I needed in order to choose the former, that persons could avoid police brutality by avoiding behaviors that would require police intervention. Conversations around race, privilege, and the realities of oppression and systemic racism have challenged me to look deeper at that interpretation- to wonder and engage, and most of all to not stay silent.
Do not turn away. This is a hard conversation, and naming the racism and privilege implicit in our culture and in our own lives hurts… but it is good work and important work and work that Christ himself did when he wore flesh. Privilege means I can assume my life isn’t at stake in this conversation, but precisely because I, as a white woman, have the option to stay silent in this conversation when others created in God’s image have to shout for an end to racism daily and daily are ignored, I write. I write knowing I will be misunderstood. I write knowing I will offend. I write knowing that cost is infinitely minuscule compared to the pain of one black mother burying a child who would not have died in the same circumstance if his skin was white.
And ask you to engage the difficult conversations, wonder what might be at work, talk with people who don’t look like you, be okay with discomfort, and listen, really listen… there are lives that depend on these conversations gaining momentum and turning to action which turns to change. This article, a sermon by John Metta, which I encountered last summer, was one of the first significant readings that began to engage my heart around this issue, and I share it hoping that if you aren’t already in the waters of racial reconciliation, it might be a invitation to curiosity about movement I pray will be the long awaited “mighty flood of justice” we who call ourselves Christians are called to in Amos 5:24