Black Lives and White Voices

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

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4 Comments

  1. Lynn Fleshman

    Lindsay, I say so much yes to this, but I found the line about voices from your home state staying mostly silent a bit disconcerting. Partly because this seemed to be based on social media feeds (maybe that’s an assumption on my part?), which show only a snippet of online conversation at any given time, and don’t provide a broad overview. I’m not sure it’s the fairest way to evaluate the online conversations people are having. And beyond that, I’ve read several things today that criticize (although yours was the gentlest) people who aren’t expressing their outrage and sadness through online venues. Some people seem to be saying that if you aren’t posting about your feelings and reactions and opinions on Facebook, that you aren’t properly engaging with these tragedies or are apathetic or insensitive to them somehow. Is that what you meant when you said that people from your home states were mostly silent? If not, what other conversations are you referencing in which you are observing silence? Since I live in one of those states and I like you, I want to understand your comment on us in the way that you meant it.

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and engage thoughtfully, Lynn. I’m wondering if you heard an absolute statement in my words about my home states? I apologize if that was unclear, words like “noticing” and “largely” were meant to qualify that as being a reflection of my experience. My experience (yes especially on social media) has been a difference in engagement, that I experience as geographic, so dramatic that it really, really impacted me. Some of that, I’m sure, is skewed by moving in circles in the PNW who place high value on social justice as integral to the gospel and living in a neighborhood that has hosted vigils and protesters this week. I respect that people feel differently around when it is and is not appropriate to engage social media, and yet the persons of color who have so kindly challenged me around this issue remind me that the option to not enter this conversation is, itself, a mark of privilege. I don’t know what the answer is, I don’t know any solution to offer, but I’m thankful for this conversation with you.

      • Lynn Fleshman

        Thanks for the clarification, Lindsey, and I appreciate your sharing your experience. I think part of what I am reacting to is the idea that those who don’t engage this conversation on social media are not engaging it at all. Opting out of Facebook discussions around these issues isn’t the same as opting out entirely, is it? For me, I have been reading articles, praying, repenting, looking for opportunities to talk (listen, really) person-to-person because I find social media so insufficient for discussing important, deeply emotional issues. Not all my black friends are choosing to engage in this conversation through social media, either, and I don’t think that is an exercise in privilege but in preference. Am I just missing something entirely here? Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and for your graciousness.

        • Hi Lynn, sorry I missed this response when you posted it! (new blog, I wasn’t getting notifications after someone’s first post)

          I think I understand where you are coming from, drama on social media often feels so unnecessary and so easy to opt-out of. My concern is that to have access to a platform to identify and name injustice in my community but choose to not use it is me choosing comfort, something privilege allows me to do.

          I also wonder if arguments about appropriate context, disruption, space to honor hard conversations, etc (all legit concerns) would have been used to keep civil rights debate out of university classrooms in the ’50s, or abolitionists out of many churches pre-civil war. Your point about social media not being a safe place to deeply discuss issues is wise and spot on, but I think it does play an important role, if we use it well, to bring these issues into our communities’ consciousness often enough that conversations begin to happen offline.

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