I don’t really know anything. I would love as a leader in the faith, as a person who has worked as a pastor for 15 years that I would have good, insightful words to help navigate our world we live in right now. Unfortunately, I have almost nothing to bring to the table. So what can we do? What can I say that will be helpful? The following thoughts are awkward and messy and not nearly as polished as I want. They come from a place of privilege and I’m sure are filled with contradictions. I will ask as I (and many others) are continuing to learn and grow, there is grace and forgiveness. I know grace and care has not always been offered to others, instead judgement, assumptions, prejudices, and many other problematic stances have consumed people of power looking down on oppressed or outcast people. So here we go. Some thoughts about now.
To start. Racism is incompatible with Christianity. I and the leaders of Wesley firmly stand against racism, systemic racism, and injustice against our black friends and people of color. What happened last week with George Floyd is another (very public) example of abuse of power and is wrong. It is not the first or even close to the first and I worry it is not the last. Starting now, let us reposition ourselves. Let us pivot to elevate those who have been oppressed. Let us listen to those who have been silenced. Let us work with and for those who have been the surrogates for our work.
I spent some time this week visiting with some of our black students in Wesley. After our conversation, I felt like it was necessary to post things they shared and I learned from our time visiting. Below are some of our thoughts related to the issue at hand. Please read with care, caution, and an attempt to commit to doing something about this.
-We are better off when we admit we don’t have all the answers. Assuming we do creates a position of arrogance. Systemic racism, generational oppression, and subtle cultural biases are incredibly complex. There are rarely quick or easy answers. Don’t default to proclaiming simple answers. They are insulting to the complex nature of this racial struggle and the persons who have been the victims of it. As well, don’t just follow people who give simple answers. We like simplicity, because it is easy to remember, easy to do, easy to share. Calling out social injustices, police brutality, and abuse of power are easy. Making a difference for good is hard.
-We need to recognize that many of us are people of privilege. Some people may want to disagree with this, but simply because of the color of your skin, many of us had advantages that others don’t have. Yes, you may have grown up in poverty, yes, you grew up with only one parent, or in the foster care system, or you lived in a small town, or in an abusive home or whatever disadvantage you feel you may have had. Those disadvantages are real and we should applaud you for navigating those challenges, while at the same time as a white person, living in America, you have privilege. Privilege should be recognized and handled responsibly. It should be taken into consideration when speaking about things…especially things related to what you have privilege with. As a white person (no matter your experience or how many black friends you have) you grew up white, you should speak with caution as it relates to race.
-One of the number one things we can do is listen and learn. One of the best ways to start is to understand the black experience. When we can learn more about the black experience (especially the one in America) you will have significantly more compassion and have an open mind to listen and learn better. Spend time talking to your friends who are black and people of color. Be honest about how you don’t have it all figured out and ask for direction and guidance. We have likely at some time unintentionally said something, done something, or not said or done something when we should have. At the end of this post I will share some resources that have been recommended to me.
-Finally, We need to have grace with one another. You may feel totally clueless or you may feel infuriated that others are just now starting to wake up to the problems in the world. It does us no good to insult, belittle, or attack people that are headed in the right direction, but maybe not as far down the road as you. Be encouraging in the fight to help others journey with you. When we eat our own, we slow down the process of dismantling injustices. When we attack one another as we try to transform our nation and the systemic racism that has been sustained for so long we take our eye off the actual problem and fixate on one another. This mentality is so wildly destructive that it pushes the wrong people out and slows down the effort to make a change. So please be thoughtful as you use social media. It has seemed like in recent days that the enemy is using social media as a foothold to turn people who are working for the same good against one another. Social media is one of many ways to work for justice. It is not the only way. I would encourage you to be slow to assume and quick to ask questions in our collective effort to fight for justice.
This is by no means complete, just some reflections. I can speak personally that I am working to listen and learn during this time. I am working to grow as a person who not only posts things online, speaks out against injustice, but also fundamentally changes at my core what it means to be an ally for our black brothers and sisters and all people of color. I am working through the resources below and I would encourage you to check them out as well. One of our amazing students involved in Wesley (Ian Perkins-Smith) gave me the bulk of this list and I have added a few from other sources. Keep listening. Keep learning. Fight for justice. Live with grace. And do not stop in the effort to dismantle the system of oppression as we work to build the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
- Podcast-1619 by Nikole Hannah-Jones
- Book-Your Silence Will Not Protect You by Audre Lorde
- Book-The Freedom Writers Diary: by The Freedom Writers and their teacher Erin Gruwell
- Book-The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
- Book-How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
- Movie-When They See Us-Netflix
- Movie-Freedom Writers
- Movie-Dear White People
- Movie-Hidden Figures
- Movie-Just Mercy-at this time it is free on their site https://www.justmercyfilm.com/
- Movie and Play-Raisin In The Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
- Mini Series-Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker-Netflix
- TV-Explained: The Racial Wealth Gap (season 1, episode 1)-Netflix
This is by no mean a complete list of things to consume, but it is a good start. Please let me know if you have any thoughts.