I usually avoid controversy here. But several things have been on my heart the last few days.
I appreciate what one pastor said about feeling the need to make a statement, yet needing time to process and be with his people first. I’m not in any kind of leadership. No one is waiting on me to make a statement. But I have felt the need to say something while also needing to listen and take in and process before responding to horrible events that have happened in our country the last several days.
Some have decried white silence. Personally, my social media accounts have been filled with posts denouncing Floyd’s death. But, please understand, some are fearful of saying something wrong and making things worse.
Others accuse whites who speak out of virtue signalling. Some have said they don’t need whites standing up for them.
What to do? I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even know all the questions. But here are some things on my heart:
No question, what happened to George Floyd was atrocious and criminal. I was sickened, saddened, and angry by his unjust death. I’ve read opposite views about what kind of person he was. But that doesn’t matter. No one deserves to be kneed in the back, pinned to the ground and unable to breathe, until their breath is gone. I’m thankful the officers involved have been arrested.
No question there are bad policemen on the force. But I know they are not all bad. I know many are just as grieved as everyone else over Floyd’s death.
I have friends and relatives on the police force. I appreciate their service. Many take their lives in their hands every day. They never know when a seemingly everyday traffic stop or call will escalate into violence. I would guess that the great majority of law enforcement personnel are just trying to do the best job they can.
However. I don’t think anyone can deny that there have been too many instances of black men unjustly stopped, arrested, and killed. One instance would be too many.
I think racism is only part of the problem, though it’s a big part. The other is power. We’ve personally experienced and observed instances where a policeman has been unnecessarily aggressive and unwilling to listen. Authority is one thing, and I appreciate a policeman’s authority to step in when needed. But stepping in on the basis of snap judgments and a desire to exercise one’s own power is another.
These issues need to be addressed before they end up in abuse and murder. I’ve seen a meme going around listing several previous issues with the policeman who killed George Floyd. If these are true, action on them would have prevented Floyd’s death. If this policeman had been reprimanded or removed from his position earlier, the events on that fateful day would have turned out differently.
Racist and power-hungry people will show themselves. They need to be called on the carpet and either educated or removed. Other law enforcement people need to feel free to report questionable actions of their brother officers. The public good needs to be more important than protecting the brotherhood. Really, the brotherhood is not protected by covering for abusive officers, because reactions to the abuse will come back to haunt everyone, as we’ve seen in the recent riots.
I believe in peaceful protests. I can understand the anger and frustration spilling over. But rioting and looting only hurt the cause, harming innocents. It’s not even revenge, because it’s not aimed at the people who have done wrong. People have died in these riots, and those who killed them are no better than the policeman who killed George Floyd. There have to be more productive ways to demand justice.
But from comments on social media, it seems that outrage over the riots is superseding the outrage over George Floyd’s death.
Some of the rioters are not after justice. Some are opportunists. I’ve seen accusations of political involvement from both parties. It will take time to sort all that out. But don’t let the riots drown out the voices that need to be heard.
As I’ve read and listened to several responses, the one that resonates most with me is, “I’m listening.” James 1:19 tells us to ” be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”
I admit that for most of my adult life, I didn’t think racism was much of a problem. Sure, in some places and among some people. But I thought that, by and large, we were mostly past that. I grew up in the 60s. With all the strides that have been made in the decades since, surely people had equal opportunities now. But I was wrong.
I bristled at the mention of white privilege. “Privilege” brought up images of mansions and butlers and high society, which most of us have not experienced.
Buy my friend Laurie put it this way: ” White privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been without struggles; it means those struggles weren’t brought about by the color of your skin.”
As I have listened, I’ve learned that racism is still prevalent despite progress since the 60s.
A friend shared on Facebook My White Friend Asked Me to Explain White Privilege. I Decided to Be Honest (warning: a couple of bad words). Just one instance: her boyfriend had been repeatedly stopped by police while driving. He started keeping a teddy bear in the back windshield and baby wipes in the car so he’d look like a family man and would be stopped less frequently.
Some of you might know Paul Whitt. He was with the Northland camps for many years and is now an assistant pastor. He was a friend of our former pastor and spoke at our church. He interviewed four African-American friends here, all Christians, about their experiences, feelings, and fears. I don’t know Paul or any of these men personally, but I share several friends in common with a couple of them. This is a long recording, but well worth listening to.
My daughter-in-law is Indian. She has sometimes been mistaken for black. I’ve been astounded by ignorant and racists remarks and actions she has experienced. I’m sorry to say that sometimes I tried to explain away what she told me. For instance, once a lady almost mowed her and Timothy down with her cart in the grocery store. Mittu felt it was because they were brown. But, I said, not all offenses are racially motivated; some people are just rude. In fact, the very next week, the same thing happened to me.
But I should not have responded that way. I wasn’t there; I didn’t see the woman’s expression. Just like when someone has been abused, our first response should be to listen and protect.
A few of my daughter-in-law’s other experiences, shared with her permission:
She recently told us of working in an office as the only female. The men would constantly attribute something she said to did to her “just being Indian.” If she tried to say that those comments bothered her, they said they were just teasing, the same as if they teased someone about having red hair. One of them, while leaning over her desk to look at or answer a question about what she was working on, said, “You’re making me hungry for brownies,” referring to the color of her skin. That is a horrible thing to say on many levels.
She worked at a Christian camp one summer. After the counselors met with a particular speaker, he handed her a tract. He knew she was a counselor. She explained that she was saved, and suggested he keep the tract to give to someone who needed it. He insisted that she take it—as if, since she was brown and he was white, he needed to be a missionary to her.
My daughter-in-law told me of being in a store with her mother and aunties, who all spoke in Hindi. Someone passing by muttered “Stupid foreigners.”
I admit, I used to be of the mindset that people who move here should learn English. I still think that’s a good idea for a number of reasons. But then I realized that if I moved to another country, even if I learned the language there fluently, I would still speak English when with other English-speakers. So why should it bother me when other people speak in their native tongue?
I didn’t know until recently that on the day my grandson was born, one of my daughter-in-law’s reactions was fear and dismay that she had brought a brown boy into the world because of what he would have to face growing up. A lot of things that she just put up with before, she’s speaking out about now so that we understand the kinds of things Timothy might have to deal with.
It breaks my heart that my sweet, adorable, witty, kind grandson may someday be stopped and harassed, or worse, just because of his beautiful skin tone. Recently his school assigned a book on Martin Luther King, Jr. My grandson was horrified as my daughter-in-law explained what civil rights meant and what happened to Dr. King. I was sad not only that his innocence was stripped away, but that he’ll have to hear more on these topics in the future.
As I said, I don’t know all the answers. The problem is so big and pervasive, it’s hard to know where to start. But I think these are good steps:
- We need to invite friends from other races to share with us, safely and openly. Ignorance is not the same thing as malice, and some of us are just ignorant and need to be helped to understand. I saw one post that said education is not the answer; reconciliation is the answer. But education is a step towards reconciliation.
- We need to listen to and take seriously these kinds of experiences without trying to explain them away.
- When someone says we’re making them uncomfortable or they’re offended by what we say and do, we need to stop.
- We need to avoid sweeping generalities. All white people are not racist; all cops are not abusive; all black people are not threats. All Indians are not doctors and lawyers. All middle Eastern men are not terrorists.
- We need to get over our idea that anything “other” is bad. God made a big, wide, wonderful world with people in all shades and cultures of every kind.
- We need to be careful what we post on social media. We need to take the time to fact-check anything we post so that we’re not spreading misinformation.
- We need to teach our children from their earliest years that “different” is okay. We need to get over the idea that “kids are going to be kids” and it’s okay to tease. Along with racial slurs and digs, we need to eliminate words like “four-eyes” and “retard” and anything else that’s demeaning and hateful. We need to model kind and thoughtful speech for our children.
- We need to be genuine and consistent. I saw on someone’s Facebook post one meme with a white and black hand intertwined and a promise of standing with the other, and a meme just below it with the “n” word. Posting “I’m with you” memes doesn’t mean anything if our other words and actions contradict it.
- We need to understand that every person is created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). We all come from the same ancestors: God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). Heaven will be filled with “people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).
- We need to ask God to search our hearts and show us whatever is wrong there. We need to confess and repent of our wrong heart attitudes.
- We need to weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15).
- We need to “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10).
- We need to “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31, NIV).
I heard the story of the Good Samaritan for years before I realized the racial implications. The Jews and Samaritans were enemies in New Testament times. When a man was beaten, robbed, and left for dead, two of his own countrymen, religious leaders, passed him by. But a Samaritan, a person of a mixed race, the Jews’ enemy, stopped, helped the man, took him to an inn, and paid for his care. Jesus told this story as an example of what it meant to love your neighbor. Jesus ministered specifically to a woman of Samaria, who then led her whole village out to hear Him (John 34). How have Christians missed the implications of this for so many years?
I’ve seen many good people say that there is no such thing as race, that we’re all one race, that race was not a thing until Darwin. It’s true that, as I said above, we’re all from the same ancestors. But there are different people groups or ethnicities or whatever you want to call them. The Bible speaks of different people groups, especially Jews and Gentiles, and their conflicts through the years. I think people who emphasize this point that we’re all one race are trying to emphasize the unity we should have as people made by God in His image. However, think how that makes a person of color feel when they express sorrow and dismay at mistreatment because of their color, and we say, “We’re all one race. There are no distinct races.” It’s like we’re deflecting and not taking seriously their very real pains and problems.
Forgive me, this has become twice as long as my usual Monday posts. There’s even more swirling in my head, but this is enough for now.
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14).
(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Global Blogging, Hearth and Home, Senior Salon,
Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Purposeful Faith, InstaEncouragement,
Anchored Abode, Recharge Wednesday, Worth Beyond Rubies,
Share a Link Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Grace and Truth,
Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network)