Nearly two years ago I sat in this exact place, too distracted and disturbed to do anything but write this blog in an attempt to gain clarity on a tragic situation. Then, too, I was bombarded with news stories and op-eds, along with countless posts on social media. Then, too, I felt lonely in my perspective and desperate to find depth in the shallow discussions and distance towards progress.
Two years later and it feels like not much has changed.
Plastered over social media today were reactions to the Baltimore riots. On the surface, most people would agree that violence is not a beneficial way of making things better. It is, however, effective at getting attention and being heard when nothing else seems to work and anger has boiled over.
Imagine if that outrage over the destruction of property had been expressed for the loss of life.
The words we use and how we respond to this type of tragedy is so very telling about the nature of our hearts and the law which we claim to follow. Do we believe in human law or higher law? Do we value life, or legality? Do we allow discussion for all voices to be heard? Do we try to open our minds to what it is really like to walk in different shoes?
Racial tensions in this country seem to be getting worse, not better. I can no longer sit by in my predominately white suburb wishing it away with good intentions and a shot of idealism. While the media takes its fair share of blame for inadequate and sensational journalism, this is one area I am glad to see them shining a light.
Riots don't exist where there is justice. Instead of pointing fingers to justify the divisions in this country, it would serve us better if we stopped to ask why this is happening. Peaceful protests don't make the news and they certainly aren't changing laws.
“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” -Frederick Douglass
I'll admit that I used to hide in my bubble (of privilege) and believe that everything could just be equal if we let go of the anger and assumed the best in each other. Now, I am not so naïve. I see how we go through life unconscious and so unaware. I understand how we ascribe our own life experiences to others and believe it is just a simple solution of working hard and making good choices.
It's understandable. It is just not acceptable.
I've spent the last several months reading and listening. I have heard (and witnessed) countless examples of racism, from people who have "made all the right choices". I can't pretend to understand what it is like to be un-invited to a sleepover as a kid because of the color of my skin. I can't fathom being refused a handshake in a corporate meeting. I.can't.imagine the exhaustion and frustration of having to prove myself every single day and constantly distill the fear in others.
I remember learning about the "melting pot of America" with such pride for our country. That we would welcome immigrants, people of different races and religions in an accepting way. Being "colorblind" is the antithesis of celebrating (not tolerating) diversity. It degrades the very cultural composition of this country that we were founded upon.
It is time to wake up. It is okay to be against rioting. But, it isn't enough to stop there. We need to also be against systematic injustice. We need to ask questions. We need to listen. We need to educate ourselves and understand that these issues in our country have deep, deep roots. Cutting off the branches or the trunk won't make it go away. We must go deeper.
It's on us to come together, raise our voices and heal broken trust. So, what can we do about it?
Read. Expand our news sources and read different perspectives. I challenge us all to read these and not be changed:
White Like Me by Tim Wise
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Women Race and Class by Angela Davis
Colorblind by Tim Wise
Talk to our children about race. When my daughter announced quite loudly, "Mom, there are a lot of chocolate girls here," we didn't silence her out of the embarrassment we felt. Instead, we acknowledged her correct observation and talked about how beautiful dark skin is, how neat it is that God made us all so different, and yet how underneath we are all still the same--in need of love, belonging and understanding.
Get involved with organizations and community events that celebrate and support diversity.
Build personal relationships with people of color, people of different religions and beliefs. It is no longer enough for me to just talk about it. If our lives don't represent our convictions, it is just a bunch of empty words.
Start the discussion or bible study in your area! If-Gathering has put together this racial unity bible study guide to help get it started in our communities.
Imagine a world where we celebrate our differences, where we seek first to understand, where we take responsibility. And, then let's intentionally create a better world for our children.
In the end, what disturbs me the most is the seeming lack of compassion for the loss of life, in defense of legal technicalities that justify violence. What has happened to our country—to our Christian beliefs of love thy neighbor? I will never be convinced that Jesus would stand on the side of murder, even if the courts do. And, I find it disturbing which issues we raises our bibles and voices against, and which we remain silent.