So here’s the thing: As a daily rule, the majority of my Facebook feed is occupied by very intelligent individuals that frequently have different political, social, and religious views from my own. A few years ago, I realized that I was proud of this. For me that means that I am still open to dialogue and other points of view. If my Facebook feed is dominated by the SAME view on EVERY issue, my world is too small and I am not living as I should.
However, this week: it’s all the same. Different faces, different hashtags, different words, but the same desperation, suffering and confusion in every single post. #altonsterling #philandocastile #dallas #wtf
My heart is broken.
The heart break that comes from watching murder affect our nation, communities and individuals I love ………….and feeling helpless.
I saw it guys. Like everyone else. I have not turned on the news all week, but I have snuck footage, commentary and articles from my phone when the kids aren’t watching.
I’m not ready to talk about it with them.
I’ve laid awake crying in the night, because I don’t know what to say.
I’ve prayed desperately. I have written the words Race Reconciliation and Peace in my prayer journal over and over.
I have read EVERYONE ELSE’S commentary on Facebook. I have liked several comments from others that spoke the truth I feel much more eloquently than I can.
And I have remained silent.
Not because I have nothing to say.
But because I’m scared. I’ll own it. I’m scared of Facebook and it’s backlash and the “comments section.”
I’m scared of misunderstanding.
I’m scared of not wording my thoughts correctly and inadvertently causing more pain.
I’m scared of those who would disagree with me.
And yet, I know. My silence is a sin.
“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. ” Psalm 82:3
When atrocities of a similar sort have occurred over the past few years, I have said as much to my closest friends. The few who called me out and asked, “Where is your voice?”
My response was that for me, these were conversations to be had face to face. Not over the world wide web. So, conversations were held quietly and in private.
I also believe actions are louder than words, so instead of waxing philosophically, I took real steps to live out Jesus in my community.
And today Facebook slapped me in my face.
Someone I love, that I pray for daily called out:
“Anybody else’s white friends still silent?”
Now, I don’t think that this was directed at me, however I realized with guilt that, while my silence had been more out of deep respect, it is more likely interpreted as disregard.
By respect this is what I mean:
I know that it is impossible for me imagine the pain, and rage, hurt and fear I imagine it is to be Black in America right now. I also can’t comprehend the struggle of being a police officer that has never done anything but seek to help and serve.
I recognize that I will never have the RIGHT words, and I probably will never, “really understand.”
However, if I am to choose rightly, I choose empathy. That means I may never fully get it, but I want to. And I must make active choices to engage, and learn, and sit in solidarity in your pain.
And that makes silence unacceptable.
When I first heard of the Dallas shootings I found myself calling out, my prayer: “Come quickly Lord Jesus!” And while I would be joyous at His immediate return, I felt the voice of the Spirit, quietly chastise: That’s a cop out.
“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. ” Isaiah 1:17
Deal with it.
And I don’t know how. Just yet.
Where I stand is undone. Realizing, that a system that I so desperately want to believe in is so broken. That while I can preach equality and justice in my classroom and my home, I have no control over what my students encounter in their neighborhoods and communities. That two men died that shouldn’t have. That it was because of their race, and ugly assumptions and fear that took control of individuals that were supposed to be (and I want to believe once were) the good guys. And that in anger and pain, violent retribution brought about more death. And that makes me feel helpless.
My role as HELPER in this life makes me want to FIX. EVERYTHING. And I can’t.
It makes me cry. And quiet.
Facebook, though, for all its faults is letting me know that I cannot stay quiet. Not if I am going to practice what I preach.
Once, at age 19, I was pulled over at 2 am with Sammy. A black boy with charming smile and recklessness that swallowed me. I was dating Sammy. I lied to my parents about it. I told him we were just friends.
We were 1 mile from my parent’s house.
Sammy’s license plate was expired and from out of state.
He was so polite to the officer. “Yes, sir. I know. I’m sorry sir.” He was able to show up to date insurance and some sort of proof that he had applied for a Georgia tag.
I was terrified.
I am ashamed to admit that I was afraid that for some reason, this would turn into my parents knowing about Sammy. I was afraid of being ratted out to my Dad.
I’d gone to church with him. (I told everyone we were just friends.)
I’d been all over two counties with this boy in the light of day, but being out at night….. past the hour when anything good happened.
We were given a warning and “released” unscathed.
I tell this story because this week it keeps bubbling to the surface. My behavior that summer was not something I am proud of. Months later I came clean to my Dad and worked through all this with him. He told me as long as who I was with “loved Jesus, and loved me” he didn’t care who they were or what they looked like.
But, I cannot help but thinking about what would have happened to Sammy if I wouldn’t have been with him?
The white girl.
Sammy had told the officer he was taking me home from work (which was not a complete lie, we’d gotten off a little after midnight.).
In a mountain town, with no diversity to speak of, what would have happened to this guy if he had been alone? Would it had been different? Would his outcome that night been different?
I’m not implying that the police in my hometown are corrupt. However, I believe that his presence in that neighborhood, at that hour, would have been treated with more significant procedural suspicion if I were not there. It is possible the officer recognized me. (I don’t remember who it was.)
I’m embarrassed by these thoughts. I’m more embarrassed that I never addressed his fear, or what it was like to be in his shoes.
The closest we came to talking about race relations was an explanation of his LARGE, (he was the youngest of nine) mixed family. Their skin tones stretched the spectrum of light and dark flesh. He told me of his uncle who had “passed” as white and his father who was darker than him. His mother was Puerto Rican and fairer than me.
He said he didn’t understand why race was “such a big deal.” But we never talked further than that. I was enamored with actually having the attention of a boy, and he was too kind to challenge any of my naivete.
I think my naivete is finally gone. The Rose colored glasses that I have desperately clung to, the beliefs in Equality and the American Dream through hard work and determination (regardless of race) are not, in fact realized. We are as broken and divided as ever.
I’m not wise. I don’t have grand commentary or any answers to our fractured reality. But I do have eyes.And ears.
A friend wiser than I has written about the beautiful Reframing that happens when you know people and their story become interwoven with yours. I am away from that small mountain town. And I see the pain and fear in the words of my friends, the eyes of my neighbors, co-workers and fellow members of my church. Their story is interwoven into my story.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ Revelation 2:29
The gospel of Christ compels me; that no life is not precious in His sight, and inthemidst of our differences, Christ died on the cross for every person that takes breath. HIS BREATH, that HE put there. I must fight for that. I must fight for the Kingdom of God. A kingdom where ALL God’s children are loved and VALUED.
So this is acknowledgement, and standing solidarity. I may only be able watch and listen and pray, but I will. And I will do what I can every day to live out the love of Christ.
I hear you. I will continue to listen.
I see you. I will continue to love you.
I am hurting for you. I will continue to pray.
Silence is not OK. Here my voice, for you. I am sorry I did not find it sooner.