Last weekend, our family and a few friends from the KC Underground attended a rally for radical change, led by an African American church in our community. At the very last minute, I was asked to pray to begin the rally. I was instantly and forcefully terrified. All the self-doubt thoughts came flooding in at once. Who am I? I’m a white middle class woman. A female pastor, which that fact alone in our white evangelical community already means I am an angry feminist. I am a symbol of white racist oppression, people that look and act and have the exact same ancestry and religion as I have been the oppressors of African American’s since our country’s inception. I could not imagine praying an intelligible, cross-cultural, stand in solidarity prayer with my black brothers and sisters in Christ. All of those thoughts flooded in my brain in about .05 seconds.
I said absolutely not, I couldn’t do that, and stepped away for a few minutes, strategizing on how I could pass this task on to my Beloved Husband, who is a phenomenally amazing public speaker, pray-er and has the advantage of being a male pastor, which usually is met with attentiveness and respect.
But then I decided to do it. Everyone was super nice and that helped. I prayed. Asked God to show us a better way. Asked God to unite us in His love. Asked forgiveness of white men and women for being the oppressors from the beginning of our nation, in slavery, in the Jim Crow era, and now.
I am not sure if I offended anyone with my words. I tried. I spoke from my soul. I felt God’s presence among us, and I suppose that’s what matters most.
Did I make culturally insensitive mistakes with some of my words? I’m not sure. Probably. My African American friends are mostly too nice to say anything. The experience made me ask God to help me from staying where I am in my understanding of my own cultural perspective.
I want to be prepared for and certain of my words in these moments. I want to stand with and not build even more barriers between races. I can try harder. I can learn more. We all can.
As we turn the page on history on our ignorance and write the narrative for the coming days and years, we have a decision to make. We can be angry white voices, or voices of love, compassion and humility that cross racial lines and build others up instead of tearing them down by never changing our minds.
In all my 47 years of living, I am not sure I’ve been more shocked and surprised at the behavior of some of the white friends I know in the last few months. Social media amplifies angry voices, and I have tried to stay away from those angry white voices as much as possible.
What has surprised me the most is the clenched “I have to hold on to this with all my might” fists of angry rage defending statements like “All Lives Matter.”
White friends, I challenge you to open those clenched fists as slowly as you need to, then receive what God and so many others wish for you instead. I’m ducking right now, because you probably want to punch me with those angry fists, but I can handle it, I’m safe behind my computer screen.
Try to hear me out. I know you already agree with most of what I have to say, I am just asking you to consider the 20% that you absolutely disagree with in a new way.
We all know that Jesus came so all of us would be free, not just Anglo-Saxon people. Most of us love Jesus and His ways-how he embraced all ethnicities and genders wholeheartedly, without reserve. We believe in a God, or our Higher Power that loves, sees and knows our worth. I know my evangelical friends are raising their fists again because I said “Higher Power”, but really…I have been in enough 12 step meetings to know that the Higher Power my friends see is GOD, the real and holy one, so don’t get stuck there.
God is so, so good and His ways are perfect. I am amazed at how passionately my 12 Step friends seek for God in the midst of rebuilding their lives. Their devotion to surrendering their lives and will to God as they understand Him is something I occasionally see in the Evangelical Church, but honestly not too often. Broken people that admit they are broken are my favorite people…probably because I am one too and know what it feels like to begin again. Let’s learn from them. Let’s seek God on these issues in a new way.
We believe in God, Jesus, a Higher power-the general goodness in people and a desire for justice and freedom. I believe all people, regardless of ethnicity believe in these things. However, as white people, our white words and behavior say otherwise.
We live in the “Land of the Free” and “Home of the Brave– The United States of America. Our constitution states “All Men are Created Equal”. The white men who wrote and signed the document certainly meant “All Men”, except for the red, black, brown and yellow ones. Their lives were a testimony to that, clothed in duplicity and scandal.
I wrote about George Washington owning slaves a few weeks ago. I was blind to the fact, and since have learned that James Polk, our 11th president not only owned slaves, but bought and sold them in the White House. Oh, and the first White House? It was built by slaves. Ironic, isn’t it? From its inception, we have been White Supremacists. You, me, all of us. It’s what we were born into and know without acknowledging.
Let’s think about that for a while before we shout in all caps “ALL LIVES MATTER” as a testimony to your own white worth. Is it wise to proclaim that YOU matter in response to a call for social justice, racial equality and the end to the brutal treatment of African American brothers and sisters?
When you do this, you look petty and sometimes even mean.
Your white life has always mattered. Black Lives have not. History tells the story. Our present day lives tell the story. It’s time to rethink the statement and the rhetoric and racial cluelessness behind it and think of something else to say that is more helpful and beneficial.
Black Lives Matter is not saying white people have never faced oppression or opposition.
Black Lives Matter is not saying Black People are better than white.
Black Lives Matter is far, far from being a racist statement.
It is a cry, a shout, a voice crying in the wilderness. The statement “Black Lives Matter” is a holy and sacred thing. It has God in the middle of it. Listen to the voice of an oppressed people acknowledging their own worth…lets stand with them against them with harsh and angry words that oppose the heart of this movement
For your own good, and the good of those who ae crying out in lament and grief, get out of the way. Serve. Give up your place in line. Lay down your whiteness for a chance to elevate someone else and make them shine like they should.
If you say you are a Christ follower, take note of what Jesus said, “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your servant. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.” (the message)
In the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, the land of Narnia had been frozen in the hold of the Narnian oppressor, the White Witch, for as long as anyone could remember. Suddenly, things started to shift seemingly out of nowhere. A drip from an icicle here, a slushy patch of snow there…the change was coming. The cold edge of winter giving way to the subtlest prodding of spring. Why? Because Aslan, the Christ figure in the story, was on the move. With him came joy and hope and freedom and the putting down of the evil oppression of the White Witch and her frozen ways.
“They say Aslan is on the move- perhaps has already landed”, Mr Beaver told them. Then he recited a Narnian legend,
“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight.
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death.
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”
As the snow and ice began to melt, the white witches sleigh got stuck. She said, “This is Aslan’s doing.” She saw him everywhere even without physically seeing him.
Jesus is on the move. The signs are all around us. Look and listen. Hear Aslan’s roar.
Can we all admit we are powerless like the 12 Step community? Can we all admit we are broken? Imagine the change that could come if ALL of us were to scrap what we think we know about our powerful whiteness and how harmful it is to the rest of our nation and begin again.
Black Lives Matter. Listen to them.
Let’s turn the page on history and exchange our Angry White Voices for humility.