By Allison Myers
Saturday night, some of us from our young adults bible study were gathered.
We were talking about this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week in American history. We began discussing what it would look like for us to really take up arms against racism, to really fight hard. What would it look like if we named it, called it out, condemned it. What would it look like for our generation to say, “Nope. Not on our watch.”
Our convictions: What about our lives besides our Facebook profile says that we really believe that #BlackLivesMatter? How are we serving and valuing our brothers and sisters in law enforcement? What would it look like to make justice bigger than a hashtag. To make it more than a change in profile picture or a fiery comment on a stranger’s blog.
We talked about the good in social media. How it unites people. How it informs people. How it starts dialogue and conversation and how, yes, it’s a good place to be publicly supportive of this or of that. But it cannot stay there. It cannot start and end with a brief, self-important status update of “thoughts and prayers” for the victims of the latest tragedy we’ve become numb to, while we are otherwise silent as racial tension continues to boil over and kill our brothers and sisters.
Can a community, a nation made up of people from different races really come together to unite against hate? Does that look like a “colorblind” world where we refuse to acknowledge race at all? I don’t think so. I think it looks more like, seeing a person of a different color and not hating them for it. Not being afraid of them for it. Not believing they are inferior for it. Not making fun of them for it. Not laughing at other people who make fun of them for it. (Your racist jokes are setting us back, just so ya know, so, could you not?) I think it looks like reaching out and saying, “I’m here to listen. I want to hear about your life and your grief and your pain as a person with a different experience than me. A different ‘normal’ than me. Different fears than me.”
And of course, that’s all easier said than done. As it takes years of repition to learn something, so does it to unlearn. We are unlearning. I am unlearning. Every day, I am unlearning. And as we unlearn, we undo. Little by little, we undo an establishment of indifference and of blind privilege. An establishment that’s told us that different is synonymous with bad. Be patient with one another.
It’s so easy to paint people with broad brushes — ”Thugs,” “Cops,” “Minorites,” “Whites,” “Muslims,” “Black Lives Matter ‘Punks,’” as one former congressman so eloquently put it. It’s so easy to run to extremes when we’re scared. It’s so easy to politicize tragedies when we’re watching from behind our 5″ screens instead of going and actually mourning with those who are heartbroken. It’s so easy to strip someone of their humanity and publicly rip apart their character when you don’t have to look into the bloodshot eyes of the weeping parents who just lost their child. And Christians: isn’t it so easy to forget how bad we are, when we’re looking at someone whom the world deems “worse”? As if we’re not all a lost cause without Christ’s grace. It’s easy to forget the sweetness of that grace as we spew venom into the abyss that is a Facebook comment section.
We asked: How do we combat racism in our community? What are some of the conversations that need to take place? With whom? How do we start them? Is it going to be hard? Probably. Is it necessary? Definitely.
Plainly, we’re not sure what to do. It’s overwhelming. But as with most problems, it starts internally. As Pastor Todd Wagner said, we’ve first got to draw a circle around ourselves and remember that apart from Christ, there’s nothing good in any of us. You don’t eradicate something so deep-seeded overnight. But I think we can start where we are. We can start here. We can stop sweeping the issue of race under the rug as if it doesn’t exist. And we can continue to serve and love and faithfully share the gospel of a just God who promises to one day make all things right.
Ann Voskamp said, “The world needs prayer warriors who don’t see prayer as the least we can do but the most we can do. And then get on knees and pray us through.”
Pray that we will continue to unlearn and undo, to grow in compassion and empathy. Pray that God will be made much of. We know that any solution other than Christ is just an empty coping mechanism.
If you have suggestions or answers to some of the above questions, please feel free to chime in. It’s a terrible thing to feel helpless and tiny in the face of something scary and big. But the good news is that though we’re fighting something bigger than us, we have a God who is bigger than it. Though the media, the politicians and gray-haired, middle-aged dudes on Facebook tell us not to, we’re holding fast to a conviction and a belief that God is raising up a generation of helpers. Of lovers. Of fighters. Of light chasers and justice seekers. Of not just hearers, but doers of the Word.