The Great Divide: How Do We Build A Bridge?

 

afterlight (1)

I have spent the past two weeks pretty angry and disappointed. I would be lying if I told you the things going on in Ferguson did not affect me in someway. I have read a lot of blog posts coming from different angles, I have researched and watched lectures from professionals on the subject of racial reconciliation, and I have had open conversations with some of my Caucasian friends. I have prayed and cried about this situation in Ferguson and the national issue of racism. Wether we like to admit it or not, racism still exists. Not all white people are racist, it would be very ignorant to make such a broad assumption and accusation.

 Privilege refers to the idea that in human society, some groups benefit from unearned, largely-unacknowledged advantages that increase their power relative to that of others, thereby perpetuating social inequality

Some, Caucasian people may not have viewed themselves privileged or that they are afforded certain opportunities based on the color of their skin. Honestly, what I have gathered from conversations with my white friends, is that sometimes they don't think about being a "White privileged american". When you are a majority you may not have the needs of the minority on the forefront of your mind.

My parents did not teach me to fear white people, some of my closest friends are white. I did not begin to feel a little fear until Ferguson happened. Seeing all the hate out there and passive aggressive racism caused me to wonder who was around me that thought of me that way because of my color? Were there people in my life that harbored hate like that? People that felt I was an exception to "those black people" when in fact the "those people" are MY people. I became suspicious of white people-waiting for someone to change on me. I got concerned for my older brother who is over 6 ft. tall and a broad built black male. He has a heart of gold but people wouldn't be able to tell that if they looked at him. They could think he is a thug instead of a successful college graduate. What if he wears a hoddie or a big shirt on his days off work? Will they suspect him of mischief?

I get that people who are not minorities may not understand this perspective. I am not asking for understanding as much as I am pleading for you to listen. That is it.

I could focus on dissecting all of the hateful postings and blogs I have seen but that would be counter productive because hateful people are everywhere and I encounter them everyday. That will not go away. I had to let myself research and come to a place of peace and balance about the situation in Ferguson along with the killings of other unarmed black men, as well as, the issue of institutionalized racism. There are a lot of moving parts in this discussion and I may elaborate more in a different post.

What I really want to discuss is the racial divide in the church. I know I am about to discuss a "hush hush" matter but more of us need to talk about it. People must understand that the history of African-American culture is rooted in oppression. Although we would like to think that we have made a lot of progress, we have to an extent, there is still a lot to be done. We must be willing to openly talk about race and racial issues in order to really move forward. There is an elephant in the room- like it or not and until we stop passing over it or walking by it silently, we will not see change. We will be back in this spot in a few years.The comments I have seen on the internet let me know that racism is not dead, in fact, it just took on a new form. Nowadays, talking about race makes people tense and everyone comes to the table with their own inhibitions and preconceived ideas of what the other person plans to say. So instead of having hard conversations and breaking down racial divide, we don't at all. A lack of communication makes the divide grow and before we know it we have accepted passive aggressive racism. I believe the African-American community wants people to listen.

Matt Chandler says this best: "What is so deceptive about white privilege is that it is different from blatant racism or bias. A privileged person’s heart may be free from racist thoughts or biased attitudes, but may still fail to see how the very privilege afforded to him or her shapes how he or she interprets and understands the situations and circumstances of people without privilege."

We have allowed the media to feed into a racial divide. We would all be gravely missing the point if it was not evident that we need to have racial reconciliation in the church. It needs to happen. When was the last time you looked around your church and wondered why everyone else looked like you? This goes both ways, for predominately black churches and white churches. "Ninety percent of African-American Christians worship in all-black churches. Ninety percent of white American Christians worship in all-white churches," said Chris Rice, coauthor of More Than Equals: Racial Healing for the Sake of the Gospel. "…Years since the incredible victories of the civil rights movement, we continue to live in the trajectory of racial fragmentation. The biggest problem is that we don't see that as a problem." I think the shooting of Michael Brown brought up deeper seething issues about race. Any group that experiences systemic oppression for a time will come to a point to where they can tolerate it no more. It takes work on all sides to dismantle institutionalized racism. If you are content with your multicultural workshops at your job, fine, but it goes far beyond that. We must be willing to talk and learn about one another in order to break down barriers.

Linda Brown (AP Photo)

Tell me this, if you have no black friends ( I am not talking about people you are associated with and hang out with every now and then) then where do you get your ideas and perceptions about black people? Do you make them up? Are they from the media? We cannot grow and move forward without having hard conversations and uniting together to see change. There are several people uniting to see change happen and guess what? They are not all black. People of all races are uniting together to see change happen. I have noticed that it is much harder to organize change and promote change in the church. Why is this true? I did not experience real overt racism until I went to a CHRISTIAN college. It was evident that some people at my school only knew about black people from TV or the people they saw in the hall at school. Why are the Christians who support racial reconciliation and recognize that we have some real deep racial wounds and issues to deal with, harshly critized by the Christian comminuty? Do you have to be a liberal to agree that human life matters? To believe that something must be done about the clear racial divides in our nation? Are we denying that "white flight" and racism still exist? Researchers will tell you that it still exists. What needs to be said for people to WAKE UP and STAND UP and say NO MORE? If I read the Bible correctly, as Christians, we are brothers and sisters in Christ right? If we are, maybe we should start acting like it. Also, the fact that every Christian who speaks out about racism and Mike Brown, has to give a laundry list of disclaimers so that some of their Christian friends will know that they "believe in the police" & "don't agree with looting", so they don't have to deal with a backlash of comments, is awful. As a Christian and African-American seeing posts from some of my Caucasian brothers and sisters is disheartening. We don't have to agree for you to show compassion on a mourning community and parents that had to bury their son too soon. I get everyone has their beliefs but dismissing people's pain and justifying a teen being shot over 6 times, because of an alleged theft, even though he reached a point of surrender, is cruel. I am posing a lot of questions because I don't have all the answers.  I want us to think about these issues together.

How can we unite together as a church? How can we break the walls of racial segregation in our local church? Let's start opening up this conversation. Honestly until we are able to have healthy productive conversations where neither side is predicting what the other will say, maybe we can move forward. Until we come to the table and lay our swords and daggers down, nothing will change. Remember the church has always been in the thick of controversy. This situation should not be any different. I want to work with others that desire to see change in our communities and churches. I want us to unite together instead of focusing on tearing each other apart. I have found that social media makes it way to easy to let our typed our words be used as daggers to hurt one another. Can we try for once to evaluate our typed words as well as the ones spoken? They are just as powerful. I believe we will have to account for them too.

 (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

There are several things the African-American community is doing to actively better our communities around the U.S. and I pray these initiatives last and we see true change in my generation and the ones behind me. Despite having disadvantages that does not condone crime nor does it give people the right to murder over petty crime. This is a pivotal time for the African-American's to see change in their communities and push for a well-balanced local government. What Antonio French is doing with #HealSTL and registering young people to vote is huge. I hope this situation has encouraged young people to find their voice and to understand that their voice matters and their lives matter. I hope this situation has awakened black youth and that they realize their true value to society. I believe in black youth. 

Here is what I plan to do:

  • Join with other churches who will assist in providing relief and aid to the community/churches of Ferguson
  • Join a local organization that focuses on the empowerment/education of African-Americans in the community
  • Mentor African American Youth
  • Join in conversation with churches and individuals about racial reconciliation and be apart of building a bridge
  • Keep the conversation going: Silence will not bring about change

Growing up I did not focus on racial differences. I was taught to love people, all people. Even when injustice occurred around me, I was taught to stand strong. I love different cultures. My friends are very diverse. I love having friends of different cultures. There is so much I learn from our open conversations. If more people were open to talking, less hatred would exist today. Until you are open to talking to me about my culture and heritage in a kind manner, please do not expect me to be happy when I see comments that are clearly racist. It is hurtful and disappointing. I have cried enough over the senseless and hateful comments people have made about the black community. So I plead with you, come to the table ready to listen. I too am coming to the table with an open heart and an open mind.

I love being Black. I love my natural hair. I love my community. I am educated and I have a successful career. I vote and pay my taxes. I think we have some work and growing to do as a people but I will play a part in changing the narrative that has been written for African-American's in the US. If you are reading this and you are working to bring reconciliation amongst your church, let's talk together. I do not have all the answers but I want to hear from other people and church leaders actively seeking to unite their congregations.

Before leaving this blog post please watch this video:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNhcY6fTyBM&w=560&h=315]

 

Resources and articles I found helpful:

White Brother Shot Black Man

Kristen Howerton

Gospel Coalition

Matt Chandler 

Jennie Allen- To My White People

How To Deal With Racist Reactions to Ferguson

IS IT “GOODBYE EVANGELICALISM” OR “WE JOIN YOU IN YOUR SUFFERING”?'

A Cop's take on Ferguson

 

I Didn't Run Away

In jr. high I had a conflict with this girl at church. There was so much drama surrounding it. I hated it. I hated facing my "giants" as my mom would call it. If an issue has occurred with someone, I would rather go away, take some time off, or not see them anymore. My mom used to let me sneak away for little trips to get away until she realized I was avoiding the people that hurt me. So she stopped letting me run away and taught me to stand firm. This was so hard for me. Didn't she understand that I had been wronged and I did not want to see these people EVER again? She understood alright, she knew if I let fear take root in my heart, I would not be able to face bigger "giants" in the years to come. 

Fast forward to now, I have had a huge giant to face. As much as I've tried to hold my feelings and emotions at bay- they were real and very raw. I tried to avoid any and all confrontation. I can handle confrontation if I have to but I never go looking for it, especially when it relates to me. I am a lover of people, if you are in my family or my close friend, I am loyal to the death. That is just who I am. I passionately love people. This is a great character trait but it also makes me really vulnerable to being hurt. No one really enjoy's feeling pain. It sucks. 

I had two options: show up and stay present or drop out all together. I decided to show up, even though I was dragging my feet to the starting line, I made it with tears in my eyes. I started running with tears falling and decided to lift others up along the way. As I reached the finish line, I was able to look back and see that I faced my "GIANTS" and I faced them with kindness, love, and generosity. I did it because while I was running, others were running with me and cheering me on. I did not retreat to my bedroom at home or read a book- my people would not allow me to do that. I showed up ready to face my fears. Ready to forgive those who hurt me and love them. 

I was able to do it. This was such a huge moment for me. It was a win in my book. It meant that I conquered another area where I was fearful. I learned what keeps me from addressing my fears is me. I can be my own worst enemy. So now instead of believing that I cannot keep going or that I need to avoid pain at all cost, I keep showing up to the starting line. If I start with dry eyes or with tears, I will start. If I finish with my feet hurting, body in pain, or my breathing heavy, I will still finish. I won't let my pain keep me from showing up and living my life. I will keep running and I will not stop.

Lastly, this past week I had the honor of leading an amazing group of girls at Lakewood Youth Summer Camp 2014. It was such an amazing experience. Our dance parties were intense and full of fun. I've never danced that hard for Jesus before. It was a marking week for me and I am so glad I went. Getting to baptize my life group girls was such an amazing experience for me. I will forever remember that moment. 

Moral of the story here: Don't let pain keep you silent, still, or stagnant. Keep moving. You will be glad you did.