It's been a hard weekend. (And month, and season, and year, too, let's be honest.) The headlines that come through my phone have been increasingly more sickening, heartbreaking, and mind-blowing. I've spent much of the last few days grieving, crying, listening, praying, and lamenting the brokenness, sin, and hatred that have been on such loud display in cities near me and in our nation and in our world.
I read an incredibly powerful thread from Brittany Packnett on Twitter today where she talked about four different kinds of people in the system of oppression. I encourage you to read the thread here (it will only take a few moments, and it's very worthwhile). In summary, she talks about how these systems are like a walkway (picture a moving sidewalk in an airport) and that are four types of people on them.
Let me summarize:
- The active perpetrator (like the people we saw marching in Charlottesville this weekend)
- The passive bystander (not doing anything to actively oppose oppression, so they're still moving forward in the direction of it)
- The aspiring ally (they have turned away from racism, but haven't actively moved against it yet)
- The actively anti-racist (running fast and hard against racism and oppression)
I do not want to be the kind of person who is an active perpetrator of systems of oppression. I do not want to be a person sitting passively on the "walkway," moving in the direction of oppression simply because I'm not being active. I do not want to be the kind of person who is aware of the racism and has turned away from it, but still does nothing actively.
I want to be that 4th type of person, the one Brittany describes as "running hard and fast in the opposite direction," the one who uses her voice and her platform and every ounce of her strength to fight against oppression and injustice and hatred. The one who does not stand idle as brothers and sisters are harmed and slandered and attacked, but who stands in their defense, using whatever privilege my skin color has allowed me to stand up for my neighbors and demand freedom, love, equality, justice, and kindness for and toward all humans.
Staying silent is no longer an option. Passively standing by while these supremacists are marching is not an option. Staying safe in my whiteness while my brothers and sisters of color are being ambushed like this is not an option.
There will be backlash. There will be loved ones who don't agree. There will be people who don't see it, don't understand, don't want to engage. There will be people who see their white skin as a blanket that keeps them safe from the pain of the world, and they'll want to stay that way.
But I want to run fast and hard against this oppression, this sin, this brokenness.
Because my model for this? The one I look to for guidance? His name is Jesus. And His life was a perfect model of what it looks like to love our neighbors, to be peacemakers, to be freedom fighters, to act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with God. He taught us to turn the other cheek when we are slapped. He taught us to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us. He taught us to enter through the narrow gate, not the wide road that leads to destruction. He taught us what it looks like to live counter-culturally for the sake of the Gospel, for the sake of true freedom. He taught us to get up close to the messes, to the diseases, to the sin, to reach out our hands and touch what the world says is dirty, and to heal the hurt in the name of the Lord. He taught us that this life following His example would not be easy, but that it would be worth it and it would be glorifying to God. He taught us to love the least of these, to defend the weak, to open our hearts and homes to the orphans and the widows and the sick. He taught us to share our tables with the sinners, to never turn another away because of their sin, but to welcome them in with love and mercy instead of judgment. He taught us to forgive freely and abundantly, and to surrender our own desires and follow God's will above all else.
And as much as this news and the state of our nation and world is breaking my human heart, I can only imagine how much God's heart is breaking for His beloved children.
So I will press on. I will speak out. I will join the fight.
I will speak out when I see wrong being done-- I will not stay silent.
I will listen to the stories and experiences of those who are different than me-- I will not stay in my bubble.
I will pray fervently when I don't know what to do or how to help-- I will not turn away and pretend I do not see.
I will humbly admit I have been sheltered and privileged and safe for far too long-- I will not let my skin color keep me away from reality.
I will ask questions when I do not understand-- I will not assume I know another's hurts or fears or burdens.
I will step out, I will speak out, I will engage, I will lament, I will seek to love, I will forgive, I will fight, I will speak Truth, I will stand with my neighbors of color, I will not ignore injustice, I will seek ways to shatter my safety net, I will wrestle with what I do not understand, I will grieve, I will speak out against the hatred and racism, I will strive day by day to love, act, serve, and live like Jesus. I will not stay passive.
I do not know all the answers. I know I'm one person with two small hands who cannot possibly fix this or heal this or make this all okay. But I know I follow the One who can, and will, and I will hold fast to faith in Him. I will keep my eyes open and my heart open and my spirit willing to follow where He leads me.
And I will pray like hell that heaven comes soon.
If you're looking for places to start listening and understanding, here are books written by authors of color relevant to these crucial issues.
I highly recommend them all. Let these be a starting point.
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coats
- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
- The Myth of Equality by Ken Wytsma
- The March Trilogy by Congressman John Lewis
- The Very Good Gospel by Lisa Sharon Harper