The following is written by Andrea Whyte. Andrea is a member of Seven Mile Road Church.
In Martin Luther King’s last Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) political address entitled “Where Do We Go from Here?” he says we must first acknowledge where we are now. It’s in light of the murder of George Floyd, an image bearer of God, a tragedy unfortunately among many other tragedies which people of color (POC) have had to face, that I reflect. In this article, there are three things I want to address. First, I want to share where I am personally, secondly, I want to encourage you (my church family) to examine where you are, and finally I will share resources and ideas which will hopefully help contribute to the fight against racial injustice. Also, though I am a POC, like George, I am by no means an expert or leader in addressing this issue. However, I want to try, and hope that you will join me, in making an intentional effort to contribute to extinguishing the blaze of racial injustice.
The last two weeks have been filled with a cycle of emotions for me. Feelings of sadness, intense anger (shall I say rage?), despair, devastation, and lastly exhaustion. Then comes just numbness. I had moments where I felt emotionally stable then I would unravel some more. My children are all the while catching wind of this cycle from time to time and asking “Mommy, what’s wrong, what happened?” Then comes guilt, I should be stronger and more composed. They should not have to see me like this, I think to myself.
“What is going on in our country?” I wondered silently. “They don’t care about us!!!” I yelled one afternoon in a gut-wrenching outburst. I have never felt such anger over racial injustice IN MY LIFE. The images of George, the horrific way in which his life was taken from him, the look on the officer’s face, the onlooking crowd coupled with the astounding realization that this immense evil was blatantly done in broad daylight and recorded. There are so many layers here. When I first saw it, it left me speechless. The day after watching the video a second wave of horror hit. The thought came – YOU ARE NOT IMMUNE. There is an unspoken message relayed to the black community along with these horrendous acts. A message that I have refused to absorb personally over the years, but other POC have heard and acted out against over the centuries. However, it’s the first time it hit me with such intensity – This is what can happen TO YOU, TO YOUR FAMILY. No one is going to come to help. Nothing has changed!!! You are still considered to be worthless in this society.
For one moment, it seemed that all the progress made in the black community was wiped away. No amount of education, wealth, character, physical strength, talent, allies, protests that has been shown or attained in the black community could shield from this evil. I looked at my husband, my children and wept. The normalcy of my days became a distant memory. I didn’t know how to function. There was this feeling of doom – my family and I are not safe. Feelings of uncertainty and angst would arise with each sound of cop sirens by day and the blasts of ATMs being bombed at night. I started reaching out to family and friends to see how they were doing. I was distraught. I wanted to see how they were processing all of this and asking how could I process it. It seemed so overwhelming.
These feelings and thoughts ebbed and flowed along with glimmers of hope. A passion to know the experiences of my ancestors emerged in the midst of all of this. How did they overcome? So I reached out to my paternal uncle who has traced our family history all the way back to slavery to talk more. I wanted to know the stories, the specific racial injustices my uncles, brothers and cousins have experienced. I want to learn and relearn with a new lens. This is a desire that has never been awakened in me before.
Another pulse of light came from my church family. There were text, Facebook, Whatsapp messages along with emails and Marco Polo videos that started showing up on my phone from the pastors and various church family members. I am reminded I am not alone. There are people who do care. Most importantly of all Christ cares and loves my family and I. This is the depth of God’s love as HE came down to earth, HE faced injustices Himself, HE died, HE triumphed over sin, death and the grave. The Word of God says, nothing can separate me from this great love (Romans 8:38-39). My life is in His hands. I always have a reason to hope because of Christ. Society sends its message and from the black community you hear the resounding reply – – BLACK LIVES MATTER! I reaffirm what I know. I will not succumb to believing that because of the color of my skin I’m worthless. It’s not because I’m ignorant or can’t see color, or have such high self esteem. It’s because I know the One who made me and who is altogether worthy. I am made in His image – the image of GOD. I know the truth.
Our society has distorted the truth of worth when it comes to color. Colors are God’s design. He saw fit to use the contrast of colors to display His GLORY. I see it as a mark of His creative genius and the splendor and breadth of His love. We are all God’s image bearers. I never really pondered this truth before. Now it’s on my mind a lot. May God help me to never forget.
The news reports keep coming, there’s peaceful protests yet chaotic rioting, informative and thoughtful podcasts around racial injustice yet still some who don’t understand or see the problem. It is obvious we need a Savior and thankfully He has come. I heard a preacher say the Good News is so good because the bad news is so bad. I still go up and down emotionally. I’m encouraged by the support but wonder how far will people go to fight this evil. I wonder how far will I go? I know I want to make an ongoing concerted effort to contribute to the fight against racial injustice. I can no longer be silent. This is where I am.
So where are you church family?
How are you processing all of this? I have heard from some, echoes of sadness, grief, pain, rage, guilt, helplessness and powerlessness. You sense a call to action, but are not sure what to do. I agree there is a call to action but I also want to urge for deep personal reflection coupled with accountability. This caution is given because if you are giving your “limbs” and if at no point examine and engage your heart, our efforts against racial injustice won’t last. We must address our mindset along the way and have honest dialogue with one another if we are going to make sustainable progress as a body. How do you really feel about POC, racial injustice and what you can contribute to the fight?
We need to continue to talk about it. Dialogue helps create a safe space for honesty and loving accountability to take place. It’s needed because the tricky thing with personal reflection and an inner thought life left unchecked is that you can deceive yourself. It’s in a multitude of counsel there is safety and plans can be accomplished. (Proverbs 11:14; 15:22). So let’s speak. The Word says out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). So once we examine, listen well and speak we will see more clearly what’s in our hearts regarding these issues. We need to speak the truth in love. Love comforts and confronts. We need a safe place where love can flourish in both ways.
I’m going to help out a bit with some pointers that are helpful to keep in mind for dialogue and a few statements that are not helpful to say. Unfortunately, in this article I cannot explain why these statements are helpful or unhelpful otherwise it would be 2x longer. However, if you want to learn more I’ve listed a few articles in the resources section that explain why certain statements are helpful, not helpful and/or offensive.
Unhelpful things to say to POC:
- All lives matter – not just black people
- I understand, I have black friends
- I don’t see color
Helpful pointers in dialogue:
- Listen well
- Be patient
- Don’t conclude you know what a POC is thinking or feeling – ask questions to verify
- Consider the motivation behind and the helpfulness of your thought before you speak
- Endeavor to understand before seeking to be understood
- Be graciously honest
As you self reflect on where you stand, here are a few questions to aid in bringing the discussion closer to home as a church family. Have you ever felt afraid or intentionally avoided interacting with a black brother or family in our congregation? Have you shared pleasantries with POC but could not wait for it to be over because it felt uncomfortable for you? Are you extremely nice, almost walking on eggshells, when talking with a POC (even on non-racial matters) because there is some fear they will unleash some undue anger on you? Are you already tired of the race talk? Do you think society is unnecessarily catering to POC? Where are you?
Lastly, do you think it is really possible for you to make a difference in the fight against racial injustice? I think one of the biggest detriments in this endeavor is for those with power and privilege thinking that they have none. Or those who could help believing that they have nothing to contribute or distribute. If you come into this with a defeated mindset everything you read, watch and listen to will feel overwhelming and you would just reinforce the false view that we can’t bring about change and this is too big an issue to tackle.
Where do we go from here?
As stated earlier I am no expert. One thing I do know is we need Christ. The gospel should transform and inform us. He is the perfect example and it is because of Him we have reason to engage. Rev. Tim Keller, in an event with Bryan Stevenson discussing Grace, Justice and Mercy, addresses Christians, in particular, to say we have resources in our faith and a responsibility to address social justice. He goes so far as to say that you don’t have a vital relationship with God if you have no concern for the poor, marginalized and their justice. Your faith is not real, your faith in Jesus has not “hit your heart”, he says. (If you troubled by or unsure about those statements, I encourage you to listen to the whole discussion)
We need more who are transformed by the gospel to intentionally engage. Not only can the church fight against this injustice but we have the resources to rebuild. We can be the brightest witness by our love, respect and concern for one another. We need the Word of God to lead us. Jesus is the light of the world and His word guides us in which way to go (John 8:12; Psalm 119:105). The darkness of racial injustice will otherwise consume us. Like Peter, when he was walking on the water then took his eyes off Christ, we will sink in fear of what we are experiencing (Matthew 14:22-33). Let us trust Christ and not shrink back in fear.
The church has posted some resources and I have listed some here in this article too. Some of you have already bought books on racism, listened to podcasts, read articles, attended a protest, written to legislators, organized panel discussions, dialogued with POC and decided to have the “race talk” with your kids. THANK YOU!!! We have begun to go. I know we have done things in previous years too. So, better stated, let’s continue to move forward. Let’s share what we are learning and process together. Let’s keep the hope of Christ in view.
In conclusion, thank you for hearing my story, listening to my suggestions, and getting involved. Strive to examine your heart, listen well and then speak up. We can make a difference working together. As the body of Christ we can accomplish much. Some may be more passionate to protest, others to read and research, others to address or advocate for change in legislation, others to coordinate group dialogues and publicly speak and others to build a relationship with a family of color in their neighborhood. All of it counts. The only other step I would suggest is partnering with an organization involved in fighting racial injustice. May we come together, earnestly praying to our heavenly Father and pleading with our fellow image bearers in power for change.
Where are we? Forever changed.
- Be the Bridge
An organization seeking to help in “authentic bridge-building”, racial literacy and inspiring the church in how to respond to racial division.
- Jesus Is Not Colorblind
It explains the implications behind this idea that one does not see color.
- Lecrae Slams ‘All Lives Matter,’ Claims Black Lives Don’t Matter in America
Please don’t be deterred by the word “slams” in the title. This is simply explaining why this phrase, All Lives Matter is unhelpful/offensive in light of fighting racial injustice in our country. Hopefully, it will be helpful for you.
- The ‘Some of My Best Friends Are Black’ Defense
- Seven Ways You Can Join the Fight Against Racism
Nana Dolce responds to blogger Colleen Mitchell’s post entitled, “10 Reasons I Don’t Want To Be Your White Ally”. In it I think she gives helpful advice regarding does well to describe helpful pointers to consider as you dialogue regarding race with others.
- Grace, Justice and Mercy: A Evening with Bryan Stevenson and Rev. Tim Keller
Discussion on how Christians are called to social justice and practical ways we can get involved in bringing about change.
- Bryan Stevenson: There’s a Direct Line From Lynching to George Floyd | Amanpour and Company
Bryan Stevenson addressing the causes of and solutions to racial injustice in America.
- How Do I Talk to my Kids About Ethnicity
- 31 Children’s books to support conversations on race, racism and resistance
- Martin Luther King’s Address delivered at the Eleventh Annual Southern Christian Leadership Convention.