I typically avoid politics and related discussion, mostly because I big fat don’t care and I have no apologies for that. Relationships with people are more important to me than being right about something. I do not enjoy a spirited debate, in Facebook or real life. I research around election time, make my decisions, cast my vote (love rocking that 19th amendment, baby!) and I live my life the way I believe things should be lived. Voting is important, but the older I get the more I really believe the way that we live our lives daily is way more important than how we vote, where we identify politically or what we post to Facebook. Shocker, right? The way we speak to people, the way we treat strangers we meet at the grocery store, and the things we say in our heads about people when we see them are way more important. Those things start the shift. Simple words and thoughts are what start the movement.
So, me and diversity, in short(ish):
I grew up in Durham, I went to preschool through my senior year of high school with people that looked different from me and I never noticed. It was normal. It was so normal that it was a non-issue for me. Whenever people talked about racism I was sincerely puzzled, thinking it was a thing of the 1950s segregated days that we grew up learning about each February. I always had friends that were not white. It was not until I started college at a private women’s school in Raleigh that I noticed the absence of women of color. It was weird. I remember my freshman year finally making friends with a black girl and thinking how strange it was that I actually had to look for a friend that was different than me. Over time though, I became closer friends with the girls that lived near me or that were in classes with me and maintaining a racially diverse friend group became less of a priority. Before I knew it, I was graduated and working at a high school in rural North Carolina that literally had one black staff member that was not part of the custodial staff, and she was a teacher’s assistant. It was beyond bizarre to me. My second job literally had ZERO staff members at my campus that were not white until halfway through my second year. It was like living in a parallel universe. Both public schools, one in the country, one in the city, in 2010 and beyond– nearly completely white.
Once I started working at home and was knee deep in diapers, I really didn’t have any friends that weren’t middle class white moms. In June of 2015 when the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston happened, my world was rocked. It was so sad. It was so hard to believe that now, so far removed from the civil rights movement, that crap like that was still happening. Kind of the same way that it’s hard for me to believe that people still smoke (helloooo didn’t you see that video in middle school health class that talked through the hole in her throat?) it’s hard for me to really believe that people truly think that they are superior to others just because their skin is white. It blows my mind that that kind of ignorance still exists and that it is a motivator for violence for people. Insane. It’s even more insane to me that a lot of these people associate themselves with my same Jesus. Completely insane.
As a middle class white lady teetering on the edge of my twenties, I don’t know what it’s like to be black. I don’t know what it’s like to be hispanic. I don’t know what it’s like to be anything than a white woman. I’ve had a few “out of my comfort zone” trips where I was a student in foreign country, but both times I was able to easily blend in with my European features (it wasn’t until I started speaking Spanish that people would get annoyed with my American-ness) but other than some sexist comments here or there, or people assuming that I’m racist because I’m white in various work or school situations I’ve not dealt with systematic discrimination or racism in my day to day life. I can really, truly only imagine what that is like. I can’t apologize for being white, much in the same way I can’t apologize for being American or a woman, or a Scorpio– it was one hundred percent out of my control. It just happened.
This sermon rocked me (Link: It’s In Your Hands, Pastor Steven Furtick at Elevation Church June 21, 2015). I was a new mama, working at home, holding my brand new baby imagining what it would be like if we were black in today’s society and it broke my heart. This message was before we were going to Elevation Church, we started going there about a month later, actually. After listening to it, creating opportunities for our son to meet, grow, learn and live with people different from us became a top priority. A lot of our neighbors were black and we didn’t know their names. Most of our church family/our entire small group at the the time was white, and that needed to change for us. I literally could not name a single black person that I had spoken to more than once since Lincoln had been born or whose name I knew (other than friends from school on social media). That was 100% not okay for me. And so, we began looking for a new church. Not that our old church was bad in any way, or racist in any way, in fact they were 100% committed to missions and were very active in the discussion on diversity in the church. But for us, it was time for more than a discussion– it was time for action. Our baby was growing up and would soon be watching us. It was time for a change. And as ridiculous as it sounds to say out loud, it was time to be friends with some black people.
This is just one area where we felt we needed to change. I’m not saying we’re awesome for doing it. I’m not saying you’re racist because you’re not doing it. But I think it’s worth examining your level of comfort in your current church situation. Are you choosing your level of comfort over the level of impact your family could have? Examine your life as your kids would see it. What conclusions would they come to about black people by the way you live your life in front of them? Are they normal people just like you? Or are they just people you see and pass in the grocery store? Do they see and interact with kids that are different from them on a regular basis? Do you seek out parks to play in “white” neighborhoods? What stereotypes have you accepted as the norm from your parents or your spouse or your culture? QUESTION THEM. Where do these stereotypes come from? Hate? Misunderstanding? Do they come from God? Are they biblical?
What is an area you can change in? It’s in your hands. Racism can end with our generation, it’s just up to us. I think even sometimes we get so fixated on sending and missions we neglect the implications of the great commission here: go and make disciples doesn’t necessarily mean move to China and convert all the people. What if it could mean, meet people here, be in relationships with them, grow with them in the Lord. Do black people live in your neighborhood? Cool, meet them. If they don’t, maybe you need to try a little harder to diversify your circle. Ever drive out of your way to go to Target or Starbucks? Same concept. If it’s worth it to you, you’ll make it happen. You have to make it worth it.
So, hey, Christians: Look at your life. Before you post on Facebook about whatever whatever whatever political whatever, look at your life. Are you living out what you believe or what you say you believe? When you post on Instagram #blacklivesmatter, are you living that? Are you teaching your kids with your relationships and your friends and your interactions with strangers in front of them that black lives matter? How can you live your daily life, outside of your “statement” on social media, that black lives truly matter? Or are you just being trendy and hashtagging and reposting and living your comfortable white life? How can you demonstrate love for your brothers and sisters in a real way?
And hey, Christians: is America the source from which your freedom comes or is it Jesus? Was it founding fathers that died on the cross for you or was it Jesus? Yeah. We have freedoms here that we wouldn’t have in other places in the world, but what is more important? Your freedom to offend people with your speech or the freedom and grace given to you by Jesus that you should be extending to others? It’s okay, and GREAT to be thankful and appreciative that we have the freedom and rights that we do but under no circumstances does our freedom of speech become an excuse to intentionally offend, hurt, or belittle others. That is not the message of Jesus in any way shape or form.
And hey, Christians. People can be so involved on social media that they feel like calling out those that are “silent”. Maybe those people aren’t silent because they are complicit to the racism and atrocious acts happening. Maybe they are “silent” on social media because they aren’t on their phones or their computers living their lives. Maybe they are out living and loving.
The cure isn’t a hashtag, or another Facebook post “discussion” or a viral graphic or video to be liked and shared. The cure is living it. Examine your life, make a change, live it up. (And also, watch this sermon even if sermons aren’t your thing– it will challenge your perspective on many things).