When I watched George Floyd die, I saw something I had never seen before. I know some of my black friends get frustrated with me when I say my awareness began there. They have said to me, “Where have you been? This has been going on forever and you are just now waking up to our reality?” Embarrassingly, yes. What I saw I had never seen before and will never be able to ever un-see what I saw.
Since that time, I have devoted myself to learning about racism in our country and racism in my heart. I have asked lots of questions from people who have had much different experiences then I have had. I have read books, listened to podcasts and watched videos of prominent African American leaders. I saw a black lives protest and the anti-protest and I have prayed with community leaders for peace and understanding concerning these issues. I am honored to sit on a panel of community leaders from the black community and the white community. Through all of that, I still have more questions than I have answers. Having said that, I have discovered three truths that are guiding me moving forward.
The first truth is that I have/had more racism or bias in my own heart than I was aware of. I read a book called, “Me and white supremacy” and the author asked me some hard questions. As I journaled my answers I was surprised at some of the thoughts, beliefs and opinions that came out of my heart. I have repented of these to the Lord and I have confessed them to some of my friends. By the grace of God, I will do better and help to lead change by being the change first.
The second truth is that racism is a generalization of a whole people group. Knowing people that are ethnically different than I am on a personal basis is the only way for me to stop generalizing. I have some friends of color that want to be called “Black” and others that want to be called “African American”. I have some that want me to notice their skin color, recognize we have had different experiences and ask about their story. While other black friends do not want me to notice their color, just treat them like a fellow human. I was looking for the right way to address black people but got different answers until one of them said, “How about getting to know each of us individually and then treat us each how we want to be treated?”. Brilliant! Know each person uniquely and then treat then in the manner that most honors them. That will go a long way in dealing with racist generalizations.
Lastly, I have to do my part to end racism. I cannot be passive any longer. This is a new revelation to me. I realize that black people cannot end white-on-black racism. If they could, it would already be done. That means white people have to end white-on-black racism. There are two kinds of white folks, those that are racist and those who are not (or at least don’t want to be). White racist are not going to end racism. They have no desire to level the playing field. That means the only people that can end white-on-black racism are non-racist white people doing something.
In this season, I have done an informal experiment. I regularly ask people what they are doing to end racism. People almost always say, “I am not a racist.” They say that as an explanation for doing nothing. Somehow, not seeing ourselves as racist excuses us from doing anything to deal with injustice. I am not judging anyone who makes this statement. This was me one month ago. Since I am not a racist, I have to lend my voice, platform and influence to bring equality to all people.
I want every action I take to be done from a motivation of love. When I saw the following quote, it gave me framework for fighting for justice.
“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” – Cornel West