Black Lives Matter.
It’s a movement that started a couple years ago. People have all kinds of opinions and reactions to it, especially in light of recent events.
I’ve been having my fair share of conversations. Trying to figure out how to navigate it all as a white female who has no idea what it’s like to be a black person in America. A white female who has the luxury of turning off social media and the news and thus, turning off the issue.
The idea of racism is the central topic in these conversations and something like this is usually said:
I just don’t come across it.
As a white female, I don’t run up against prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone because of their race.
But here’s the thing.
Unless that prejudice, discrimination, antagonism is loud and visible, why would I run up against it?
So many of us hear “racism” and we picture the curmudgeonly great uncle who uses derogatory words for certain people groups, or those white supremacists with swastikas tattooed on their arms.
But that’s not the full scope of the word. It’s not even close.
Racism isn’t just about name-calling or overt discrimination.
It’s about a value system.
And as a whole, society doesn’t place the same value on black lives as it does white ones.
Case in point:
The statistic that’s being thrown around like its own version of a firearm, almost always (at least that I can see) by white people taking offense to #blacklivesmatter, as if the hashtag is accusing a particular person of being racist.
I don’t even know if this statistic is true.
Whether it’s true isn’t even the point.
The point is that this statistic is used sanctimoniously, as if to say, “I rest my case.” As if this should be the big mic drop moment wherein “the other side” is silenced and discredited and made out to be wrong and foolish.
See, this statistic says. Nobody’s racist.
And yet, this, right here, along with the casualty with which its posted is highly problematic.
That statistic shouldn’t make anybody feel sanctimonious.
That statistic and the casualness with which its posted is one of the reasons why the #blacklivesmatter movement exists.
People are posting these statistics as if those lives don’t matter.
Can we be real for a minute?
If a white man drove up into a predominantly white neighborhood and opened fire, it would be all over the news.
When this happens in poor, predominantly black neighborhoods, nobody says boo. It’s not newsworthy. Because, you know. “Thugs will be thugs.” (Don’t even get me started on that word … )
With this mentality, how can we argue that black lives matter as much as white lives?
Something is broken.
Something is wrong.
Something isn’t right.
That statistic shouldn’t be used to silence the black community. That statistic should cause anybody who holds life in high regard to lock arms with the black community. It should give anybody who holds life in high regard a thirst to understand.
What is going on? Why is this happening?
If we truly believe that skin color is nothing more than melanin level, and we truly believe every person is intrinsically valued because of Imago Dei, then WHY doesn’t that statistic move us to action?
Some of you might be thinking, what action? What can I possibly do as a white person who is largely unaffected by all of this? It’s a question I’m wrestling with. A question I’ve heard many of my friends wrestling with, too. Here’s where I’ve landed so far:
- Listen and listen carefully. Not to other white people. Listen to our fellow black image bearers who understand in a way a white person never will. Check your Twitter and Facebook feeds. I highly respect Trip Lee. Follow him and see who he’s retweeting. You’ll find some really compelling, Christ-centered voices who are part of the black community.
- Say something. Not an opinion. Lord knows we have too many of those flying around the social media sphere. Now’s not the time to add to that particular noise. Now is the time to lock arms and speak love. It can be as simple as, “I’m listening. And I’m standing with you.”
- Educate yourself. Ask questions. Listen some more. If you’re a white person like me, there is only so much you will ever understand. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do our best to learn. Have a respectful conversation. Read a book or a blog. There are a lot of good, eye-opening ones out there. Right now I’m reading The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Here’s an incredible list of podcasts, blogs, books all for white people wanting to educate themselves on race issues.
- Speak truth. When a family member, friend, or acquaintance says something that sounds/feels wrong–when their words or attitude devalue life, any life–push back. Point it out. Respectfully and in love.
- Pray. For healing. For justice. For restoration. For love to win.
I think this is a good place to start.
* Please know, I’m nervous about this post. I’m nervous about stepping into these waters, because there’s so much I don’t know and don’t understand. I feel a little bit like someone with no kids trying to talk on parenting. If you have beautiful brown skin like my daughter, please chime in. If I’ve said something that doesn’t sit right, please chime in. I want to understand better.