What we recently saw with the murder of George Floyd landed differently. Personally, I think we can attribute that to the pandemic and to this being an election year. Still, it sank deeper than usual. So, I think this time, everyone can see that there is a slightly different response from the White Community to peek into this, to turn the page to find a way to do something. To become involved.
I have never seen this many non-Black Christian people involved in Black Lives Matter protests and marches. Ever. What typically ends up happening with modern White Evangelicals is this rush to reconcile for the sake of quelling the unrest in our country, not necessarily for justice. As a result, the response by the White church can quickly become a mad dash to tune out the sound of ringing left in the ears after an emotional explosion, not always necessarily a plight for racial justice.
In my experience, this looks like the majority of White Americans in my life gathering information in order to make a judgement call on whether or not the risk of losing friends is worth it, if approaching something at a deficit is doable, or if sounding partial to “Blacks” is worth their insertion. The most comfortable thing to do is usually post a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, or a Bible verse. Some progressives may post a quote from James Baldwin and post a BLM#. Most learn something new, ask their Black friends about it, turn off the news and move on. Others say nothing at all.
I have enjoyed seeing the visuals of multi-racial and multi-ethnic protests and rallies and solidarity. It’s a beautiful thing to see, but in reality, the truth is that kind words, thoughts and prayers do not equal justice.
No one in evangelical America likes to give grief too long of a stay. Hence, on the whole, when the world stops again because racism happens on camera, the church sprints to reconciliation station.
We take the Racial Reconciliation train and ride it all the way to the end of the yellow Brick Road. Maybe somehow the Black Wizard of Oz will tell us the secret to racial reconciliation in America. He will give us the secret formula if we get more information, read these books and simultaneously usher in the prayers of reconciliation as we wait for the ride to start.
Truthfully, prayers of reconciliation during this time often land on me like this:
“Jesus please start this train of reconciliation for us, we are asking You for an abstract thing to be made plain to us without us doing any actual dismantling work or personal long-term insertion in the process. Give us Harmony without conflict, consensus without efforts through the hands of man. We want to feel unified without transparency, we want reconciliation without repentance. We want community without the burden of authenticity. Help us to be an example of the way without us having to remove anything that’s in the way. Please do the thing you left us here to do and do it quickly Lord. Amen”
Not all prayers...just sayin some do.
I might meet you at the train station, but honestly, this overwhelming interest in this movement is hard to believe that White people will stick with long-term. I’m going to tell you why I feel that is.
What happened with George Floyd is not new to Black people in America, these public murders aren’t new. These conversations aren’t new. These questions aren’t new.These feelings aren’t new to us. When it comes to Anti-Black racism, Black people have always led the fight for equity for Black people. And the truth is, in leading this charge our fight has been against White people. We have fought White people in schools, in government, in corporate, in law enforcement, in our families and in the church. Some of the same people we have been teaching, showing proof to, reasoning and discussing this very same issue with over and over and over, are now asking for more….information. They’re asking for more insight, more understanding, and for the fastest way to figure this out and calling that process reconciliation.
What we often pray for God to do during these times, is usually what God created people to do.
I don’t believe the motive is always in the wrong place, just misplaced.
White Evangelicals, the component that is really missing from these reconciliation efforts is being transparent with each other about what narrative informed your views on your race, on the race of other people and determining if it’s racist, has racism attached to it consciously or subconsciously and how it plays out in your life in regards to Black people and other people of Color.
It’s just about time for a rebuttal folks-! Let’s go to the vault and pull out an all time favorite: “Race is a man made construct” for $200 Alex!”
Not quite. Race is a man made construct. A White man constructed it. It was then systemized by other White men into a hierarchy to designate Black people as another species, a lesser form of humans positioning us at the bottom and positioning White skinned people at the top as the superior form, the apex human. Everyone else in between is graded based on their percentage of “Black DNA”, melanin index, socio-economic status and language. Let’s just say what it is. Because until you understand that racism is the first born child of White Supremacy, acknowledge the effect of this narrative and how it operates and benefits Whites, you can't move forward.
Even if you don't believe that Blacks are a different species, the entire history and origin of this country was built on White Supremacy theory, and emboldened White Supremacy action. All this was done so in the name of God. This impacted how the message of Christianity is delivered and filtered and in turn created a false narrative for how Christianity should involve itself in matters of race. This same narrative informs the response of the church so deeply, that a response in solidarity with Black people in regards to racial injustice-such as “Black Lives Matter”- feels Anti-Christian for some Whites AND some Blacks and People of Color. Let that sink in please.
The narratives, the stories we were all taught in this country have shaped both the church’s apathy and the church’s reconciliation response.
So, maybe before you jump on the reconciliation train, ask yourself what narratives you are taking with you.
Here are some things you can pack in your bag:
There is no reconciliation without repentance. It’s literally what the entire gospel is. Maybe your ancestors were slaveholders, maybe your parents are racist, maybe you have no direct line to that at all, but check your narratives about Black people and discern what needs to be walked away from.
Reconciliation is not assimilation. I don’t ever want to be reconciled to anything partial to its old identity about my Blackness. That’s not reconciliation, that is forced assimilation (which is what colorblindness is, but I digress). Our First Nation Indigenous brothers and sisters can tell you first hand how forced assimilation failed them in this country. Quite honestly, if your response to this is constant rebuttal, don't get on the train. You need to really dig into step one.
Rebuilding- There are things that cannot be repaired because the foundation is damaged. There are some things that you just have to dismantle and tear down and rebuild from a new foundation. Jesus exemplified that, and that’s all I’ll say on that.
Reparations are a part of Rebuilding. They are and that’s Bible. All those Old Testament battles and “looting” were forms of reparations and some of them were ugly. The Exodus and the Battle of Jericho are examples to name a few. Reparation in the church brings Black voices and bodies to the decision making table, plants them there and follows their lead. Don’t tokenize us or use us to speak for the Black race on everything, just to gain more information. Also, where your heart is, your resources follow. We all know that verse.
In short, hold up a narrative mirror to yourself when you get on this reconciliation train. Some will get off on the #trending stop. Some will get off on the “let’s all just get along stop”, some won’t even get on. The ones who are crazy enough to push the human race forward by holding up that mirror, by speaking out against racism, by not accepting anything less than going all the way will be the ones who get to sit on the other side of this knowing that in all of this they pushed. Because the truth is, there is no full stop. This train ride is life-long. Ask your Black friends.
Do Black lives matter when they move into “your” neighborhood? When their sexual identity is not heterosexual and they are ostracized in your youth group? Will they matter in your own inner cities now, or only after your mission trips to Haiti and Africa? When they introduce themselves as your patient...or your doctor? Will they matter when they want to date your children or play with your grandchildren? When they raise their hand to answer a question in your class? When they tell you to put a leash on your dog? When they gather in large groups next to you at the public park? When they shop in your store or walk onto your car lot, bank, model home waiting for you to see them and ask how you can help them?
Or is this all a new trend for you?
What will your narrative be when the hype for reconciliation dies down? Because it will die down, and then the information won’t matter. When you hear Black people say "do the work" we are not telling you to arbitrarily gather information just to have information.
See it was never about the information. The information has been here.Black people are tired of giving out more information just so that you can have information.
We want you to see what we know, because it’s always been about transformation.
Transformation is the end goal.
So handle this with care. I think this may be our last chance.
Questions for group discussion:
What narratives have you formed about Blackness?
Where did that thought pattern come from?
How does that inform your response to racism?
Does it need to be torn down?
Where can you repent, reconcile, rebuild and give reparation?