What a week! What a year, honestly.
Do you find yourself on board with the idea of anti-racism, but unsure of how to take your first steps? Does it all just seem too big?
First, I want to just say thank you for being willing to approach this. There is a lot of negativity out there, and while I understand the frustration many people who have been doing this work for a long time are feeling, I want to encourage you to keep pressing into this long after this season of unrest settles. The work of becoming anti-racist is not about winning an argument on the Internet. It's deep, long, hard, internal work that forces us to evaluate some of our most ingrained beliefs and sins, both individually and collectively.
I D E A S
I really don't want to claim to be an expert on racial justice, but I've been on this journey for a little while and would love to share some ideas with anyone who is searching for them.
1. Christians, don't use the Gospel as an excuse to refrain from taking action. Racism is certainly a sin problem. This is absolutely a Gospel issue. But the Gospel should lead us to action. Prayer changes our hearts. If we pray about this, we should be convicted of the ways in which we are racist, and we should ask God what He wants us to do about it. I've got a sneaking suspicion that when people say "Only the Gospel will fix this," they mean "Those Black people need to find Jesus so they can get it together." We better REPENT and ask the Holy Spirit to pull out that log in our eye! I wonder how fast the Gospel would spread through this nation if the Church stood up and made this a priority.
2. Learn. Read books. Watch documentaries. Read articles. Follow educators. This document is full of great suggestions. I'm still working through this list myself... just started listening to "How to be Anti-Racist" today and "White Fragility" is next. Even if you find yourself skeptical, check out one of the books on the list and see if it doesn't give you something to think about! Familiarize yourself with terms like white privilege, white guilt and systemic racism. Be the Bridge is THE BEST place to start!
2. Be mindful of the Black people in your life right now. A friend told me she wasn't sure if she should reach out to her Black friends to check in on them during this time. I've seen many people say different things online, and it seems to be different for everyone. Which makes sense because every person has different preferences. 😉
A good rule of thumb: if you aren't in normal relationship/regular conversation with that person, they probably aren't looking for you to ask them how they're holding up. Can you imagine being a Black person in a mostly White space and receiving dozens of texts a day about something deeply upsetting that you feel you have to respond to? Pray for them, comment on/share their posts on social media, send an encouraging note that doesn't require a response or make a donation to an organization they've shared... but don't ask them to educate you, confess things to them or ask them to share their feelings with you. That's a lot of emotional work when it happens over and over! Check out this video from Preston and Jackie Hill Perry (very respected leaders in the evangelical/Southern Baptist world) if you want to know more about the Black experience. Listen to Black people about what their lives are like.
3. Let's talk about politics. I think a lot of the hesitancy to jump into this work comes from how politicized racial justice has always been, but I truly believe this could be one of those political issues that becomes bipartisan. Don't allow divisive party politics to impede progress here. Forget that! We don't need conservatives to become liberal to address racial justice. We need everyone to be unafraid to make racial justice something they write to their representatives about. We need everyone to have an open mind and a passion for equality in policy. We also need WAY more involvement on the local level. Sure, the President sets the tone and some initiatives for racial justice, but the real impact is made through District Attorneys, Sheriffs, Judges, Mayors, City Councils, etc. There are plenty of local politicians who have a (D) next to their name who are contributing to the problem. Ask questions. Research. Write letters. This does not have to be polarized if everyone gets on board!
Someone asked me about the whole "Defund the Police" movement, and I don't feel qualified to speak on that. I have not decided what I think about it yet. I like the idea of community-based police departments and funneling extra funds to more community services that would lighten the load the police currently carry, but obviously this needs lots of discussion. After a bit of reading on the subject, I would NOT be fearful that "defunding police" would mean cities would no longer have police of any kind. That movement is extremely social media driven and they needed a short slogan. It seems the slogan doesn't actually describe what many are proposing.
4. Be wise with where you get your news. It annoys me when everyone jumps on "the media" (what does that even mean?), but seriously, not all news sources are equal. I do not watch local news and haven't for years. It is often shoddy journalism and is super sensationalized. If you're into local news, newspapers do a much better job. There are also online-only community news sites that generally do great work. For national news, we don't watch any 24-hour networks. We listen to NPR and read articles online from newspapers like The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, etc. Race issues are complex and require thorough reporting. We watched the CBS Special "Justice for All" and it was VERY well done. If you can find it online, watch it.
5. If you're in a position of power, look around. Are there people of color around you? Are you aware of your bias when hiring? Honestly ask yourself, would you choose Lucy or Tomeka for an interview? Why? If you are in church leadership over people of color, are there any nonwhite people leading on your Elder board? Trustee board? Executive staff?
6. Talk to your kids. I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Julia has a Black baby doll, and I pointed out that she had "beautiful brown skin" the other day and that her skin was different than Julia's skin. A few days later, Julia called her baby doll "Georgia," the name of our dear friends Brian and Kelsey's daughter. Brian is Black and Kelsey is White. Georgia is one of Julia's favorite friends, but we haven't seen her in a while because of the pandemic. I was floored that she made the connection that her baby with beautiful brown skin looked like her friend Georgia, who also has beautiful brown skin. Even as young as 2, our kids are noticing differences in skin color. What are we teaching them? What conversations about race are we having around our kids? What kinds of jokes are we telling or allowing to be told around our children?
This is the best and most straightforward article I've found on the topic.
I also stumbled upon this organization called Integrated Schools that helps privileged families navigate decisions about where to send their kids to school. "Integrated Schools is growing a grassroots movement of, by and for parents who are intentionally, joyfully and humbly enrolling their children in integrating schools."
7. Widen your circle. If you don't know any Black people, consider why that might be. I want to share a personal story with you that might shed some light on why I'm so passionate about this. I hope it encourages you to branch out.
Some memories surfaced this week that I somehow hadn't processed in the context of what's happening right now. I have been so triggered by Facebook posts talking about how horrible Black neighborhoods are, how no one cares when a Black person kills another Black person, how these people and communities need to just make better choices. I have done a little research about Candace Owens and y'all... please just research her before you believe her words over those of literal millions of other Black people. I've also been thinking a lot about how a lot of White people are TERRIFIED to even drive through Black neighborhoods because they truly believe they are going to be attacked. I realized today why I have been so grieved by all these assertions.
Because they aren't true.
In 2016, we became foster parents to two little Black girls. Our initial contact with them was providing respite care for a weekend so their foster mother, an older Black woman who lived in one of the most "scary" Black neighborhoods in Mobile.
The girls, being young kids who had a blast for a weekend with a couple of idealistic 20-somethings who had never parented before, begged and pleaded anyone who would listen to allow them to move to our house. The agency approached us and asked if we would consider it—the woman who had cared for them was experiencing some health issues. We said yes, thinking we were rushing in to save these girls from their bad neighborhood and what we suspected was a sketchy situation with this foster parent. They lived with us for seven months before moving to be with family.
We saw ourselves as saviors. At least I did. I wondered wHaT wAs gOiNG oN in tHAt HouSe?! and what they were experiencing at their school. I dreamed about all the opportunities we could give them and just knew we were better equipped to care for them. I never would have said this at the time, but I subconsciously believed we could care for these Black children better than the Black community. That, my friends, is racist behavior.
Let me tell you something.
We were wrong.
We were wrong.
We were wrong.
We became so reliant on the selfless, sacrificial help we received from the Black community.
🖤 That foster parent we thought we were so much better than? She invited us to her home for Thanksgiving dinner. We were welcomed by a huge Black family and ate the best Thanksgiving food ever. She babysat the girls for us. She is still my friend on Facebook and leaves precious comments on photos of my children. I've watched how she loves her children and grandchildren, and I know she loved those girls well. She volunteered at a local school every day. I went to her home in that neighborhood dozens of times and never felt unsafe.
🖤 I frantically asked one of my good friends who is Black if she knew anyone who could do hair one Sunday morning before church. Her mother-in-law invited me into her home and did our six-year-old's hair, no questions asked. She did not ask for compensation. I should have paid her, and I didn't even think about it.
🖤 Teachers. I could go on about the Black teachers who bent over backward to help me and the kids. They tutored. They offered to help with hair. They loved those kids extra hard. One teacher emailed me months after the girls left to check on them. She told me she prays for our family.
🖤 I went on several field trips with each of the kids and watched teachers love them, keep them safe and educate them so well. I was always the only white person in the room, on the bus, at the school. I was NEVER treated poorly. One field trip that sticks out in particular was the 4th grade trip to Montgomery. I rode separately for some reason and listened to "Between the World and Me" By Ta-Nehisi Coates on the way there. The book goes into detail about Black history and what it's like to be Black in America. I was very excited to learn more about Black history on the trip. In reality, the tour guide focused on the WHITE history of Alabama. We stopped by the First White House of the Confederacy, learned about a bunch of white Governors and barely paused to talk about MLK. It was an absolute travesty. The teachers did their best to fill in the gaps, and we were able to meet up with a bunch of Black state senators and representatives from our area for a few minutes before the tour guide said it was time to go, which was so touching.
🖤 The Black mothers of our kids' friends were so wonderful to me. They allowed their children to come to my house. They gave me advice. They loved the girls.
🖤 Black social workers tirelessly worked and advocated for the children in their care and were patient with me as I asked questions.
🖤 I also spent years working in poor White and Black areas through a ministry that ran donation-only cafes out of churches, and while I certainly saw some heartbreaking things, I was never once threatened or harmed.
🖤 We were part of a multi-race, multi-class church. It was so hard and so beautiful all at once. Around every corner throughout these experiences, I expected to encounter danger, but instead, I just found humanity in all of its messiness. In all of its beauty. Humanity. That's what you'll find in these communities.
🖤 Then, we moved to Atlanta. I see so much vibrance in the Black community here, and I haven't even really gotten out much. You also have to know that an amazing Black midwife delivered my child. I am forever grateful for her.
Y'all, I'm so ANGRY on behalf of these communities who are slandered by people who have never spent time there. I'm angry that people make assumptions about individuals because of their skin color and culture. I'm angry the world misses out on the giftedness of so many people because those people are not given equal opportunities.
When we imagine Black neighborhoods to be these crime dens full of horrible people, it's no wonder we just don't really care when a Black person is killed by police for doing nothing wrong. It's no wonder we don't care if their schools aren't funded or they don't have access to fresh produce. In the back of our minds, we think, "Well, he must have done something." In the back of our minds we assume, "They're just lazy." When we equate White culture and our preferences with what it looks like to be an upstanding citizen, we make assumptions about people's character based on the conversations we heard growing up, horribly reported local news stories, the clothing people wear, the music they listen to and what their yards look like.
When our schools, churches, friend circles and neighborhoods are homogenous, it's TOO easy for our dualistic minds to either develop fear of people who are different and/or apathy for their struggles. That's why it's important to widen your circle. How do you do that? I'm not sure what that looks like in your area. But it starts with the desire and intentionality to do it!
Next week, we'll resume regular Hump Day Happy content. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or objections to this content. As passionate about this issue as I am, I am just as passionate about civil, compassionate discussion among friends and family. Love is unconditional. Blessings, friends. ❤️ 🧡 💛 💚 💙 💜 🖤