He was the first black teacher I had ever had–the first the seminary had ever hired. In his class, we read about various groups of people often misunderstood– and tried to formulate a Christian response to their experiences.
The Black Experience?
I read first all the material on the black experience. I didn’t get it. Anger jumped off the pages, and I couldn’t understand why. What made these people so angry? Why couldn’t they address their own issues? Why could they not address them in a kind, thoughtful, appropriate way?
The way I would address them. The way a white, middle class, mother of two felt things should be done.
The Experience of Women
Then we began the section on women. I read of abuse, rape, assault, and oppression. Lack of job opportunities and lack of respect. And I got angry, Real, real angry. I knew sexual abuse. I knew cat calling and male “ownership,” demeaning social expectations, and even Christian pressure to shove myself into a mold I didn’t fit. I knew all this personally, not statistically.
I knew the fear of going out too early or staying out too late simply because of my gender. I knew the worry about looking in my back seat and carrying my keys to hurt an assailant. I knew about women who were blamed for their own assault because of what they were wearing–I knew some of them personally. I knew these things, and I knew men did not have any idea of them.
I did not feel kind or thoughtful about it all. I felt angry. Angry that I had to live with the background noise of fear because I was born a woman, and no other reason.
And then, as God does, He lit the 500 watt lightbulb above my head that I had completely missed. Was this the way those black men and women felt? That was my first moment of grasping the tiniest bit of what my sisters and brothers of color feel. I will never forget it.
I have not watched the video. You know the one I mean. The one where a black man, on a jog, is murdered by vigilante men who still believe, apparently, that they live in the wild west and they are required to enforce laws themselves, with shotguns, or we will all devolve into some lawless dystopia.
Side Note: We live in one of the safest countries in the world. We have precious little need to be the good guy with the gun. Statistically speaking, the odds of a robbery in your home are approximately twice as likely as getting struck by lightning in your lifetime. “So proportionally speaking, you should prepare for a home invasion twice as much as you prepare for being hit by lightning.”
Further, more than half of all armed robberies are drug related. So, steer clear of doing or dealing drugs, and your lifetime need for concern is miniscule. Good news, right?
But Ahmaud Arbery wasn’t breaking into anyone’s home. He was running. He was guilty of running while black. And that earned him the death penalty.
Happy Mother’s Day
Today, as I write this, his mama is having to live through Mother’s Day without her child. This is not a thing we would ever, ever wish on anyone. Yet this is both the common nightmare and experience of black mamas around our country.
I know some of them. I also know a number of white mamas with black sons. They know this fear in ways that we can never know. Ways that I can understand, because I’m the mother of three daughters. I have taught them from an early age that this world is not safe for them, either. It makes me angry that I have to do so. No one has ever had to explain to a white son that this world is not made for or safe for them. So I do understand these mamas fear and anger.
No one has ever had to explain to a straight, white son that this world is not made for or safe for them.
The deep need for a certain segment of men in this country to play vigilante self-appointed sheriff, living out their fantasy of chasing down the bad guys and making the collar, a mixture of all the John Wayne and Die Hard movies and cop shows they’ve digested, collides with something even more insidious to create the state we find ourselves in.
The belief, still, among some of those men that black bodies are theirs to do with what they like. The need to fly giant confederate flags is a symptom of this deeply embedded national sickness—some white men believe they should still have the right to be the masters over black men. They have not let this go. This is uncomfortable truth.
White Women–Listen Up, Please
White women, I’m going to talk to you. You are a large portion of my audience. And you are powerful. Demographically, you are said to be one of the most potentially strong groups to swing elections. Here is what I need to say to you.
- It should not be deadly to run.
- It should not be deadly to sit in your living room.
- It should not be deadly to drive down a residential street.
- It should not be deadly to fit any description that only includes “black.”
- Existing while black is not a crime. It does not deserve death.
- No mama should have celebrated Mother’s Day yesterday without her child because he was born black and that got him killed. None.
- We can change this.
- We cannot continue to vote for candidates who mouth the words “pro life” yet remain unconcerned about the death, demeaning, and destruction of people of color.
- We cannot continue to rationalize and excuse and say “but not all” anyone. We need to see the truth that some, not all, need desperately to be talked about and dealt with.
- We cannot continue to be silent. We cannot continue to not know. We cannot continue to offer thoughts and prayers alone.We have to show up.
Go deep into your experience and tell me you don’t know what it’s like to fear simply because of your genetics, and then look at your black and Latinx brothers and sisters. Look, and listen. We are more alike than you believe.
It is the opposite of pro life to accept them as collateral damage in order to gain some semblance of “rights” we think we need. This will not end in gaining our rights but in losing our integrity and our humanity. What does it mean to gain the world and lose your soul, women? This is that intersection.
This will not end in gaining our rights but in losing our integrity and our humanity.
Here are some resources I’m learning from. Please offer some you know of. We can lean in, learn, and act together.
I’m Still Here: Austin Channing Brown
Just Mercy: Bryan Stevenson
White Fragility: Robin Diangelo