If you missed Part 1, here you go.
Our pastor, Rich Johnson, posted a link on Facebook earlier today that made my heart sing. Because the title? Is exactly what God has been pressing on my heart. It’s Time to Listen: Feeling the Pain Despite the Facts.
Because, while I have been so, so, SO encouraged by so many white friends working so hard to understand what it’s like to be Black in America and so many African-American friends working so hard to help us (without rolling their eyes, which is what I’d want to do if I were them), I’ve also been really frustrated by this tired argument: “We don’t know all the facts of the story yet. We can’t just assume this is about race.”
Yes, we can.
If we’re white, we can just shrug it off. If we’re black, we can’t. Because it goes deep and means much.
I beg us all just to put the facts aside for a minute (or a month) and just LISTEN. Just feel a black person’s pain. Just feel it. Enter in. Feel it.
Another amazing article a friend linked to today, called Different Rules Apply, is one I encourage every single white person reading this to take a minute to read.
It’s so, so good. And so, so helpful on this road to empathy and understanding.
I want to thank Carlos & Gloria, Jamiya & Amanda, and Rich for letting me share their stories yesterday. And today I have stories from my sisters and brother: Comfort, Mandie, and Andrew.
But first, a comment my (white) friend Judy left on my post yesterday: This is EXACTLY the kind of stuff white people need to read and take in. Regular people. These aren’t the stereotypical “thugs” whom we defensively assume are the ones being stopped by cops. The only thing that makes these people different from us (white people) is their race, and they are treated significantly differently because of it.
I think this is important. While every black life matters (thug or evangelical pastor or anything in between), while every life matters, period, (Or as our young neighbor Emilios would say, “Every life matters. PYRAMID.”), I do think the underlying assumption is that, if black folks would act more like white folks (you know, more civilized), they wouldn’t have these problems.
The profiling and injustice happens to engineer/worship band member Carlos, Pastor Dad Rich, and teacher/painter/worship band member Jamiya. And photographer/pianist Comfort. And social worker/humanitarian Mandie, and teacher/children’s ministry director/worship band member Andrew.
Let’s listen to some more stories.
Comfort (Black woman. Beautiful, talented friend of mine married to Will, mama of 2 gorgeous kiddos): Last year I was in the Westerville Kohl’s, shopping for shoes for me and my daughter, Camille. Three times within 15 minutes they paged someone over to the shoe department. Camille and I were the only ones there. The associate would come to my aisle, look at me, then act like she was doing something for two seconds, then disappear. She never said anything to me, never asked if I needed help, just kept checking up on me. I guess I look like the shoe stealing type.
I was so angry when I first heard about this. Comfort calmed me down, told me she called the store, filed a complaint, brushed the Kohl’s dust off, and moved on. “Don’t worry about me, Marla. I’m okay.”
Mandie (Black woman. Married to Andrew, a black man. Stylish, talented, people-loving, beautiful-inside-and-out friends of mine): Let me first say, it’s hard to pick just one story. It is. Almost every time I see an officer, my heart skips a beat. Last Labor Day Andrew and I were traveling, and we got pulled over for “not maneuvering a curve properly.” Before the officer got to the car, Andrew told me to take off my sunglasses and head scarf as a precaution and not to give the officer any ideas. The officer continued to ask us the same three questions over and over, and then continued to word them differently. He repeatedly went back and forth to his car checking information. He tried to lure Andrew out of the car by saying traffic was loud and he couldn’t hear. This felt like a trap, especially with Andrew’s knowledge of the criminal justice system serving in the jail. After 30+ minutes of questioning, he let us go.
I asked Mandie to share some more thoughts on being a black woman, particularly at her alma mater where she was a minority, like there might have been 5 people who weren’t white (I graduated from there 10+ years before she did.).
I can tell multiple stories of people being surprised I’m black because I sound so educated and professional. I’m not sure how and when I learned to be cautious of the police, especially being adopted into a white family and diverse neighborhood. But, at my alma mater, one male said to me you black girls (from school) are not like the girls on BET. It blew my mind that he felt completely comfortable to say that and/or make that comparison from just meeting me.
Also during Obama’s first election, I was working on campus and my boss asked about my first voting experience. He went on to de-fame Obama and all the black people who voted for him simply for that fact. I stated I had voted for Obama and that wasn’t the reason. He questioned my Christianity and told me the only reason I’d vote for him is because we’re both black. I tried to defend myself and he wouldn’t budge. I was so embarrassed and hurt, I had to reach out to professors for support.
One of my heroes is a fellow classmate. He was white and a better advocate to the white campus than I could have been, just amazing. One reason he left before graduation was because the pressure from whites to leave racial reconciliation alone and the feeling of being one of the very few whites advocating for biblical reconciliation was too much. We have to link together and build a bridge, knowing some won’t walk to the other side, but those who do are game changers.
(Note: I voted for Obama. All while loving Jesus. And also not being black.)
And I want to close with some words from my friend, Rob, an African-American friend of mine (we go to church together, and I just love him and his wife and their three handsome boys). He posted this in response to someone on Facebook last night (a white woman who felt like there was nothing she could do to make things right), and it really impacted me.
You are doing something right now by asking the questions to gain understanding. My concern is, after your African-American brothers and sisters give you their perspective and views, what do you do with that knowledge? What do you do when one of your White counterparts makes a racially insensitive remark in regards to this case or any other case in relation to law enforcement and the death of another African-American male? Do you educate and inform to give them our (African-American) perspective or do you say nothing and continue on to the next topic? If you choose to educate, then you’re contributing towards reconciliation. If you choose the latter, then you’re contributing to what appears to African-Americans as a growing insensitivity to our issues and concerns. You have more power than you give yourself credit!
Marla Taviano’s blog is a perfect example of doing something about it. She is standing in the gap to share the views of her African-American brothers and sisters to anyone who is willing to take the time to read her blog. More of this is needed, and that is what you can start to do. The interesting thing to me is that you appear to be more concerned about the facts of the case to defend the policeman’s actions than to understand the reason for why the killing ignited the riots. Yes, we do have laws to protect the public and our law enforcement officers. However, when 1 out of every 5 black males killed by law enforcement are under the age of 21 it’s hard to ignore from an African-American perspective that something is very wrong.
Having said all of that, the reality is that African-Americans can’t invoke racial reconciliation alone. I need you to understand why I’m more afraid of my three sons getting killed by a police officer than in a car accident. I need you to understand why I choose to stay in my hotel room when traveling on the job in western VA so I don’t get racially profiled. I need you to understand that I’m not looking for a handout, welfare, or any special privileges. I just want to be treated fairly. I just need you to listen and truly understand where I’m coming from. And then stand in the gap for me and educate two or three others that don’t understand. That’s what you can do. God bless you and good night.
White friends, will we take our brother Rob’s plea to heart? Will you join me in the gap?