now is not the time to move on

Sometimes I let my mind and heart simmer a little before I share what’s swirling around inside them. You know, when emotions are raw and maybe not very pretty, and it’s best to sort things out a bit before spilling your soul.

And other times I blog at three ’til midnight on a Friday, weary and messy, caution tossed into the wind.

Sometimes I know I have things to say, but I stay silent until the perfect words come. You know, like when the Trayvon Martin verdict comes in, and you’re feeling so many things, and you’re reading a lot but not posting anything because you don’t have the right words, the ones that will be helpful and also beautiful and poignant (and maybe a teensy bit impressive) and make a difference in the big wide world where everything just isn’t right.

Then you find out on Thursday night that some friends at church are hosting a “Small Group Discussion of the George Zimmerman Case and Race Relations in America” from 6:30-8:30 pm, and you know you’ve got to go, because you want to learn and grow and pursue reconciliation.

And the meeting isn’t quite over at 8:30, more like ELEVEN THIRTY, and now the kids and husband are in bed, and you should be too, but you’re going to hammer some words out, because this is SO IMPORTANT.

Even if you have no idea what you’re going to say.

(Jesus, help me.)

If you’ve been around for awhile, you might remember a post I wrote on March 23, 2012 titled White Privilege is Real. If you have time, I’d love for you to (re-)read it, because it’s probably a lot more eloquent than this one will be.

I copied and pasted a little section, and I still feel this way:

But I couldn’t just stay silent, because I love my black friends (most of whom I know in real life and go to church with), and their outrage and their pain was not okay with me. I wanted to understand it and feel it, and I wanted to stand with them and fight for them and their kiddos whom I love so much. I begged God to show me how I could do that as a white girl. I didn’t see how it was possible, but I felt like I had to try.

But I didn’t want to say anything that made it sound like I knew what it was like to be black. I don’t. And I didn’t want to sound like I was trying to be a hero. I’m not. And I didn’t want to post out of white guilt or whatever. Yuck.

And then I had a little chat with a friend online. And then a couple friends texted me and told me to please keep fighting for what was right. And I asked God again for wisdom…

Tonight, at our five-hour forum in our friends Rob and Jackie’s living room, there were some good words and some hard-to-hear words and some raw emotions and some not-so-happy feelings and some warm-and-fuzzy ones.

I can’t give you the main talking points or even a rough outline. We basically sat in a big circle (21 of us–11 black, 10 white, including Jackie’s sweet parents visiting from NC–and oh my word, her 83-year-old dad said the sweetest words to all of us after he woke up from his nap–LOVE) and took turns sharing how we felt, then how other people’s comments made us feel, then asking questions, answering questions, explaining our perspectives, maybe a little bit of crying.

Then we took a break at 9:30ish and came back together for another 90 minutes or so, offering solutions. Prayer was the number one item on our What-Can-We-Do list, followed by several other things (some of which I’ll be sharing in the weeks to come).

And the one thing that stood out to me was my black friends saying how much it meant to them when their white friends take the initiative to listen, to sympathize, to try to understand what it’s like to be Black in America. And when we take a stand, when we say, “Hey, fellow white people, this is not okay. We need to spend time with our black brothers and sisters face to face. We need to take off the blinders, take out the earplugs, look them in the eye, listen to their words, acknowledge their pain and fears, affirm them, believe them, be there for them.”

We are all in this together. Reconciliation starts with me, with you.

How? First of all, by getting on my knees. Talking to Jesus about it, asking the Spirit to move and work where I can’t (which is everywhere).

And then? Listening. That’s kind of my word for this whole thing. Listen. I wrote about it last year too, and I encourage you to read that post. (I probably didn’t write it after midnight.)

Here’s the thing about listening, really listening: it’s a humbling experience. It means admitting you don’t know everything (something one dear friend said tonight–please don’t act like you know everything). It means admitting you could be wrong. It means admitting your perspective is just your perspective, not everyone else’s. It means that “the facts” aren’t always the most important thing. Feelings and experiences matter too. A LOT.

It means really truly trying to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

And it means not saying things like, CAN WE PLEASE JUST GET OVER THIS ALREADY??

Because we can’t. Well, “we” can, if we’re not interested in unity and reconciliation and helping our dear, sweet, amazing, funny, articulate (that one’s for you, Trey and Randall!) African-American brothers and sisters in Christ (and also the ones who haven’t met Jesus yet–what better way to share/be the gospel??) heal and find peace and justice and wholeness.

But I, for one, am not moving on. Not without my black brothers and sisters. I’m moving forward (but that’s different), and we’re going to move forward together. No matter how long it takes. I’m in this thing for the long haul.

Because I don’t just love my friends of all skin tones; I like them. A lot. And my life is richer and fuller and funner and better for them being a part of it.

We are ONE in Christ Jesus. Amen. And good night (morning).

5 thoughts on “now is not the time to move on

  1. Pingback: [not] proud to be [fill in the blank] | Marla Taviano

  2. michaela

    so just when you want to take two very big steps back and put a distance between all the white people in your life you truly love but don’t want them to get the emotional tornado filled backlash of all the anger, sadness, hard to express and explain in any sort of coherent rant…I stumble across this blog post that stops the swirling for a milli second and actually soothes… I know I don’t really know you all like that marla but your words settled in a good place in me today..thank you..mich

    1. Marla Taviano

      Thank you for your sweet words, Michaela. I’d love to get to know you better. Your words have been a blessing to me, so I’m glad mine got to bless you for once. xoxoxo

  3. Sharon

    I’ve started many a comment off like this to you lately, Marla. Just the other night…………..I was thinking about your first post on the topic and I think it must have been said in a comment, the experience someone had of being profiled for their skin color, I think followed around stores etc.

  4. Ashley

    So many more of these conversations need to happen. As unfortunate as the reality of the matter is, racism is still very much real in 2013. And not just in the on-the-fringe with small sects of extremists, but in the main stream culture and media.

    More of these discussions need to happen. Even as a therapist, I am still in disbelief to see all the Facebook posts and overheating watercooler chats in strong support of Zimmerman. I don’t think those of us with white privilege can begin to comprehend how detrimental that behavior is to the self-esteem of people of color.

    Sincerely, A Fellow White Girl (who is happy to see you discussing this topic!!)

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