Black and Blue

Friends.

I…

I…

I just don’t know what to say.

My heart is broken.  It’s bruised.  It’s black and blue.

I haven’t said anything about police brutality because there are always a lot of factors involved. And until we know all of the facts about each case it’s hard to make any objective judgment.

I have been treated poorly by policemen multiple times myself. My first time being pulled over was because I was in a park after hours.  It was dark and I was asked to exit my vehicle while it and I was searched.  The cop called for backup and when nothing was found I was told I was “boring” and sent on my way with a fat ticket.  I’ve had a cop lie to my face.  I’ve had a cop leave me crying on the side of a sketchy road in the middle of the night, as my car wouldn’t start, after giving me three tickets for two violations.  I’ve had a cop advise me not to make an official statement because it would make the property value of the city go down.  But in each time I’ve come across a rude or tyrannical police officer, I never once feared for my life. In fact, when I see the police cars patrol my neighborhood, I feel safer.  I can’t judge every police officer by the few bad ones I’ve encountered.  For the most part, they have trained and sacrificed to protect my family and me. And I am truly thankful.

But after the recent events, my heart breaks for the black community… again.  I have been able to discount statistics due to so many surrounding factors.  I have excused past police shootings because people, even without weapons, can still be a fatal threat to others.  But this week, it has become very clear that policy needs to change.  If the law finds that shooting a man with his hands up because you are afraid he may have a gun nearby is sound and just, it’s time for a policy change.

Zianna is right.  Black people shouldn’t have to feel this way.  An entire people group should not be afraid of the people who have vowed to protect them.  It’s a problem.  It’s a problem that causes more than “unrest.”

Watch this. The whole things is good but if you’re pressed for time watch from 3:45-12:43.

One thing may lead to another to cause statistics that seem unfair.  It’s time to find the root of these statistics. It’s a vicious cycle that police fear black males because black males are statistically committing violent crimes at a higher rate than any other race proportional to their population.  Is it possible that black males feel the whole system disrespects them, is unfair, and untrustworthy?  Would changing the rules of engagement to include “tase first” help?  I’m not the expert here but I can question the experts and call for conversations to begin.

Because I’ll say it again: that’s what will help.  Conversations.  Face to face.

When I saw him from afar, I thought he was a bad dude.

When he got closer, I thought he was just an animal.

When he got closer, I recognized that he was a human.

When we were face to face, I realized that he was my brother.

-American Proverb

 

Invitation to the Table

A year or so ago our church invited Nikki Lerner, a culture coach, diversity teacher, and amazing musician, to talk to our staff and worship team.  She spent the day talking to our staff members about multiculturalism in the church and that evening, some of our worship team gathered together to hear her speak about multiculturalism in worship.

I was a part of the team that gathered that evening.  We started off in a small conference room, sitting around a table and eating desserts.  There weren’t enough chairs around the table so when I saw Nikki and some other leaders enter the room, I got up and stood so she could take my seat.

Later after a beautiful, holy moment of worship, Nikki laughed ironically about how she had been talking to the staff all day about how churches often stick to the majority race and don’t cater to other cultures. Then she showed up this evening and there literally wasn’t a seat at the table for her.

Table 082316Without thinking I said, “I got up so you could have my chair.” To which she replied, “I didn’t see you.”

I regretted immediately saying anything.  I talk a lot, but I usually don’t want to bring any attention to myself.  I ruminate over things I say for days.  My heart still pounds when I think about the last post I wrote on racism. Can I use the word black in that context? Was I not considerate enough of other people’s feelings?  Who am I to say these things or make these assumptions or to stand up for things I don’t understand?

No one.  I’m no one.  But I’m not going to wait until I understand everything and live perfectly before I start standing with my black friends and family.

I learned a valuable lesson that night.

Imagine you were in a room full of people.  There is one empty seat at the table and 10 people standing around waiting for a seat, but you were the only one in the room of your race, or gender, or religion.  It is likely that you wouldn’t take that last seat unless someone offered it to you, right?  I wouldn’t.  I probably would still decline after an invitation. But that’s me.

Leaving an empty chair at a table full of white people is not enough.  It’s time that we, as white people extend an invitation to our friends of color.  Invite people in the minority to the table.

Being kind is not enough.  The one thing that will change the world between races is relationship.  (<– Click this.)

 

 

When I saw him from afar, I thought he was a monster.

When he got closer, I thought he was just an animal.

When he got closer, I recognized that he was a human.

When we were face to face, I realized that he was my brother.

-African Proverb

 

Black Olympians Matter

I haven’t said a lot about the racism that is making headlines lately for a lot of reasons. I will admit that ignorantly, I just had no idea racism was still a problem this far north in the US. My eyes were opened when my neighbor started flying a confederate flag just days after the Michael Brown shooting.

 

A bunch of stereotypical southern 20 something boys moved in three houses down in 2014. When I say “southern” I mean our street was now lined with pick up trucks blaring country music while overall-wearing boys played football in the middle of the street. It’s not an exaggeration to say that they had an easy chair in the back of a pick up truck in the driveway and on any given afternoon, 6 boys would be sitting in and around it, drinking cheap beer, and chewing on long stems of grass.  Seriously.

 

I don’t mind a little bit of character in my neighborhood. I pride myself in the diversity I find living within walking distance of an Islamic mosque, Hindu temple, Catholic and Lutheran church, as well as a well known Christian Science school just down the street. So a few good ol’ boys would just make it all the more exciting, but I could not tolerate blatant racism in my neighborhood.

 

I passed by in unbelief for a couple of days and just couldn’t take it any longer. One evening, driving by, I pulled over and asked the group of boys if they were new to the neighborhood and who actually lived in the house. They said one boy lived there but he was in the back yard at the moment. I asked if that was his confederate flag. They responded with a glowing, “Yes, ma’am.” I asked if they were sporting some Southern pride (Yes, ma’am) or racist pride. “Well, everyone has their own opinions.”

 

To which, I responded, “Yes, but given the present circumstances, flying that flag just seems tactless.”

 

“Everyone has their own opinions, ma’am” he repeated.

 

“I guess you’re right.” I said in disbelief. “Welcome to the neighborhood.” And I drove off.

 

Those boys lasted about a year and then moved somewhere else. I found myself praying for rain because they wouldn’t fly their flag when the weather was bad. We didn’t see it all winter but it came out again in the spring. One neighbor said she called the police to ask them to take it down. I’m sure that can’t be legal, but she said maybe because of the size of it, or the fact that it was flying on the back of a pickup truck, the police succeeded in making them take it down.

 

In the days and months to come, I realized how prevalent racism was in my own backyard. I had no idea. My parents talked to me about race growing up. They taught me to love everyone equally. They made fun of my grandma for always mentioning that her friend Betty was black. “My black friend Betty,” she would always say. We had friends who were black, it just didn’t seem to matter much to me. I judged a person by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. I honestly didn’t think racism was still a thing among people in suburban St. Louis County.

 

But my parents never taught me about systemic racism* or white privilege. I don’t think they knew much about it themselves.

 

Since the events in Ferguson, a place I spent half of my childhood in, I’ve learned a lot about white privilege and racism and I’m trying to constantly learn more.

 

So when I read a Facebook post the other day questioning the importance of Simone Manuel’s history making gold medal, I made an audible pshhh. Asher heard me say it and asked why I had made that sound.

Simone Manuel wins Gold
via www.nydailynews.com

I told him that for the first time in history an African American woman had won the gold medal in an individual swimming race but some people are questioning why that’s a big deal. They think, black people have had the same opportunity to achieve swimming goals as white people, why is it significant that this is just now happening?

 

I told Asher that those people would be wrong. It is very sad that black people are not treated the same way as white people in our country. Yes they can vote, yes they can sit where they want on a bus, and are no longer slaves but the fact that they once were, still very much matters.

 

You see, just two generations ago, black people weren’t allowed to swim in public pools with white people. When they were legally forced to desegregate, many pools chose to close rather than let black people into their white run pools. You can change the laws but you can’t change the people. This resulted in a disproportionate amount of black people who don’t know how to swim even today. I read that anywhere between 58% and 70% of all African Americans do not know how to swim.

 

If your parents didn’t know how to swim, it was likely that you never learned because they couldn’t teach you. So if someone in Simone Manuel’s family history broke the mould and taught their child to do something their parents couldn’t teach them how to do, that is a big deal.

 

And that’s what we have to do, too. I can’t ignore my own white privilege or the racism that exists all around me anymore. I have to make my kids aware of the brokenness of this world in order to fix it. If white people aren’t aware of the rampant racism in our city who will help? You may be thinking that you’re not racist and that you treat everyone equally and that’s all you can do. My parents did an excellent job teaching me to love my neighbors no matter who they are but it has become clear that treating people kindly is not enough to change the world.

 

What can we do? Well, to start off:

1) Educate yourself on the state of racism in this country. White privilege is a thing. Privilege doesn’t mean that you’ve had an easier life than anyone else, educate yourself on what it does mean.

2) Talk to your kids about what you’re learning.

And 3) start praying and thinking about how we can support our neighbors of color. I mean, who better than a middle class white woman to stand up to her racist white neighbor? People of color aren’t going to change the mind of someone who is already set against them but we can speak for them in many situations.

 

What else can we do? I have some ideas I’ll post about in the days to come but I’m still learning so feel free to comment below with your suggestions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus, may we follow in your example to love our neighbors sacrificially like you showed us how. Show us how we can stand up for black lives as someone who can’t relate to their experiences. Show us how to make real change in a country that has such deep roots in partiality. May we be your ambassadors bringing light back into this dark world.

 

*If you don’t have time to watch the whole 15 minute video, just start at minute 7.

Time

So, the accident was on Friday.  As the evening progressed, my right eye slowly started to swell, and my body started to get sore.  Saturday came and my face was even more swollen, and my body was even more sore.  Sunday came and I was at my worst.

Randall suggested that I call my doctor’s exchange to see what they recommend. The woman who answered my call typed in my symptoms and then read me what the computer prompted her to tell me.  I told her that I was in a bike accident two days before and probably had a concussion and some major swelling.  She asked if I would consider my swelling severe.  I asked what she would consider severe.  The right side of my face was twice the size of the left side of my face.  She said that was probably severe.

According to her computer, she advised me to go to the ER right away but not to drive myself and to make sure I didn’t eat anything because they may need to do immediate surgery.  I told her I thought that was pretty extreme and I may possibly go to our convenient care clinic but if it were not for my husbands recommendation I’d probably just stay home and hope for the best.  She said I didn’t have to do what she recommended but that the ER was her recommendation.

That was Sunday.  Just two days after the accident.  But I was at my worst.  I couldn’t imagine myself looking better.  I got a request Saturday night to sing at church two weeks later.  I declined.  On Monday, I canceled my babysitting job for Wednesday.  I figured I’d look better by then, but knew my shoulder still wouldn’t work.  And I honestly feared my oozing face would scare young kids.

I was so near sighted, I didn’t think I would heal anytime soon.  But the very next day, I dramatically improved.  By Wednesday, just five days after the accident, unless you looked closely, you could hardly tell any difference in my face.

But in the worst of it, I was so stuck in the moment that I couldn’t see a better time in the future.

Isn’t that how we always are in the midst of pain.  Short-sighted, not able to see a way out?

This accident was merely a scratch.  Seriously no big deal to me.  But it got me thinking. In the midst of pain, there is a lesson to be learned.  When you can see no way out, you have no strength left in you to breathe on your own.  That’s when you turn to God. Because you have to.

I think God allows pain so we will turn to him.

1 Peter 5:9-11 says this in the Message version:

You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.

Does God give us pain?  No.  Pain was not in God’s original plan and someday He’ll make all things right again and we’ll live in a place with no more pain.
But because we have made choices that go against God’s best plan for our lives, and because other people make choices that have consequences that affect others, there is pain in this world.  And it is unavoidable.
I think the problem we have with pain is our short-sightedness.  In the midst of it, when we can see no way out, we want God to fix it in our time; usually NOW.  But we don’t know God’s timing.
In my pain, I was canceling life two weeks in advance, and my worst pain only lasted three days. But many of us have experienced pain that lasted far longer.  Many people are in the midst of a constant pang of longing, or physical pain that is beyond the doctors’ scope of healing.
When we can’t see God’s timing, and we can see no way out, what do we do with that?
Acts 1:7-8 says “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”
Romans 8:25-26 says, “But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently. And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.”
God has already given us the tools we need to deal with pain.  Yes there are drugs.  Take the drugs.  But first turn to the help inside of you.
Habakkuk 2:3 says,
“This vision is for a future time.
It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled.
If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently,
for it will surely take place.
It will not be delayed.”
Time is in God’s hands.  Time is his, he created it.  God lives outside of time and our lives are smaller than a blip on the timeline.  It gets very confusing, but my dad explained the concept like this:
Imagine a carpenter who made a ruler.  He is not on the ruler, he made the piece of wood that he can hold in his hands.  So he can see the beginning and the end of the ruler.  We are on the ruler.  We can’t see the beginning or the end because we are a small being on a huge ruler.  God is represented by the carpenter.  God created time.  It didn’t exist before he made it.  And he created us in time.   He can see the beginning and the end because he is outside of time, but we are not. Does that make sense?
Because the thing is, God holds time in his hands and his timing is perfect.  We can only see what is around us and we want everything NOW.  God can see the grand scope of life and there is absolutely an end to all pain.
For me it comes down to this.  God loves you.  And he can be trusted.  He can be trusted with our time and he can be trusted with our pain.
God, I pray for anyone reading this right now that is in the midst of pain.  May they seek your help.  May they find comfort from the pain.  Give them tangible comfort from physical and emotional pain.  May they find comfort in the fact that you have also experienced every type of pain we may face in this life.  The comfort is that you understand, when maybe no one else does. You understand the pain of loss.  You understand excruciating physical pain.  And may our hope come from the fact that one day pain will be no more.  May we learn to trust in your timing.  May we learn to really, truly, trust you.