I was going to start this with three words: “I’m sorry, but…” So, strike that.
By now, I hope you know me. I hope you know my sincere desire not to offend, but to not let up on calling the Church to tear down walls and erase the incessant lines we keep building and drawing to keep one another at a distance. People don’t get me, and I get that. They don’t understand why we have to keep talking about these things. Words like “colorblind” and “we’re all alike on the inside” are lifted up like band-aids over severed limbs.
Last week, I was done with it. To tell you the truth, I was going to write that post and then hang up my #GoingThere mantle and call it a day. I was planning to make a prodigal son-like return to the black church and let things be what they are, and then, a young black unarmed man was shot to death in Ferguson (a place most of us never knew before, right?), his dead body left in the street—uncovered—for hours. And I heard the lament of the black community. And I saw blog posts and FB status updates and Tweets and Instagram updates and, to my eye, the demographic was skewed.
I kept waiting to hear from the predominantly white evangelical church in America. I kept waiting for someone from that community to chime in and say something—anything. Even something like, “I see what’s happening in Ferguson. I don’t understand it, but I want to. Can someone help me understand it?” One person contacted me to ask a question that sounded something like that.
But, for the most, part, days passed, and I was hearing nothing.
This is why it’s important to tear down the walls we’ve built up. Because things like Ferguson happen in a country whose history includes slavery and disenfranchisement and internment camps and displacement of people who lived here first. Things like this happen when we sweep those parts of our history under the rug without tending to them and making sure the wound has healed fully and the bones have set properly. When the Church stays content with white church and black church (and all the other churches) because it’s too hard to do it any other way, we cannot lead in times like this. We lose our credibility and our influence and our saltiness. We don’t know what to say. We’re afraid we’ll offend. We’re afraid we’ll add fuel to the fire.
When we’re more concerned with comfort and worship style and sermon length and the bottom line (I have much to say about that one) and the way we’ve always done things than we are with presenting a unified front to the world, we abdicate our God-given position and we are good for nothing but to be trampled underfoot.
The conversation about race in America and in the North American Church is a messy one. It just is. You’re not going to get out of it or through it without getting hurt or offended or offending someone. If we can just be okay with that, and do it anyway, well, that would be a good place to start.
Over here, I’m keeping a running list of FB posts and blog posts and other posts, written about Ferguson by my white brothers and sisters. If you’ve seen something that I haven’t, please click through and paste the link in the comments.
I’ll be honest, watching twitter for the past few days and seeing the Christians tweeting, I get why you’d be discouraged. Why I was/am. Even here, http://www.christianpost.com/news/christians-express-hurt-shock-words-of-hope-and-faith-amid-protests-over-mikebrown-killing-in-ferguson-124829/ when people are talking about it, the vast majority are minorities themselves. I am all about the body caring and jumping in and I want to hear diverse voices (including white ones) right alongside all the voices that have been going there for years but I also hate that now that the white people are talking and blogging, Facebook gets it. I hate that many black writers have been writing since this started and just now everyone is going #Ferguson??? Oh yeah, that! My twitter feed was blowing up with it but that’s because I’ve intentionally followed voices that are not my own, politically, theologically, ethnically. But now we care about it because bla bla white blogger said we should. Do we give no credence to the voices that have been on the front lines this whole time, for years, doing the hard work of reconciliation and reform? I don’t know, friend. You can’t hang up your hat yet. There’s so much to be done. Rant over.
“I’ve intentionally followed voices that are not my own, politically, theologically, ethnically.” I think this is key because…let me give you a glimpse into my life. I have four children, three of whom are very young. I decided from the beginning that my cell phone would live in my vehicle because I want to engage with my children…especially when we’re outside of our home environment, where they’re comfortable and play happily with their toys. I neither Tweet nor Instagram. I’m active on facebook (after quitting it for several months), but facebook is friend-based. Following strangers, on facebook, is called stalking. (Hang in there with me.) I do read a bit in the blogosphere, but this has also been friend-based for me; I don’t tend to follow huge blogs. I NEVER watch the news because I don’t think it’s appropriate for my children to watch, and the baby stays up all night. THUS–via facebook and the blogosphere–Ferguson came under my radar only as of yesterday. It’s taken me a minute to read up on it and figure out what’s happening, let alone come up with some sort of appropriate response (when the air is so very charged).
I guess what I’m trying to say is that, in some cases, people are slow to respond not because they’re white, don’t care, or care only about being cool or trendy but because they’re slow to find out and/or figure out what they want to say. I think it’s also worth mentioning that this week has been very overwhelming in terms of the news. My heart has been breaking for the terrorized in Iraq and Syria, also over the Robin Williams situation. There’s Ebola to think about…crashing planes…the boy in my own community who died after hitting a tree.
What I’ve learned from the situation in Ferguson is that with breaking news at our fingertips, I’m woefully behind the times in trusting facebook and the blogosphere to put before me what I need to investigate. What will I do? I don’t know. There’s only so much time in the day, and this is a busy season in my life. BUT I CARE. I care about Michael Brown and John Crawford III and Trayvon Martin. I care about this country and how we interact with one another. And I agree wholeheartedly that there is much to be done.
I really appreciate your perspective. I get that MANY of my friends on FB are not involved in the blog world. It’s this wonky thing where we all overshare. They are not on social media all the time, don’t watch the news because they’re living their lives, loving their children, serving wholeheartedly in their communities. I applaud that in every way. Social media can be a curse sometimes with how loud it all gets.
I guess I should have been more specific but my response felt more to the ones who do read and comment and tweet. The ones who do have a stake in the game, a voice on a platform, and an audience listening. Ones who tweet about church politics and Israel and Robin Williams (all important things for sure) but are woefully silent here.
And that when people do speak up, white people specifically, they’re the ones heard loudest which is just a symptom of it all in the first place. I’m writing from my own brokenness and experiences as do we all, which is probably why this sounds so ranty and I hope you can hear grace in between the lines.
I want us to come together. I deeply value and love my friends who are willing to have awkward conversations and tell me straight to my face they don’t get what the big deal is but they want to. At least then we can have a conversation. I guess it’s like you said, YOU DO CARE, and that is a starting point that many people don’t even have.
This is a kind response, but I still don’t completely understand what a white person with a platform is to do when others seem to want him/her to speak out…but not to be heard but so loudly? I find that very confusing. It would seem as though (s)he’s going to mess up no matter what. It’s like: talk loud enough that we know you care and are talking, but NOT loud enough, certainly, to be heard above our own voices.
I would say that in my own (limited) experience, these sorts of sticky and tricky places are everywhere when it comes to race relations. I remember in college–granted, this was forever ago!–how we were encouraged to interact with one another but not really hang out because then, certainly, either the white person was trying to be black, or the black person was trying to be white.
All of it will make any but a very timid soul just want to up and quit. The bravest and loudest white person on the block will still be white and therefore, it would seem, incapable of truly understanding and speaking to the experience of a non-white person.
I love this conversation. You are all so very dear to me, and to see you sitting at the table, talking it through, and risking the conversation? Well. It makes me smile. It is a glorious model, and I’m grateful to you both.
Brandee, I just want to acknowledge the tricky stickiness, here. I want to know we’re all in this together, so it makes me sad when I don’t hear all the voices in the conversation. And then, because things are all messed up (because of sin, basically, when it comes right down to it) some voices suddenly get the attention. Which is weirdly strange (if that’s possible).
As always, my message is to the Church. You know I love the idea that you keep your phone in the car. That is brilliant! I truly admire your approach to social media. I think some of us heard the news late because we’ve hand-selected the people we follow based on how comfortable we feel around them. So, we don’t hear news that may be outside that comfort zone. Hence, my (nagging, relentless, blah blah blah) ongoing call to us to figure out a way to tear down walls and erase lines.
Love the way you lead in this, Deidra. And yes, it is so tricky because I really really don’t want to discount the white voices that have jumped in here. Many of my friends are going there because of you, Deidra, and it fills me with such hope to see conversations that have happened in my real life for ages to be moving into this online space, however scary that might be. And I must confess the ickiness in my own heart sometimes to write and talk and feel unheard. And to see someone else throw their hat into the ring and BAM, it is world changing. That could be my own baggage and mess. And if it is, I will own it. But I know Deidra’s blog is a safe space and that’s the truth of it. It’s messy. Thank you for engaging this and calling me out if need be. We’re all learning, yes? It’s given me stuff to think about.
I hope it’s ok to jump into this conversation! I’m a white woman who spent much of my childhood in Latin America, and my single adult life in Central America and living in communities with Latino refugees. I used to feel more Salvadoran than “American”! Then, I got married and sent off and away with my pastor-husband….to a Very White Church where I have to confess, I felt utterly different and alone!!! 25 years later, he finally was able to get to a place that’s diverse! (For which I daily thank Jesus)…Speaking about thIs problem of white voices seeming to be heard above the longstanding cries/voices of people of color, I am wondering if we couldn’t make more of a difference if we are speaking as diverse groups who really ARE a body of Christ together/a community…more like in Acts when people followed Jesus because they SAW the amazing love and generosity of that new Christian community. When we speak from and to those who just look like us, I personally find lots of agreement that “Yes, we should be more diverse in the Church” but so painfully often, it doesn’t seem to go further than that! Reading down through these comments, I want us to all be in the same room, same community/table— it would be soothing and healing to my soul, and also, maybe more powerful than any individual voice. I follow Alia and Deidra’s blogs but haven’t been blogging for a long long time myself; I read you both to feel supported and more sane! I have posted much on my FB and I have my friends of all different skin shades whom I have had for many years, but I believe that God wants Gods church to look like a representation of all whom God made, especially churches that are in cities that are multi-ethnic. I tell myself mother Teresa’s words (“we do small things with great love”) for comfort when I feel powerless and helpless. Reading this conversation gives me a little hope of coming together.
here is a link I posted on FB re: Ferguson
and one about the Central American children on the border where the Southern Baptist Churches really are doing something! https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10203965935246156&set=a.1526023027948.100215.1155838332&type=1&theater
I don’t know what the answers are to this, Alia, but I want to acknowledge your frustration. I found out about John Crawford and Mike Brown Saturday night on Twitter and have been sharing there and on FB ever since. I don’t write blog posts about current situations or politics but after the calamity of this week, I’ve thought long and hard about what I could say. (It’s still a tangle.) But I also want to point to the people who are on the ground in Ferguson and to POC because they see what’s happening there in a way I can’t fully understand. I have been frustrated by the media silence and frustrated that people paid more attention to Robin Williams’ death while being silent about this, while being sad about that situation and grateful people are talking about depression and suicide in a real way. And even now with all the attention being paid to Ferguson, I wonder if it’s enough and what I can do in my own community and whether our voices are making a difference or not. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. But I certainly don’t want to be complicit in silence or to back away from hard conversations.
Hey Leigh! Thanks for chiming in!
I totally understand and respect and support the decision not to write about politics and current events. Totally get that. I wish I could make that same decision. 🙂 And, I want to be sure this post isn’t heard as a call to white evangelicals to write something about Ferguson. If that’s not your thing, it’s not your thing, and that’s cool.
This is me, beating my same old drum about the Church choosing to divide herself. I truly believe, if we did a better job of working toward and for diversity, we’d be able to speak truth to power before something like this happens.
I didn’t see it as a call for white evangelicals to write something. I’ve been mulling this over the last few days and really longer than that, if I think back to Trayvon Martin and the laments over the lack of white evangelicals chiming in then. I heard about Trayvon early on and shared on social media but did not write anything and I think that was the right decision then. What I’m trying to figure out right now is if this was happening in Nashville, would I write about it? If so, what makes that different than writing about Ferguson? And beyond all that, what do I have to say that would help us work toward diversity, healing, and understanding? I don’t have the answers but I’m going to keep highlighting people that do and listen to the small stirring about if and when to write a post. I’m really grateful for all you write about, Deidra. Thank you for calling us forward.
“Things like this happen when we sweep those parts of our history under the rug without tending to them and making sure the wound has healed fully and the bones have set properly.” Your post has me feeling like a deer caught in the headlights. As a white woman, I don’t feel the wounds and breaks like others do, and I forget how deep they are until tragedy happens. I’m sorry. Thank you for picking up the mantle again, Deidra. I know it’s heavy. I’m committed to sharing the load and striving alongside you for holy unity in all our beautiful diversity.
I’m glad to be walking this road with you, Kim. Thanks for joining the conversation here, and for your honesty.
I feel ignorant as I read this post and all the other posts round the world wide web. I’m neck deep in my own small world of racism over here and I can’t get high enough above the fray to put 2 thoughts together.
I go there, in so many small ways, but to really go there, here, among every loud, smarter than me, non-white voice, is scary.
So pray for us, the small white voices doing the small things towards racial reconciliation in our small places, to lean into what we know to be true and put brave words around the hard things we see lived out.
Because friend, I am afraid to use my words. Really afraid.
Thank you for your continual call to action- this is why I listen to you.
You are #GoingThere every day. We are watching you and learning from you and feeling small in our own comfortable worlds while you’ve got your sleeves rolled up and your life all rearranged. We admire you. I listen to you. Keep on keeping on.
I totally get the frustration. I get the anger. I feel it too. As a white person engaged in multiracial ministry, I feel like a broken record sometimes. That’s why I’ve been silent (on the platforms where anyone might hear me publicly–I am talking A LOT with my friends, my church, and the four black boys ranging from 2 to 19 who like to hang at my house for anything ranging from hours to years). First, the priority was what to tell the 18- and 19-year-olds. Then it was to talk with my friends. But what can I say that hasn’t been said? That black people can’t say better and with more authority? In my circles, I am vocal. My voice matters there. It matters less on the internet, so I am not talking to the blogosphere, but be assured I am talking. So are lots of others.
Oh, I so get that broken record feeling. I’m tired of listening to myself. Good grief! I would love Love LOVE to be a fly on the wall around your house.
And again, this is not meant to guilt all the white people into writing something about Ferguson. But, the Church? All of us? We can do better. Amen?
Sheila Seiler Lagrand
Amen. And the conversations around my house are priceless, Deidra. They range from why I make the two older boys carry a note that says they have permission to be driving my car (I prefer not to have to head to the police station to sort out a question about why a black boy is driving a car registered to me) to what our patronuses would be if we were Harry Potter characters.
“I see what’s happening in Ferguson. I don’t understand it, but I want to. Can someone help me understand it?”
This is what I want to ask. I have not been able to get this situation out of my mind. I am a white female. I know that I don’t get it but I really want to. Is there a safe place to ask questions that might reveal the prejudice that I don’t even know I have?
This is a safe place, Stacy. It doesn’t mean you won’t put your foot in your mouth. It doesn’t mean we won’t step on your toes. That’s part of the messiness of where we live, isn’t it? But, what I promise you is grace in the conversation. I promise you that. I promise to sit with you at the table, long enough to get us both to the other side. So, ask away!
Thank you for your gracious reply. I have been wanting to find a place to have this discussion and feel God led me here. Unfortunately, I can’t delve into it today b/c i need to meet the needs of my family. I plan to come back, though.
Okay… so this is scary… but I’m gonna share a couple links to a few of my thoughts that I blogged last year on the issue of racism. I posted these thoughts after having moved from Indiana to the Atlanta, Georgia area. My life and mind have changed a lot since then, but these thoughts may be good to share anyway:
God, help us.
Here’s one more: http://lotliving.blogspot.com/2013/11/when-youre-tired-of-always-only-knowing.html
“I see what’s happening in Ferguson. I don’t understand it, but I want to. Can someone help me understand it?”
I see the comments and the blog posts on my feed and I don’t know what to believe or what to think. I certainly don’t fully trust the media’s take on it. Because I don’t feel like I have a right to an opinion, I keep silent. I mean, I have no idea what it’s like to grow up as Mike Brown. My heart hurts for the family that lost their son, because it’s still a loss no matter how it happened, and he was so young! I don’t understand why people who are angry with the police want to express their anger by looting and destroying businesses who had nothing to do with the shooting, because that just seems to compound the tragedy, but then again I realize that a quiet protest would likely go unreported.
These conversations must be had, and we must be diligent about giving one another grace when we trip over our words or say the wrong thing, because I will surely do so. I just want to understand.
I’m so glad you’re here, Kim. You definitely have a right to an opinion. Remember that. Believe that. You have a right to an opinion. And you have the right to ask the questions. You also have the right to trip over you words and to say the wrong thing. We all do. And, we all will. But grace is bigger than that, and I promise you grace here. I promise you that.
i’m with you, Deidra. i’m with you.
Sheila Seiler Lagrand
I’ve had one thing to say and I’ve been afraid to say it for fear of being misunderstood and flamed like I’ve landed on the sun. I’m cowardly that way.
But here is safe, so I will say it here. I’m trained to put on my anthropologist’s hat to consider stuff like this. One friend posted a link to a blog with a perspective that made me seethe. I responded that I had a different perspective, there was a polite conversation, and it ended there.
But here’s the thing. The author of that post was talking about how rioting and looting (which we call an ‘uprising’ when white folk do it) don’t make any sense as a legitimate response to what has happened. He concluded that it was callous opportunism rather than a genuine response to the young man’s death.
And there’s this paper that I read in graduate school that addresses that very question. And it describes how grief can elicit rage. But I was afraid to say that. I was afraid to say it because I feared that just writing the name of the article would lead to me being branded as an ugly, bigoted racist. I was afraid that people would claim that I was calling black people “primitive” or “vicious.” Which of course is not the case. So instead of sharing something that could have offered a different perspective, I kept my mouth shut.
I was afraid because the article is called “Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage” and I was too cowardly to share because in the midst of turmoil I was afraid people would see “Ferguson” and “Headhunters” in the same paragraph and leap to ugly conclusions. I didn’t want to be thought of that way.
I am really ashamed.
Here is a link to an abstract of the article. http://www.researchomatic.com/Renato-Resaldos-Renato-Resaldos-Story-Grief-And-A-Headhunters-Rage-25536.html
This man’s work changed anthropology. Here’s a little bit about him.
So grateful for you, Deidra. This line : “You’re not going to get out of it or through it without getting hurt or offended or offending someone. If we can just be okay with that, and do it anyway, well, that would be a good place to start.” I keep thinking about this. I thank God for the people who have walked into that mess with me, or allowed me to walk with them, and the ones who still are.
I have this image I can’t shake (I’m an artist – that’s how I process). I keep thinking about Amos 5, and the image of justice rolling as a river, right smack in the midst of a passage not about peace-making and reconciliation, but about LAMENT and REPENTANCE. Right in the middle, an image of justice rolling like a river.
A river runs through our town. It divides the town, and we’ve got bridges to cross it, or you turn around. No one walks through this river. And I think that’s what we often do with these issues of injustice. We walk away when it splits the land, or we construct our bridges to go over and around. But I believe we are called to wade in to the river. The river, always flowing to the low places, cutting away at stone by perseverance, always stronger than it seems.
Grateful for your voice here, Deidra, and the many others who are persevering.
I couldn’t post the link on FB, so posting it here instead; another heartfelt article in response to Ferguson.
Deidra, I’m going there with you. I feel like my heart has been ravaged by all of this mayhem in the world. I am done. Fed up. Sickened and revolted and terrified all at once. How does a white girl in white Montana go there? Well, through my words, I guess. So here we go. I got your back, girl. Let’s go there together.
Deidra – we have shared space on this issue via facebook already. I just want everyone to realize that they are not getting the whole picture out there. This is my neighborhood. The media has already decided this is an open and shut case and we don’t even have all the details. I can tell you about Ferguson. I grew up in a neighboring community. I have lived here over 45 years. I have friends who have had to abandon their homes due to the riots/looting/burning and vandalism. Now we can’t even protect our neighborhoods without being accused of having a military police force. If you lived here, you would be grieving the human condition. You would be standing side by side black and white and all races who know the response is wrong and we are all troubled by it. You should see the way we are approaching one another now, the blacks and whites, wondering, “can I trust you”? “look at me, you can trust me.” “Are you one of the violent ones?” “I am not one of the violent ones.” Honestly, I am grieved to see so many out there speaking with such authority with so little real knowledge. Even the Christians. It makes me wonder, who are they really concerned about? What are they really standing for? Themselves? Their political agenda? It is certainly not the righteousness of God. Because they would not be blaming the “others” if it were. It is so frustrating. Listening to the helicopters droning and living in the thick of the tension…so very hard. Can’t wait for Jesus to come back.
I love you and am praying for you, Kelly. Thank you so much for your perspective!
Lynn D. Morrissey
Kelly,so good to see your face (I love your face!) and words here. I have had some of these thoughts, and I am trying to compose them all in my head and heart before writing them “officially.” But I did comment spontaneously over at Shellys: http://redemptionsbeauty.com/2014/08/15/good-truth-dont-know-live/#disqus_thread
I wrote that last night when I was tired and grieving and wasn’t carefully
weighing words. I have a rule of not writing when it’s late at night (at least for publication). 🙂 But my sadness got the better of me. I’ve just re-read it and meant what I said. You and I? We live here. I’ve only heard from one of my writing friends who knows I’m here. Her concern was for the well-being of our city and of course for my family and me personally. While we are not directly affected in the sense that we live a 15-20 min. drive away, St. Louis is my native city and Ferguson, you may as well say, is in St. Louis (and I mention my association with it over at Shelly’s). I grieve over what has happened–the horror of what has happened to this young man–while at the same time grieving over what is happening to our community now on a continous basis. It has gone way beyond outrage over Michael Brown. And people across the nation speak in sound bites like they hear the news in sound bites, and our community is being bitten into, chewed up, and spewed out in concepts that are unrecognizable, or at least in many cases just bits and pieces of truth. Granted, there is some truth, but it’s only heard here and there, and there are a whole lot of falsehoods. This is our home, and it is being torn apart. Thank you for expressing this, and my thanks to Deidra for giving people a place to share vulnerably. Deidra, if you are reading, I just love that about you! Maybe I will write more, but Im just so sad and trying to take it all in. I’m not even sure what I think, because none of us has the full story and it seems to keep changing day by day by day. But we know Who does know the story and the story’s end, and we beseech Him for mercy, grace, and peace.
Deidra, this post is one more reason why I am proud to work with you and proud to be your friend and brother in Christ. Thank you. I have not been following the conversation about Ferguson on social media, but I did see one good piece over at the Gospel Coalition site. At least it seems good to me. I’d be interested in your wisdom about it: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2014/08/14/ferguson-is-ripping-the-bandages-off-our-racial-wounds/. Thanks again for who you are and for what you are doing through your amazing writing.
I feel much the way Lori does. I’m sitting quietly simply because I want to learn more. I’m the little girl who just wanted to do everything right, who has grown up into a woman who just wants to find the answer and then do it. I feel so sad when there doesn’t seem to be a way to just make what is obviously wrong right. This is a good place to begin Deidra. Thank you for being true and brave.
“I see what’s happening in Ferguson. I don’t understand it, but I want to. Can someone help me understand it?”
I’m listening and asking. I’m sorry it took so long.
Sarah Mae, I’m glad you’re here. I just read the post Mark Roberts linked to in this thread, and I think it’s a great place to start. It may raise questions, and this is a safe place to ask those questions. Good words in that post Mark recommends. I encourage you to give it a read. And again, welcome to the conversation. It’s a little bit like white water rafting.
Diedra, thank you for going there. And I hope you hear this the right way, but I want to remind you (encourage you? exhort you? affirm you?) that you are a prophet. And the prophetic voices among the church have always felt a little bit “other,” a little bit misunderstood. I don’t say that to dismiss how your race plays in – not at all, because that can of course lend weight to the feeling of “other” – but no doubt your wrestling is compounded by that feeling of being the “voice in the desert,” the prophet not always welcome. (But oh so needed.) The prophetic voices ring through the ages and yet under the declarations there often remain questions: Is anybody listening? Does anybody care? Am I the only one? God, I’m pretty sure you led me here so where are you in all of this?
I want to say to you that I’m listening. I care. And I know many others do, too. We need you. The church needs you. Please keep writing – hold fast to your holy calling to be a voice in the wilderness saying “here is the way, walk in it.” We need your voice and your agitating love that spurs us on toward one another. We have so much to learn.
Like a few others have mentioned, I have felt mixed emotions related to Ferguson. No doubt my position as a middle-class white American factors into that. I am privileged beyond measure and I’m neither proud of that, nor ashamed. But it’s there and I know it. As a person who works cross- and inter-culturally more often than not, I am highly aware of my “position” and how my voice can come across (or how it can drown out others). Sometimes I let this deter me for fear of stepping on toes. Sometimes I am deterred because I don’t want to waste precious “mic time” to the detriment of others being heard who are more intimately familiar with the heartache than I am. Sometimes it’s a reaction to my imperialist roots and looks like me running the opposite direction out of disdain for the tracks laid before me that so easily lend themselves to me following suit. And other times, my fury and sense of justice absolutely charges me and I let loose without reservation. I constantly wrestle with my responsibility (and desire) to both speak and let others speak while I learn to listen well.
And yet. YET. When all the externals are peeled away I AM that mother who’s lost a son and now gropes for justice beyond her reach. I AM the teenager living in fear of being misunderstood. I AM the pastor trying to mediate in the midst of chaos. I AM the scared cop who’s reacting in ignorance and fear and a cardboard superiority. I AM Mike Brown – beloved and valuable beyond worth. I AM Jesus weeping through it all.
Deidra, after lamenting and questioning and soul-searching I offered my voice to the fray today. But the truth is I sometimes wonder if it matters. Is anyone listening? Does anyone care? Am I too late? Am I ‘enough’? My “platform” doesn’t matter… my small voice goes unheard. But then I realize it ALL matters. Because we belong to each other and, more importantly, we belong to Him. I’m sorry for this novel response, but I suppose I’m trying to process the hard stuff here right along with you. Because sometimes I look around me and wonder – doesn’t this matter to anyone like it matters to me? So I find myself online, reaching out to those who share the struggle. I believe there are more of us who care than it sometimes seems. This I do know and want to make perfectly clear: I’m listening and standing with you. Here’s my small offering: http://adrielbooker.com/jesus-came-for-ferguson/ And this is my prayer: http://adrielbooker.com/come-jesus-come/
Now please, keep on prophesying. The remnant are listening, as He certainly is. You are loved AND believed in.
This has stopped me in my tracks. Thank you. I needed this. More than you’ll know.
Deidra, I’m so thankful for your voice. You’re one of the few bloggers I know talking about racism and what it’s doing to the church, as well as what it means to be black in America. And the great thing is I’ve seen your posts ignite frank discussions and aha moments. People are responding and I have to believe you’re causing them to think in new ways. When I read your posts about things like senseless killings of black boys, being the only person of color at conferences, etc., I’m always like yes, finally someone in this great big blogging world who gets what I’m feeling. I know it’s frustrating to speak and feel like nothing is changing, but don’t stop.
If you were to write a plan of action what would it look like? I am just curious. I have been reading the #goingthere posts in the blog world and while they are all beautifully woven together words from women I admire I must say I am walking away from them not understanding what is being asked of me personally. Do you have some specific a,b,c hopes for those of us that see, hear, care, and want to make a difference?
Great question, Carey. I feel as if I’ve probably written out a plan of action over the years we’ve been having the #GoingThere discussion here on the blog, but because I’m not a detail person or a strategist (I even forgot to tag this post with #GoingThere, ha!), I never thought to try to wrangle all those thoughts into a concrete suggestion for those who might be wondering exactly the same thing. So, you’ve got me pulling thoughts together in my head, and I’ll post them here sometime in the next few days. Thanks for the nudge, my friend.
As for the other posts you’ve read, I feel them as a group of my brothers and sisters who want me to know they see, and they want to do more than simply say, “Good job, Deidra. Keep up the good work.” Somehow, they want to do something, too and, because they are brilliant with words, they’re expressing themselves in writing. It’s their one way to walk beside me and others on the journey and I am grateful to God for them.
We’re all on the same journey, even if we’re at different stages on the way. So, I encourage you to read those other posts as a call to solidarity and then, perhaps, ask them the same question you’ve asked me.
Thanks! I will look forward to reading your thoughts. I am much better being able to connect in person with people on matters of the heart…I struggle with how often people misunderstand tone in written word. It is like adding one more layer to an already 12 layer cake. I much prefer the biblical model of person a going to person b and if that doesn’t work then invite a person c to join you. But alas…
Blessed by your work.
Deidra, I want to understand better. I understand peaceful protest, but the looting and violence just feeds the stereotyping and racism doesn’t it? And as far as speaking up, to me some of the blogs written by people on the topic that I’ve read seem so patronizing and like “I’m jumping on this bandwagon because it’s the cool thing to do” and it makes me feel good about myself to do it . Meanwhile, in my own city, in my own church, I’m just trying to love and serve our latino, black, russian, asian and white neighborhood with God’s help. I can’t help Ferguson, but I can do my part, right here where God has put me.
Hey Elizabeth…Thought I’d just say that I too wonder the same thing. I’m all for our right to peaceful protest, but looting & violence really only serve to continue the stereotypical view.When I saw the news reports, all I could think was, “Of course there’s rioting, again.” There has to be a better way to make a point.
It seems to me that in the days of the great Martin Luther King, Jr., peaceful resistance gave blacks dignity and the right to respect for what they were trying to achieve. It took a long time, but changes did happen. And his methods are still held in high regard today. Defending yourself is one thing, but looting and rioting achieves nothing.
I hate what has happened to this young man. There is nothing right about it. Do I know how to stop it? No. I seriously doubt whether anything will ever change completely, and that is just the sad reality of our sinful humanness. There is only One who can ultimately restore peace and it’s Him we must rely on for change, even as we raise our voices in the best way we know how. And I am ashamed of the way the white Church avoids.
OK. It took me awhile to get back to you guys on this one because I wanted to see if I could find a link to share with you. I’ve included it at the bottom of this comment. I would encourage you to take a listen because I believe Dr. King’s perspective here is timely and helpful for people wondering about the looting in Ferguson. It’s uncanny, in my opinion, just how relevant this interview is, so many decades after it was recorded. Here is a key quote from Dr. King from the interview:
“I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard.”
I must say I appreciate “going there” and the dialogue that is shared here at your place. I listened to Dr. King, a man I so greatly respect, and I still hear him advocating for non-violence. In the case of self-defence, I believe he would defend himself, and would not place blame on others who defended themselves in the face of great harm. While he is absolutely right that “rioting is the language of the unheard”, (and I understand the great frustration of the blacks after centuries of waiting for their full freedom and recognition as equals), he also said in the interview, “rioting is self-defeating”. Which it is. At the same time, whoever takes part in rioting & looting, no matter the colour of his skin, is wrong. But I also realize that when it involves people of colour, it somehow seems worse for them to do it. The stereotypes continue. There are no easy answers. It bothers me that just because a person happens to have black skin, that he must fight all the harder for his basic rights. But I hold to rioting accomplishing nothing, even though I see how it happens.
I hear you. I don’t advocate rioting or looting or violence. I do, however, understand how it’s come to this. Hopefully and prayerfully, the Church can find a way to be a voice of Truth and peace in the midst of it all. Thanks so much for your insight.
One more thing. The bandwagon angle is important. I don’t want to be a bandwagon, or promote jumping on one because it seems to be trending. I love what you’re saying about helping right where you are, Elizabeth. It starts at home and, while we may not be able to get to Ferguson, we can make a difference where we are while we pray for Ferguson. Thanks so much for your perspective.
Can I just add another comment? I don’t think of Deidra as “my black blogger friend” or Alia as “my asian blogger friend” so to me even here we’re being divisive by sorting each other by color. Especially since, I assume, most of us are sisters in Christ.
Deidra, I have unfortunately been caught up in the drama of my little life. I came in on the tail end of the Ferguson deal and haven’t even gone back to figure out what the whole story was – how it unfolded and why (at the time I read it, at least) the name of the cop who shot Michael Brown has not been released. Because a friend of mine went on a rant about why more people were posting about the death of Robin Williams instead of the slaughter of Christians in the Middle East (I posted about both), I got a little nervous and didn’t post anything about Michael Brown for fear of upsetting more people. I forget sometimes that just because I am not an expert on racism (or whatever the issue might be) that doesn’t mean that my voice and my outrage is not needed. So I will tell you what little I know and what little I think about this Ferguson deal. I saw a photo of Michael Brown’s father using a torn piece of cardboard that he wrote on with black marker to make a sign saying that the Ferguson police had executed his unarmed son. It was jarring. If the cops had done the same to a white man, some other white people would have funded a professionally-designed billboard by now. But here was this father with his torn cardboard trying to let the world know that something had happened that was not right. I didn’t know whether I wanted to hug him or go hide in shame so that nobody would see how lily-white I am (you’ve seen my skin up close – you know that I would be a few shades short of albino if it wasn’t for the freckles). I don’t want to walk out my door and be an (unwilling) advertisement for the kind of whiteness that says, “Hey, cop, if a black man says ‘boo!’ to you, act scared and unload your ammunition clip on him!” But part of me wants to load up the 6 grandkids and drive to Ferguson and hold up our own pieces of torn cardboard right next to Michael Brown’s father. If I had the gas money, I might just do that. I’m a little short on cash right now, though, so I am just going to continue to pray for (and dream about) Michael Brown’s father and his whole family. I am going to pray that cops/justice system in Ferguson will start listening to what the protests are really about. I am going to pray that you will always have the strength and willingness to keep “going there” and to keep dragging us along, if need be, til we “get it” and do something about it. Thank you for being the voice that cries out (in the seeming wilderness) so that we hear about how God wants us to treat all of His children, not just His white ones. Please forgive me if I get so self-centered and caught up in my own life that I forget to raise my voice when I see racism and injustice running amok. I love you and I am so proud to be your sister. xoxoxo
Sometimes news is too much news and I have to shut it off and not watch for a while, I just found out about Ferguson yesterday morning on the US news(I am Canadian). The more I read the angrier it makes me. I didn’t realize he was left in the street, and why 10 shots? If justice was to be done, then 1 shot would have taken him down long enough to arrest him and get him to jail, if he had done something wrong. 10 shots?????? It really frustrates me that this type of bigotry is still going on. I remember seeing Morgan Freeman in an interview saying that a few years ago was the first interracial prom in his small town in Mississippi. How is this still happening? I 100% know that violence is definitely not the answer, but it has become a story because of it and that may be the saving grace. I am not even going to begin to say I know, or can imagine what is going on down in Missouri, but sometimes prayer needs action. Not violence, but action. Can the churches, all denominations, take action? Can all the clergy get together with their people and just be one big action of God? These are questions we should all be asking, I am not directing them to anyone in particular. I remember when the Black Panthers were in the news and my Dad was saying how they weren’t left any choice other than violence, but I always thought, but look at Dr. Martin Luther King and how far he got without striking one single person. It can be done, we just need to figure out how. May God rise up His people and stand together and say, “This will not happen again!”. God bless you Deidra and keep writing on behalf of all people who still feel unwanted, unaccepted, undesirable because this is why God put you here. To be their voice, their Mother, their friend. Thank you,
Stephanie McCreight, Guelph, Ontarion, Canada.
Wow. I love this. This has fanned a fire in my belly that’s been there so long. I’m emailing back and forth with the missions Pastor at my future church(my fiance’s church) about how there are not many writings about the first 1500 years of Christianity that include influential disciple voices from those who are not white Europeans or Americans. The “contemporary fathers of the faith” are all white men. No women, no black or brown people. But I KNOW the gospel has reach and touched many, and many have stories to tell, and I believe they are written down or passed around orally, but why don’t we know about them unless they are Martin Luther King or if you’re really into it, K.P Yohannan and Watchman Nee – but they STILL aren’t Christian household names like C.S. Lewis, St. Augestine, Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, and a slew of others. Please do NOT hear me wrong – all men and women of the faith who hold to the truth of God’s word are useful and a treasure. But The forefront of Christian faith has looked whitewashed in English speaking countries for centuries. Yet the Apostle Thomas camped out in India. One of the first recorded baptisms of the church age was for an Ethiopian eunich. There are people, there are stories, there are voices, all the way from the beginning. But where ARE they?
Sandra Heska King
So I’m going to tiptoe in here with fear and trembling and just say this.
I did not ask to be born as a white woman of privilege. Every time I hear that term, though, I cringe. It’s like twisting a knife in my guilt. But I also wouldn’t want to be an unprivileged woman of any color.
I hate when so many conflicts between a white person and a black person (or any person of any color) become labeled as racist when they may simply be disagreements between two people. I’ve had friends lose jobs to quota systems even though they may have been more qualified. Yet maybe the person who was ultimately hired never had other opportunities to gain experience. So there’s that.
I wish we didn’t live with these divisions. t wish I knew how to fix it all. I don’t even know if it can be fixed before Jesus comes back. I know that my heart hurts, and I don’t know what to do with it except sit in the ashes.
I wrote a little about my inability to go there today here:
And now I’ll just sneak out the back door.
P.S. I love you big, my friend.
Thank you for writing this and for keeping this list. Talking to each other is only the first step, but we won’t get anywhere if we don’t take it. Bless you, Deirdra. I’m so glad Cornelia introduced us.
Oh, my friend. I am SO GRATEFUL for your voice, for your passion, for your commitment to going there, for calling us to pay attention. I’m sorry I’ve been out of the loop. This recovery process has about finished me off, though I am making progress. And like Brandee, I do not watch the news, I do not do Twitter, I do not do Instagram. I’ve even stepped back from FB during most of my days and evenings, sometimes posting others posts when I find a rich one. That doesn’t mean I’m not heartbroken about all of this – it just means I honestly believe I have little to add to the conversation. I need to listen, really listen. Because this is a mess, a hard and horrid mess, and my skin and my financial comfort and my location mean I don’t know enough to make any kind of contribution whatsoever except to say, I’m here, I want to learn, I want to help when and how it is appropriate for an aging white woman pastor to do so. I love you.
I hope you know that I am not just cheering you on, Deidra. I am currently working on my own #goingthere post, and Im grateful for this continuing conversation.
Appreciate this so much. Lori Harris put it beautifully. We need and appreciate your voice. Teach us, pray for us, encourage us, kick us in the behind to get going… we appreciate you!
Thank you for leading the way for many of us to go there. If I may be so bold, here’s a piece I wrote: http://thatreformedblog.com/2014/08/25/what-listening-to-ferguson-has-taught-this-white-mama/