For months now, I have wanted to articulate my thoughts, feelings, opinions, and desires regarding racial injustice in our country, specifically the Black Lives Matter movement. There is so much I want to say. I want to list all of the views I have on each racially charged incident that has made the news in the last year. I want to make a Biblical argument for the importance of ethnicity. I want to show that an undeniable implication of the Gospel is racial reconciliation. I want to argue with every single ignorant and rude thing that I have seen posted on the internet recently, both by strangers and friends. There is so much I want to say. The problem is big: the oppression is deep, the injustices are real, the history is complicated, and the hope often seems lost. But what I have found is, although it may feel like a time to speak, it is actually a time to be silent — not a silence of cowardice and fear but a silence of listening, a silence that hears.
The people of color in my life, especially my black friends, are dying to be heard. Jesus has given me the great gift of two incredible women, Charlene and Adwoa, who have opened up to me about the joy and pain that it is to be a black woman, especially these last few months. They want to share about the fact that their lives have been different than those of white people in America. They want to talk about their experience of the world without someone arguing with them about its validity. They want space to be angry in the face of systemic injustice against them. They want to celebrate the beauty of their blackness. They want to process the very real fear they feel about being black in America. They want reconciliation, and freedom, and peace, and justice. What I can give them — what we can always give to the people in our lives — is to hear them. It is simple but it is not always easy.
Listening has changed everything for me. Listening has forced me to grieve. Listening has led me to lament and continue lamenting. Listening has brought me to repentance — not only for my own racism but for the racism of my ancestors. [See Nehemiah 1 for an example of repenting for the sin of your ancestors rather than just your own individual sin]. Listening has made me admit that there is far more systemic injustice and racism in this country than I cared to see before, even with a fairly diverse childhood. Listening has formed anger in me in the face of injustice. Listening has kept me silent when I want to justify myself. Listening has led me to not only hear, but see, a world that is different from how I once viewed it. And most importantly, listening has allowed me to dream, to hope, and to pray for true peace, reconciliation, and justice in the face of so much brokenness.
So to my white brothers and sisters: what if we stopped fighting about every situation that hits the news in attempt to prove that race was not involved? What if we stopped justifying ourselves to prove that we don’t have an ounce of racism in us? What if we stopped tokenizing the people of color around us in an attempt to feel like we understand a whole ethnicity’s experience? What if we were willing to ask the uncomfortable questions in order to hear things that we may not what to hear? What if we were willing to be wrong? What if we were willing to listen?
So often, the conversation around racial injustice ends with “but what can we do about it?” and though it sounds like a logical end, I think it is often a cop out. We can listen. We can grieve. We can lament. We can respond. We can be angry. We can pray. And we can hope. It may not fix everything but it would begin to change everything.
“I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes.There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!'”