As we head into Black History month, it is alarmingly apparent to me we (as white people) miss out incredibly when we fail to have a diverse community.
I failed to realize, before bringing our son into our family, how incredibly much we as white people miss out on when we aren't in close community with people of other race and ethnicity.
Portland is not diverse at all when it comes to culture. There are pockets that are ethnically and racially diverse. But in talking with my black friends, it is clear that the culture of Portland is so strong, any other culture is forced to bend to it.
Black History should not be squished into one month, and even though it receives its own month—the shortest month of the year might I add—, we often fail to fully dive into Black History.
Here is why Black History is important:
If we want to be people of the Gospel—true Jesus followers—we need to know about oppression and social injustice. The heart of God is justice, the Gospel at its core is God pursuing justice, reconciliation, and redemption.
If we want to be white parents of children of color—or already are—we need to put on our big kid pants and talk about this. We need to dive into the realities of our white privilege, push against our white fragility, and actively work towards tearing down the evil that is white supremacy.
What to expect:
Through February and into March—and hopefully beyond—, I hope to offer a multitude of perspectives and voices for us to learn from.
I am very careful about the voices I have on my space—this is my sacred corner of the internet. I don't take lightly the fact that you show up here and read my words, so when I allow others to share or be interviewed, I do it with care and thought and intention.
That said, you can absolutely expect to hear some experiences, stories, and pieces of people's journeys through the next few months. They are each non-white, a person of color. Some of them have blogs and books and shops. Others are my real-life, in-person friends. To have them agree to share on my space is a privilege I hope to never take lightly.
Don't push back against really listening:
I'm no expert. I'm no genius. I'm absolutely in the beginning of my pursuit-of-justice journey. I'm still ignorant. I'm learning a lot but know very little. I have maybe about half a clue.
That said, something that was shocking to me at the start of my Great Awakening (my realization that the world is much bigger than I knew, and systemic racism was an actual and real thing and reconciliation is at the center of His heart) was that not everyone has ears to hear or eyes to see the obvious injustices occurring in our nation. In our neighborhoods. In our families. In our homes.
When it comes to Black History and the Black experience, the slavery that "ended" in 1865 is still alive and well today but in different forms.
One of the greatest tragedies in our current white evangelical culture is that we push back anytime this is brought up. We argue. We defend. We want so badly to be in the right.
We like to remind people of color that "slavery ended a long time ago."
Some other statements I've seen and said and thought are:
- When will you move past slavery? It's over. You're free. Move on.
- There IS equality.
- We as [white] Christians are greatly oppressed in the US.
- God asks us to forgive and forget.
- You're exaggerating. (A response to a microaggression)
- I/They didn't mean it that way. (A response to a microaggression)
- This doesn't effect/concern me.
- They probably deserved it. (A response to brutality).
- We don't know the details, we weren't there. (A response to brutality)
The thing about Black History and the current Black experience, is that if you truly and genuinely listen, you will not be comfortable. You will likely struggle for a time with (white) guilt. You may even—hopefully—move into a space where you want to actively work for change.
You might find yourself aching to pursue justice for all.
"...one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
I want this for our country so profoundly.
And until we stop, sit on our hands, and listen to the experiences of the voices crying out, we will not find reason to pursue justice. Which means our nation's anthem will not ring true. And dare I say, we will not be true people of the whole Gospel.
Jesus and Justice
Likely, this will soon have its own post. But I want to touch on it here because I am a big, big fan of Jesus. I know many of you are too.
As I stated above, I believe to my core that justice is at the heart of the Gospel. At His heart. Jesus's heart. His work is of redemption and reconciliation.
Growing up in the church, we talked about things we might lose as Christians: approval, status, wealth, dreams, etc. But we didn't ever dive into justice-seeking or justice-saving.
The reality is, when we pursue justice, we will lose things. We begin being less concerned about our wealth and more concerned about someone's poverty. Less aware of our self and our status and more aware of inequities.
Even the rich young ruler asked "What will it cost me to take this path and follow Jesus?" He was sad because he knew it would cost him what he had. And Jesus was after Justice.
We lose money, efforts, being right or in the right, understanding everything, comfort, status, ignorance, being able to explain everything, priorities shift, sometimes we lose relationships.
But what I'm learning to do is to pay attention to what I'm gaining. I have uncovered more of God and grace and Jesus these past few years than I knew there was to uncover. My community has expanded and deepened and humbled me in the most beautiful ways.
If we refuse to let go of the things we have—time, money, status, being in the right, understanding everything, comfort—and refuse to step in or stand up for those who are asking us to not remain silent, we miss out on the very thing that matters.
When we struggle to let go of what we have in our hands now, we fail to fully live and gain what and who He is.
So. As we venture into Black History and the sharing of Black experiences, I pray and I hope you will set down any need to defend, to explain, or to prove someone wrong or prove yourself in the right. I implore you to lose those reflexes, and instead gain a deeper understanding of our world, our neighbors, and even some of our families.
If you are confident racial reconciliation does not concern you, please reconsider. Reevaluate. Keep listening, keep reading, keep seeking out the voices of other experiences.
It's a real privilege to be on this journey. May we walk in the fierceness of grace and the boldness of humble love.
DOCUMENTARIES/MOVIES TO WATCH + BOOKS TO READ + Podcasts to check out
This is by no means a complete list, just a few to get started. I have not watched/read/listened to all of these, but I found them when I searched through the Be The Bridge To Racial Unity Facebook Group.
Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart (Christena is coming to Portland this weekend if you are available or can make it happen!)
The African Americans: Many Rivers To Cross (PBS series)
Book: White Awake, Waking Up White, Radical Reconciliation
Hidden Colors (not a film only about slavery, but the actual history of the Black community)
Slavery By Another Name (PBS)
"Minty" episode of Underground
Any of the three versions of Frederick Douglass’s autobiography
I Am Not Your Negro (Documentary)
Changing the Game (Documentary)
The New Jim Crow (book)
The Hate U Give (book)