Reflection

Black Lives Matter, and I’m Sorry I Didn’t Acknowledge That Sooner

I’m white. Actually, I’m American Indian too, but I look white. And I’ve never really given that much thought until this week.

I’m a white person who strives to love people whether I’ve known them for a day or for a decade, and I don’t think that’s a reason to be proud. As a Jesus follower I’m commanded to love people, and most of the time it’s the easiest part of walking in relationship with God.

Right now the world is hurting, and I’ve spent a lot of time over the last 48 hours being sad about the state of my city, our nation and our world. I’ve chosen to surrender my desire to obsess over the 24 hour news cycles that used to consume me, but this pain is felt everywhere.

It’s impossible to scroll through my Facebook feed without seeing countless posts about the long list of people who’ve lost their lives over the last few days. I know that murder, death and persecution extend far beyond our American borders, but Alton Sterling was shot an hour away from here. The murder rate in New Orleans is higher here than in most places in the world, but tonight my heart is breaking for the men and the families of the men everyone’s talking about – the men who were stopped and shot by officers and the policemen who lost their lives while seeking protect peaceful protesters.

I don’t know how to express the disdain I feel when I read the opinions of know-it-all folks on the death of the black men who were killed. I have thoughts on it, but I don’t have facts. All I know is that lives were taken, and that’s devastating. I also know that, in what seemed to be an attempt to retaliate, an angry man took the lives of five additional men.

I’ve never considered whether or not to befriend someone based on the color of their skin, and I always believed that was the right thing. In my mind we’re all humans made by God who have unique gifts, talents and abilities. I honestly didn’t understand how or why anyone would choose to see it any other way, but I know now that they do.

While sitting in a coffee shop recently I found myself in an uncomfortable conversation about black people, and I made it very clear that I didn’t feel the way that person felt. Those conversations have happened a lot over the last few days, so I’m speaking up.

When police brutality was in question several months ago I made the naive and offensive mistake of noting that all lives matter. Of course all lives matter, but right now there’s an entire race of people worried about what might happen if they get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time by someone who doesn’t like the way they look. I think the Black Lives Matter movement needs a much better strategy and a public relations plan, but the reality is they exist because there are far too many people who don’t understand that racism still exists. Yes, it exists on both sides, but that’s not an acceptable reason to ignore it.

Discrimination exists too. I’m no stranger to that. It’s common for society to make snap judgements about me based on my size, but I’ve never felt as though my life was being threatened due to the way I look. 

Philippians 2-4Is every white person racist? No…not even close. Is every black person the victim of racism? I don’t know. I’ve never walked in those shoes. What I do know is that as a believer loving people and treating them with the same kind of respect I hope receive is not optional. 

I don’t know how to fix the racism, the hatred and the bigotry that exists in this society without turning to Jesus. He’s our only hope, but thankfully, He’s also our greatest hope. 

So listen up, believers, we live in a dark world that’s filled with sin, and the cycle will never be broken if all we do is write posts like this one or leave angry comments on social media. The only way to find peace is to ask Jesus for it, and the only way to be a comfort to the people hurting is to put our arms around them and to remind them that they’re not alone, that they’re loved and that Jesus loved them so much He was willing to die for them.

And now, to any and every black person who comes across this post, I want you to know that you matter to me. Your life, the lives of your family and the lives that were lost matter to me. My heart is broken with yours, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you face fears that I’ve never understood, and I’m sorry that you didn’t know that I value you.

And to the honest, hard-working men in blue: I’m sorry that your job is so hard, and I’m thankful  for your service.

The world is dark, and the only way to combat darkness is with light. Jesus is the light of the world, and we need Him now more than ever. I don’t have fancy, theological answers, but I don’t need them because God hears our prayers. And our prayers don’t have to be fancy either because God knows our hearts, and the power in prayer only exists because God does. He said, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

This isn’t a problem for society to fix. It’s a problem that God’s children need to take seriously, so if you’re a Jesus follower, I’d like you to pray with me. Pray for healing and peace and and for the salvation of those who are lost and hurting. 

 

 

 

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3 Comments

  • Reply
    Mike
    July 10, 2016 at 6:53 am

    Thank you Kenlie. You matter to me too, always. 🙂

  • Reply
    Marsha Randall
    July 10, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    You put it very well. Thank you, Kenlie.

  • Reply
    Miranda
    July 10, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    I haven’t found a much better explanation for the “Black Lives Matter” vs. “All Lives Matter” discussion than GeekAesthete’s from a Reddit thread last year:

    “Imagine that you’re sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don’t get any. So you say “I should get my fair share.” And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, “everyone should get their fair share.” Now, that’s a wonderful sentiment — indeed, everyone should, and that was kinda your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair share also. However, dad’s smart-ass comment just dismissed you and didn’t solve the problem that you still haven’t gotten any!

    The problem is that the statement “I should get my fair share” had an implicit “too” at the end: “I should get my fair share, too, just like everyone else.” But your dad’s response treated your statement as though you meant “only I should get my fair share”, which clearly was not your intention. As a result, his statement that “everyone should get their fair share,” while true, only served to ignore the problem you were trying to point out.

    That’s the situation of the “black lives matter” movement. Culture, laws, the arts, religion, and everyone else repeatedly suggest that all lives should matter. Clearly, that message already abounds in our society.

    The problem is that, in practice, the world doesn’t work that way. You see the film Nightcrawler? You know the part where Renee Russo tells Jake Gyllenhal that she doesn’t want footage of a black or latino person dying, she wants news stories about affluent white people being killed? That’s not made up out of whole cloth — there is a news bias toward stories that the majority of the audience (who are white) can identify with. So when a young black man gets killed (prior to the recent police shootings), it’s generally not considered “news”, while a middle-aged white woman being killed is treated as news. And to a large degree, that is accurate — young black men are killed in significantly disproportionate numbers, which is why we don’t treat it as anything new. But the result is that, societally, we don’t pay as much attention to certain people’s deaths as we do to others. So, currently, we don’t treat all lives as though they matter equally.

    Just like asking dad for your fair share, the phrase “black lives matter” also has an implicit “too” at the end: it’s saying that black lives should also matter. But responding to this by saying “all lives matter” is willfully going back to ignoring the problem. It’s a way of dismissing the statement by falsely suggesting that it means “only black lives matter,” when that is obviously not the case. And so saying “all lives matter” as a direct response to “black lives matter” is essentially saying that we should just go back to ignoring the problem.”

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