I have been appalled by the far too frequent news reports and shocking videos of blatant murder of innocent black men by white men. And even as I typed those last five words, “black men by white men,” I cringed. I didn’t want to type the transparent truth, because in doing so I admit the ugliness of the race I share, but the time for sweeping under the rug or hiding your head in a hole has passed. I think I used to tell myself, I’m not racist, therefore I’m good, despite the atrocities abounding. But I believe God is bringing the obvious evil to the forefront as of late so we can all make the change. Not just pass it off to those we feel are responsible. That’s not what God is calling us to do.
In wanting to bring light to an ever-present problem I knew I must use my platform to speak, but I didn’t want to just make some flowery post on Facebook, that while it got a few hundred “likes,” did about as much for the issue as the same digital, blue thumbs could do. I wanted God’s heart for me personally on this issue, and I prayed to Him for what I should say.
Immediately after asking, I felt the Lord say, “think about this as a mother would.”
As far as mothering goes, I had experienced an exhausting week. My eldest child had unexpectedly experienced a grand mal (tonic-clonic) seizure. She had been hospitalized, gone through all the testing, been diagnosed with epilepsy, and placed on maintenance medication. We were now going through the aftermath of medication side effects, and the worst part, me trying not to worry to death for her. That’s what moms did, though. We worried about our babies.
At the Lord’s prompting, I tried to imagine how I would respond to recent events in a motherly sense. If my child wasn’t the pale, Caucasian young woman she was, how would that change things for me? Could I trust all my social media contacts not to murder my black son if I had one?
Although I’m a Floridian now, living in a multicultural melting pot, I was most recently raised in Mississippi. There are a lot of good people in the South, who love their neighbor like themself, but there also still exists a prevalent attitude of racism. We want to think it’s not an issue anymore, like, since it no longer resembles the film Mississippi Burning, or the plantation isn’t worked by slaves, that a long-held stigma has been erased. It hasn’t.
Even though I was raised by a woman who had traveled the world, teaching me the color of a man’s skin didn’t define him, I was impacted by the small minds around me. It didn’t matter my very first friend had been named Tanisha, or that my Dad has bucked the system of his family’s belief. My father had been in the army, standing in battle with men of every color, who would lay down their life for his. If that doesn’t change your mindset, not much else will. Their support enabled me to go out with a black guy in high school, but my own regrettable fear of ridicule caused me to break it off.
I can still remember the gruff voice of a stranger on the phone the day following my date, “are you dating a nigger?!”
But even my personal brushes with racism hold little water when compared to the gravity of living in the midst of it. I may think I’ve experienced racism in my life and could share a handful of stories like the one above, but in reality, I have no clue. I don’t know personally what it’s like to be the target of hate simply because of the color of my skin.
I can sympathize related to still existing racism I’ve seen in the South, but in the end, I can’t empathize; I can’t even imagine. I cannot understand the fact that even though I’m an intelligent, well-spoken, college-educated, professional, that I could be murdered despite all those things if my skin was any color but white. I mean, the idea is ludicrous, am I right?! And those of us privileged enough to think it doesn’t happen that way, are even being shown that it does. I suppose if there’s anything that the enemy has meant for evil, that God can use for good, it’s the evidence and awareness that racism is real, that it still exists, and that it can kill.
So, this morning, while I had the privilege of only being able to imagine, I did make the conscious effort to imagine. To imagine what it must be like to be the mother of a black child. I have just experienced the stress of illness in my daughter, and I found that difficult. I was pushing away thoughts that they put her on the same anti-seizure medicine my mother had been on. My mother, who died of a seizure in her sleep. I had what I considered to be a sizable amount of faith in Jesus, but worries for the life of my baby, those thoughts rocked my soul. Imagine if every time your child left the house you had to worry about the chance of them being murdered? Not because of anything they had done wrong, but just because of the assumption they had or would be based on how much melanin their skin contained.
I will confess ignorance. In the past, I have said things were better. I’ve stood safely in my white skin and said it’s not that bad. I’ve tried to relate, even, stating all the ways I had been judged on outward appearance. Not that my inconveniences could even compare to fear of death, but in my self-centered, narrow vision, I was sure it did. But the thing is, as God brings to light the evil of man and the injustice out there, we can’t claim ignorance any longer. As we see the blatant disregard for human life, especially aimed at men of color, it’s an affront to anyone with eyes to claim racism doesn’t exist. To claim anything other than the fact it does is an exercise in denial to the worst degree.
I hate that racism is real. It was easier to tell myself incidents were few and far between, but pretending we live in a better world just doesn’t make it so. Times are changing, and God is bringing light to the evils of mankind. Our job as Christians is to see what He is bringing to light. It’s to admit we see it, and not hide our heads in the sand. Our task as followers of Jesus is to stand firm and speak up for those who are persecuted. It’s to call out injustice and evildoers. It’s to help carry the burden. Your friends of color have been carrying it on their own for far too long.
Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
I would encourage you to stop and consider your life. Consider how it would change if your skin was a different color. Imagine your life as a mother or a father. How would it change if you realized being pulled over for a traffic violation could get your child shot? Or even jogging down the road could end tragically. What if the talk you gave your teenager wasn’t just about the birds and the bees, but about the utmost importance of respecting authority figures who carried guns?
We often argue when injustice comes to light, thinking if we can put the center point on cops or guns that it will shift the focus. We say police aren’t bad, or that gun laws need to be reformed. But these are just distractions from the truth. In my opinion, there are a lot of good police! My white cousin was murdered by bad cops, but I still say the majority of police are fair and upright. But we’re not talking about police lives or the fact that they also matter. We won’t lessen any brother or sister by distracting from their life. To say racism is real, and to say someone shouldn’t be treated differently based on the color of their skin, isn’t to say one kind of people deserve better treatment. I think they just want equal treatment, and I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
I would like to think we’re finally headed in the right direction. Eyes are being opened and heads are coming out of the sand. You can’t deny something any longer that blares itself outside the shadows, yet sadly, people still do. It’s up to us, the followers of Christ, to stand and speak out against evil. It must be held accountable, and no longer be allowed to hide. True change doesn’t happen on Facebook, or even at the hands of a well-thought blog post. It comes by the hands and feet of people everywhere. It starts in the hearts of every man and woman. We must admit there’s a problem, then work to resolve that issue in our own thoughts and feelings. To personally place ourselves in the shoes of another. Change continues as we impress that heart change to our children, and to everyone in our home. Change prevails when we carry that heart of Christ into our communities, onto our job sites, and into our every conversation and interaction.
It comes down to me to be a sanctity of life issue. All life is precious to our Lord, and our job is to see our fellow man as He does. It’s not a goal to not see color, but rather to see each color as precious, equal, and designed precisely, uniquely, and with a great purpose by God. Who are we to thwart what He has created? And who are we to ignore the attacks of Satan to divide and destroy mankind?
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on BrieGowen.com.
Featured Image by Frank Mckenna