I spoke Sunday evening at a peace vigil in response to last week’s shootings of unarmed black men in Baton Rouge and a Minneapolis suburb. You can read my remarks here. As I was preparing my words, and even as I was waiting to speak, I felt like a fraud. I wasn’t sure why I was asked to speak, or even what I had to contribute. I didn’t want to get it wrong.
I’ve not been a Black Lives Matter activist. And I confess I’m late to the party because I have the privilege of being late to the party.
I now know the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s did not solve the problems of race in our country. I confess I did not know that until Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson almost 2 years ago.
I confess it was only after Ferguson I became aware of my privilege and the manner in which I have benefitted from the systemic racism that wounds our country.
I confess it has taken me two years, even since my awareness of the problem, to truly show up because it was such an angry and divisive conversation at first that I just steered clear of it. I’ve preached on it a few times, but that’s been a privilege too–to mention something without having to change.
I confess I rationalized it with comments like “I live in Idaho. Racism is different here”. or “I’m already working for LGBTQ/Q inclusion. I don’t have the energy to deal with race too”.
And though I’m late to the work, I’m here now.
Black Lives Matter.
I will keep saying it until people stop replying with “All Lives Matter”.
Because we know that ‘all lives matter’ does not get us off the hook for acknowledging the way we’ve been denying that black lives matter. (Here’s a great post about how Jesus might reply to the topic).
I’m attending to the ways my privilege keeps me blind to how I benefit from a system of bias, discrimination, and violence.
One of the things I said Sunday night was about “peace” and how we can’t use calls for peace as an excuse to do something:
I know lots of us are using the word “peace” this week. I hope we won’t be too quick to throw that word around. If the word “peace” is used to silence the pain of people who are dying, it is not peace.
If the word “peace” is used to keep us from addressing the systems and practices that allow some of us to thrive and others of us to die because of the amount of pigment in their skin, then it is not peace. It becomes a word of oppression.
I pray for peace, for wholeness, for our land. But for that to happen, I pray for discomfort for the comfortable and comfort for the afflicted.
I’m also aware that church has been a perpetrator of discrimination and racism too. And it is past time for our discomfort to be given space. One of my friends said that after the vigil Sunday night, she dreamed that she knew she was supposed to do something about Black Lives Matter, but she kept saying “I’ve lost my script!”.
And that’s a good thing. Because the script in the White church in the US has been a bad one, corrupted by the sin of racism. We need to go off script. We need to just throw that old script out.
Are we ready to lose our script? To step into discomfort and away from a false peace? To listen to the stories our black brothers and sisters have been crying out for years? To learn new ways of navigating our privilege? To build better structures to make a more just and safe society?
I have great confidence I will muck it up. And I will say boneheaded things (as I’m sure I already have done). Yet I will try again. And keep at it until there is real change in our society.
I confess. I apologize. I repent.