I Understand That I Will Never Understand. But I Stand With You.

I haven’t written in a while because, if I’m being honest, I’ve been at a loss for words and haven’t been sure how to speak up.

Every day we hear of more riots, more vandalism, and more heartbreak. Every day we learn of more injustice and hear cries for peace, mercy, and understanding. Every day the uproar gets a little louder, becomes a little clearer, and gains a little more traction.

My heart shatters into more pieces with every new article released by the presses. All this chaos forces its way into the forefront of my mind, screaming for attention and support.

But then the questions start flooding in:

WHAT CAN I DO? I'M JUST ANOTHER WHITE PERSON. I HAVE NO
IDEA WHAT THESE PEOPLE ARE GOING THROUGH.

HOW CAN I SUPPORT A GROUP OF PEOPLE I'M NOT A PART OF?

HOW CAN I TRUST THE MEDIA TO REPORT WHAT'S ACTUALLY
GOING ON, WITH ALL THE CORRUPTION AND POLITICAL
AGENDAS THAT ARE LURKING BEHIND THE SCENES?

DOES THIS PROBLEM REALLY AFFECT ME BECAUSE I'M WHITE?

HOW SHOULD I BE VIEWING RACISM AS A CHRISTIAN? SHOULD
THIS REALLY BE BOTHERING ME THAT MUCH?

I’ll admit, these are all really tough questions to answer. A lot of people are asking and don’t know where to turn. They seek answers, but there aren’t a lot of great places to find them.

So you know what I’ve been noticing? Instead of leading with listening hearts, everyone wants to be right. They want their opinion to not only be heard, but to be magnified. They want to be the ones that stir people and inspire actions.

But is that really what this is all about?

This is going to sound really controversial, but we need to get over ourselves. We need to stop putting first our own agendas and opinions. We need to stop freaking out every time someone doesn’t agree with us because, frankly, it doesn’t matter. We preach that everyone has a right to their own opinions and thoughts, but the second they don’t agree with ours, we demonize, ridicule, and shame them until they shut up and we seemingly “win”.

I may not be black, but I can guarantee you that’s not what this movement is about. Black Lives Matter is supposed to be about supporting a group that has been abused, neglected, ignored, and thrown to the wayside simply because of stupid skin color.

NOT BECAUSE OF ACTIONS.
NOT BECAUSE OF PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS.
NOT BECAUSE OF SOMETHING THEY DID.
NOT BECAUSE OF WHO THEY ARE OR HOW THEY IDENTIFY
THEMSELVES.

SIMPLY BECAUSE OF SKIN COLOR.
BECAUSE OF PREJUDICE.
BECAUSE OF ASSUMPTIONS.
BECAUSE OF UNFAIR BIAS.

Because we live in a broken world, filled with broken people, making broken decisions that impact people, both intentionally and unintentionally.

Photograph by Hannah Markley

Not a lot of people believe this, but our decisions and the consequences that follow affect more than just us: they affect those around us. When we make a bad decision, it can radiate out in ways we never thought possible.

I remember wanting to date a black guy during my freshman year of high school. He was incredibly kind, had a wonderful heart, and genuinely cared about me as a whole person. He didn’t care that I was white, and I didn’t care that he was black.

I remember a family member telling me that because he was black, he most likely wasn’t a Christian and therefore wasn’t a great match for me. They didn’t think he could be trusted, simply because of his skin color. And even when I decided not to date him (thankfully not because of that disgusting piece of “advice”), he respected my decision and we remained friends for quite some time.

To this day, that comment haunts me because I knew it didn’t make any sense. Not only had they never met this young man, they didn’t even want to take the time to get to know him. They immediately jumped to conclusions based on assumptions, bias, and racism. I would try to counter because I went to school with him and had class with him every single day, so I felt as though I knew him pretty well. But they didn’t care; they were bound and determined to stick to their ways and their thoughts.

Their own prejudice didn’t impact just themselves; for the first time in my life, it opened my eyes to what racism really looked like.

I remember my first friend ever. It was in Kindergarten, and she was black. She had the coolest afro, and was the nicest person I had ever met. I didn’t realize it then, but I do now: I wanted to be friends with her because she was nice and we got along really well. I didn’t see any difference between us, and even to this day I still don’t. I didn’t see a difference because at that point in my life, racism wasn’t taught. People were people, and that was that.

Photograph by Hannah Markley

I agree with the phrase that racism isn’t inherited; it’s learned, taught, and conditioned. Since I’m white, I never experienced racism growing up, but I did experience some pretty nasty bullying. While these aren’t even remotely the same, looking back now, it provides a really foggy window into seeing what racism is all about: it’s about setting black people up for failure. It’s about taunting, biased actions, and people making fun of you because of something you can’t control, not because of who you are. Over the years it gets worse, and no matter who you tell, it never seems to go away. Adults tell you to brush it off, get over it, or they don’t believe you. And so, you keep going living your life wading through the muck that you’ll never free yourself from.

The difference with bullying is a lot of adults are finally starting to do something when it’s reported. They are finally starting to listen and understand what’s actually been happening. But what if that person is a black kid who’s been called names by a white kid in middle school, whose parents have high standings and are super rich? Do you really think those adults and leaders at the school are going to listen?

That’s the problem we are facing right now. These are the kinds of stories I hear my friends tell about their own childhood. They fight their way through the unfairness to what? Grow up and keep experiencing it in their careers, their relationships with others, and strangers they pass on the street?

This vicious cycle has to stop. When white people are racist towards black people, those black people get angry because of the injustice they’re experiencing. Think about what you do when you get angry. When I get angry, I push people away. I neglect my relationships and friendships and turn inward. In turn, that makes my friends and family feel unwanted, which can ultimately make them angry as well! How they feel can then turn and impact their relationships with other people too! And so it spreads.

This should be bothering you. This should be rubbing you the wrong way. This should be making you feel uncomfortable. Our bodies and minds are prone to lean towards the easy way out, the comfortable way in, and the simplest way forward. And what options does that give us? To remain silent, to ignore the problem, and to keep on going like nothing ever happened.

I also wanted to bring up how we should be reacting as Christians, since this blog focuses primarily on faith. What would Jesus do? How does Scripture shed light on how He responded to racism and biases in His day? Is there anything we can take from His example and learn from it?

1) His ministry didn’t ignore anyone.

Jesus’ favorite groups of people were, in fact, the people who were most ignored, abused, and made fun of. He chose to heal the sick, speak to sinners, and spend time with them. He loved the woman at the well even though she was abandoned and removed from society. He told the story of the Good Samaritan to show us that even the people culture rejects can be good, kind people. He loved every person, from every background, and every walk of life because He created all of them with a perfect purpose. If we are called to follow Him, why aren’t we doing the same?

2) His death was all-inclusive.

Jesus died on the cross for ALL human beings on earth. He didn’t leave out black people or any other race. He views everyone as equal and that has been His heart from the start. If He doesn’t leave anyone out, why should we?

3) His Great Commission was intentionally worded.

The Great Commission can be found in Matthew 28:18-20. The phrase “all nations” can also be interpreted as “all peoples”. Jesus used this specific wording because He understood the hearts of His disciples. They grew up learning that the only people who could be saved and get to heaven were Jews, but now that Jesus had died and risen for all people, they weren’t to restrict His message and teachings just to Jewish people. They were called to go to every nation in the world, preaching and teaching the Good News to EVERYONE. He didn’t leave a single type of person out, no matter the skin color or background origin. If Jesus chose not to be biased against any group of people, and to die for everyone, and to love everyone unconditionally, why do we think we have the right to separate?

Scroll back up to the questions I posed at the beginning of this article and read them all again.

Yes, as Christians, we should be concerned about this issue. It affects people around us, and Jesus calls us to care for everyone, not just those in our inner circles. And if you think about it, just because we have a different skin color doesn’t mean we aren’t a part of that “group of people”.

Jesus lumps us all together as His children. We can all support each other because we need to be in this together. It affects us because it affects our brothers and sisters.

So what can we do? We can begin by asking what we can do to help. Instead of putting on a fake facade by posting something cliche on social media and thinking we’ve done our parts to support the movement, we can dig deep into our friendships. We can be intentional about asking if there is any way we can support each other because we are called to love and to walk hand in hand, not just cheer from the sidelines.

We need to understand that we will never understand. But we can still stand together, with each other, undivided.

Photograph by Hannah Markley