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It’s Political

It’s Political

Several people have said to me over the last few weeks “This is a political issue” when I have tried to express my experience, my longings, and my thoughts on racial violence and oppression which has currently come to a head with the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, as well as the clear weaponizing of whiteness demonstrated in Central Park against Christian Cooper.  There are more, so many more.  I believe the rapid succession of these events which received wide media and social media coverage amidst a time when more people are keyed into the news due to quarantine and the pandemic has led to an explosion of wrestling with what these events mean for America, and especially white America.  And so, we find ourselves at last forced to discuss a topic that we prefer to keep “political”.

To believe race and oppression is too complex and fraught topic leads us where?

Division.

Silence.

I believe Satan loves for God’s people to feel their only option is to stay silent.

Why do we do it?

To avoid division.  But dialogue is a path to unity.  Silence does not avoid division.  It deepens it.

To avoid vulnerability.  To expose your heart, your hurts, your values, your thoughts is inherently a vulnerable process.  To listen and wrestle to understand is a vulnerable process.

To say this is a “political issue” is code for “this is an issue that is difficult to talk about.”  And that is true enough.  But, as a society, we relegate certain topics as “political” so that we can mutually agree that we will not talk about them with people that think differently than us in order to avoid the ensuing conflict.  Who does that serve?  The status quo.

I’m not saying the opposite scenario is the more helpful – rush into every conversation with every person no matter the context or consequences, abandon all social grace and beat your point home no matter the cost.  Not at all.  What I am saying is that we must find ways to talk about uncomfortable issues because silence isn’t working.

I agree and disagree that this is “a political issue”.  I agree with the underlying message that this is a challenging topic to talk about.  I do not agree with the implied message that the appropriate response to difficulty and challenge is to be silent or to relegate the conversation in quiet corners between individuals.  Quite the opposite.  The Village frequently calls us into the difficult places of vulnerability, so why should our response to the current climate be any different?

I want to acknowledge that within our community, there are many opinions, feelings and thoughts on this topic.  Sometimes it has been hard to talk about.  I long for us to find a way to ask the hard questions, hear the hard answers and be able to disagree and wrestle while also maintaining relationship with each other.  A relationship that does not have room for conflict, disagreement, and difficulty isn’t really a relationship at all.  It is a relationship-in-the-making.  It is my prayer that you all will see this as an opportunity to deepen relationship by stepping into vulnerability and humility.

The question for me at this moment is not “Do we talk about this?” (which should be an obvious yes), but rather “How do we talk about this?”  My thoughts on that:

  1. Center and amplify black voices.  Listen.  Learn.  Experience.  Do not deny or argue with their lived experience.  Their experience is not an opinion, it is a fact born from their life.
  2. Be willing to listen through discomfort.  Do not derail or end conversations because you disagree.  Do not end a conversation with “We’ll have to agree to disagree”.  Instead, suspend your belief for a moment and listen.  Ask for clarification.  And then end with  “That is a new thought for me.  I need to go and consider it.  Can we revisit this topic again?”
  3. Become more aware of what it means to be collectively white.  To be referred to as “white people” violates a fundamental pillar of white culture – individuality.  We are not used to being referred to collectively.  Begin to get aware of the fact that there is a white culture and explore what it is and the discomfort you may feel at the use of this term is a sign of systemic inequality – even if you don’t yet understand how or why.
  4. Educate yourself and get political.  For many, the conversation about race remains shrouded in words like unity, equality, and love.  Not a bad starting place.  But if your conversations and understanding of racial issues do not also include words like oppression, privilege, and system then please consider this as an invitation to dive into the large body of writers, lecturers, and thinkers who readily define these terms.  Ending racism will not be accomplished through the changing of individual hearts if it does not also translate to changing systemic policies, laws and practices in our social, political, and legal structures.

*If I have made you uncomfortable in any way with the writing of this post, it is my deepest hope that you would pursue me as a member of your community and share your experience with me.  I welcome your thoughts, additions, and disagreements.

7 Comments

  1. If anyone wants a practical way to contribute to the cause, one way to do it is through the Tucson Second Chance Community Bail Fund, which is an organization that pays bail for people who are forced to stay in jail only because they are too poor to pay to be released. It is an issue that disproportionately affects the black and Latino community. You can read more on their website https://watchtucson.com/

    (I posted the same comment under Jessica’s post, but I wanted to put it here as well since it also applies.)

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  2. “Silence does not avoid division. It deepens it.” Thank you for sharing, Amanda and attempting to create connection through speaking up.

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  3. Thank you Kelsea! That’s a great fund to contribute to.
    Kalief Browder is one of many who experienced this. He was jailed for three years without being convicted of a crime. He was charged with stealing a backpack and was placed in jail, his bond was initially set at $3,000. His family could not pay, so he had to stay in jail while awaiting trial. The court experienced a “backlog” of cases and, for several years, when he was brought before a judge there was a motion filed to delay because “the people weren’t ready”. Eventually the charges were dismissed. While in jail he suffered violent acts from guards and other inmates as well as long periods in solitary confinement. He took his own life in 2015 as a result of the trauma he experienced over that three years.

    2/3 of the current jail population are not convicted of a crime. They are being held before standing trial. Of those 2/3, 5 out of 6 are in jail because they can’t afford bail and a bond agent declined to post bond. See here for more https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/06/09/no-bail-less-hope-the-death-of-kalief-browder

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  4. Thanks Amanda for giving an example of how inability to pay bail plays out for many innocent people. It happens all over the country and right here in our own city. I recently read an editorial by an African American who wrote, “please, stop sending #love. Stop sending positive vibes. Stop sending your thoughts. [Do] immediately impactful things,” and gave links to organizations that directly support African Americans who are experiencing injustice under our current system, including bail funds like the one I posted above. (You can read it here https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/05/opinion/whites-anti-blackness-protests.html)

    Offering tears and emotional support is really important, but it’s equally important to follow that up by doing things that make a difference in the lives of those who are directly experiencing the problems we’re sad about.

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  5. Yes. Yes. Yes. All yes.

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  6. I loved t the reading list for Justice June you posted. Due to not feeling well. lot lately, I haven’t completely kept up by day, but I do plan to read it all by the end of June – if I haven’t read something already.

    No, it isn’t a political subject so much as. moral one but it’s hard to talk about without talking about solutions, which are often political or at the very least touch on political issues. So many do not understand institutional racism, white privilege or the militarization most police forces and I have old friends on FB who believe that the same number of deaths in police custody occur with whites but just aren’t reported. That isn’t true, but if it was, we’d still have a problem. Then, people don’t understand the lack of human capital that the poor of any race, but especially many African Americans grow up with — middle and even most lower middle class people have privilege in that as well.
    You just can’t get away from the fact that not only do African American men die more often in police custody or get attacked by white vigilantes, they go to prison more often due to poor lawyers and are sentenced longer sentences than whites accused of the same crimes.

    Until Christ returns, there will always be the poor, there will always be the marginalized and always be injustice. But that’s no excuse not to stand up for the right in ways that we can.

    I realize that since the American church is very divided right now, with most evangelicals falling in the conservative camp, we often, as you said, in order to keep peace amongst ourselves, we sometimes stay quiet about certain things. The problem is, I think, that people of goodwill are confused about when to speak up. Maybe I refrain from giving my opinion of Trump or liberals (whichever camp I fall into) in order to not offend a Christian brother or sister. TBH, I don’t have much use for either of them. But when do I risk Christian unity by making a big deal of it?

    Having grown up in mostly innercity all black schools and having a black teacher as my greatest non-family mentor, I’ve been verbal though not argumentative about these deaths – long before these last three. I cannot hold my tongue. I’ve also seen police brutality, been lied about in court (though white and female) in open court (many moons ago) even while understanding many policemen really are there to protect the peace and help people.

    But I admit some politicians, on BOTH sides, make statements that are horrendous and immoral and I stay quiet to preserve unity and yet —- I mean, I don’t care if you are a Republican or a Democrat – there are certain things Christians just shouldn’t embrace and some things Christians shouldn’t stay silent about.

    I’m more sympathetic with the silent in pre-war Germany than I used to be but I don’t want to be them, either.

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  7. ” A relationship that does not have room for conflict, disagreement, and difficulty isn’t really a relationship at all. It is a relationship-in-the-making.”

    I love the softness and tenderness I hear in this post. There is no judgement but oozing grace in why we avoid, but also I see you like Jesus offering grace, but strong truth. May we be a people who “get comfortable in being uncomfortable” as Jillian Michael’s says. May we stay with the discomfort to find the lie, the fear, the selfishness and pride. And I appreciate the comments of practical ways to give and hold space and value the fight.

    Reply

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