How I'm transforming my lament into commitment
|Black Lives Matter. vpickering/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0|
This blog entry is not for art or contemplation (though I do have a prayer, because really, how can I not?). It is not for applause or commendation, though I welcome discussion. It is for accountability, and for moving forward with intention.
For a week I've watched public outrage grow online and in the streets against the most recent senseless killings of black men and women (George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, countless others spanning centuries), and through my despair I've prayed: What can I do?
But my question is not new. I've been asking it of myself consciously for four years, taking the safest of baby steps toward answering it—reading books about racism, seeking out black authors, following a wider and more diverse circle of people on my social channels—yet only now am I internalizing the crucial distinction that thinking myself not racist is not the same as being actively anti-racist.
Only now am I accepting that I need to confront the waters I have swam in since birth, the air I have breathed, the miasma of white supremacy that has instilled in me expectations and afforded me privileges based simply on the color of my skin.
Only now am I understanding that I am not embarking on this journey for a semester or year or a decade, but for a lifetime. As agent Rachelle Gardner put it on Instagram, "As a white person, I know I can never be other than a recovering racist but I will do my best to keep recovering, keep listening, keep learning, and keep speaking up."
My goals right now are two-fold:
- To move from decrying racism in the abstract to understanding its roots, acknowledging its presence in my thoughts and actions, recognizing the implications and consequences in American society at large, and intentionally working to dismantle this great sin wherever I encounter it.
- To become a more conscious and informed parent who creates a diverse and inclusive community that my family and I can experience, contribute to, and learn from together.
To start moving toward these goals, I've identified six concrete strategies that stem from who I am and where I am at this moment:
- I will read at least one book connected to anti-racism every 4-6 weeks. If you want to swap notes or suggestions, I invite you to check out my rapidly growing anti-racism book list on Goodreads. (Not captured here, but related documentaries, podcasts, and fiction will be part of my expanded media diet.)
- I will continue participating in my parish's Minkisi Ministry, an interracial prayer group whose name means "healing objects" in Swahili, where I will nurture my faith with prayer, reflection, and active listening.
- I will also commit to a regular independent prayer practice (something I've always been embarrassingly spotty at) that I hope will root my interior work in God-given love and a God-driven thirst for justice.
- I will research and identify 1-2 organizations that promote racial justice and support them financially. (Exact angles to be determined after more reading and prayer. But I do commit to putting my money where my mouth is.)
- I will practice speaking out against racist, prejudiced, and biased comments when I encounter them in the conversations that make me most inclined to remain silent—within my extended family. I want to, as author and speaker Austin Channing Brown says, "trouble the narrative."
- I will research formal anti-racism programs and commit to completing at least one of them (for example, Be the Bridge) within the next two years. I will also invite white friends to join me to help expand the circle of education and commitment.
And then, in six months, I will report back here on my progress and share what I've learned thus far.
So where do I hope to end up? As a lifelong student. As a useful advocate. As a deeper storyteller. As a child of God seeking to realize God's kingdom on earth. All on the right side of history.
But mainly, I want to fulfill these lines from this call-and-response prayer, Touch Me with Truth that Burns Like Fire by Ted Loder, that we recite regularly in our Minkisi group:
[...] set me free, Lord,
free to try new ways of living;
free to forgive myself and others;
free to love and laugh and sing;
free to lay aside my burden of security;
free to join the battle for justice and peace;
free to see and listen and wonder again
at the gracious mystery of things and persons [...]
May we all find such freedom.
Prayer #357: The Wound Reopens
Clench my fist so I might grasp what's at stake. Release my grip on what I think is true. Lift my palms in supplication for what the world desperately needs.
Make me vulnerable, exposed, unguarded. Let the blows land true on my softest flesh. For the wound is Love; its cure, the same.