A White Pastor's Response

“What shoes are you wearing over there baby?” 

I thought she was talking about play shoes.

“No baby don’t wear those. That’ll be trouble.” 

It was the first place her mind went. She was making sure her son didn’t get robbed because of the new Jordans he had.  That was when I realized on another level that I lived in a different world than some of my friends in the black community. This particular start has little to do with white privilege regarding law enforcement, but it was the first thing that came to mind today reading another blog about raising black sons to not wear hoodies or play with toy guns in a park.

Overhearing that conversation at an Atlanta Foodbank led me down this path hoping to discover more about steps towards reconciliation. It’s what affirmed what I feel is a mandate to plant a healthy multi-ethnic, multi-cultural church. It’s what spurred dialogue where the goal was to see from another’s vantage point.

My hope is through writing this that I’ll be able to process my own thoughts, and by doing so be of some help to others. Mostly…it’s a few bullet points followed by some thoughts I’ve nursed the past couple of days.

God is Not Colorblind

I think this is a good place to start.

I hate the line that ‘God is colorblind.’ If God were color blind we would all be the same, dull gray. But God creatively sculpted a beautiful rainbow of melanistic tones.

If the chief reason for the creation of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever then as a creation we should be able to glorify Him through the race we ascribe to. I think this is done through unity despite diversity. There’s a reason that Revelations speaks of God receiving glory from ‘every tribe and every tongue.’ He receives glory through the diversity of His creation unified in worship.

Mourn With Those Who Mourn

If I were to go to a hospital room to counsel a family whose son was just gunned down for gang violence I wouldn’t start off by yelling about  the sin of gang violence and how this could have been avoided. I would weep with a grieving mom that will never see her son again.

The Bible teaches us to ‘mourn with those who mourn.‘ 

Don’t ‘mock’ those who mourn.

Don’t ‘try to explain why it was justified’  to those who mourn.

Don’t ‘be dismissive because it doesn’t affect you’ to those who mourn.

MOURN with those who mourn. This is the right response when there is hurt. I had some dialogue with a good friend around this today. Read what he said:

I think all black folks want from white people is the common courtesy to let us grieve. Yeah, maybe there will be some evidence that comes out later that justifies the killing of these men. But even still, these incidents remind us of the fact that there are still a whole lot of other incidents that went unpunished with glaring evidence. And right now, as the wound is fresh, we feel like we’ve lost another.

Personally, from the evidence at hand I don’t see justification for this use of force in either of the of the two national cases right now. But even if I did, arguing that those points would only bring more pain and division to a situation that requires grieving not immediate explanation.

My friends are hurting. And my job is sit with them and hurt and grieve and walk together and bear their burdens.

White Privilege is Real

Let’s call it what it is, guys.

I have never in the slightest been scared that Jaxon would be mistreated by law enforcement. I have never been worried about reaching for my license when I’ve been pulled over. I’ve never been fearful of #jaxonpeters becoming a hashtag. I don’t live in the same headspace as my black friends when it comes to these situations. Whether you want to admit it or not, white privilege is real. It’s not my fault. It’s not healthy or right to feel guilt over it. And I don’t. What is healthy is acknowledging injustice and seeking to change it at the level of influence you possess. I just possess a few good friends and blog post that’ll be read by about a thousand people. But I’m being vocal nonetheless.

A number of weeks ago a black child was almost killed by a gorilla. The gorilla was shot to save the child. Shortly after, before we even had all the facts about the incident, the dad’s criminal record was brought up, the mom was straight lambasted on the news, and people picketed for justice for a flippin’ animal that was going to kill a black human. What the heck?! Fast forward a few weeks a white family was swimming in a ‘no swimming’ area in Florida when their two year old was mauled by an alligator. I didn’t see the first news report about the father’s criminal record being a contributing factor followed by Justice for the alligator rallies.

White privilege exists.

It’s self propagating. As a white man I can’t ‘wait for all the facts to emerge’ and make excuses for my own race if I try to justify tragedies and explain away tragedies and injustices that befall the black community.

One thing I’ve seen time and again in these situations is ‘he was resisting. he was struggling.’ Deadly force is a last resort. I watched a video today of a white man walking through a park threatening people with a gun. If white privilege didn’t exist, the man should have been shot dead. Instead, the situation was deescalated. We can’t go back in time and replace him with a black man…but my mind goes to ‘would there have been a different outcome if he wasn’t white.’ Statistics point to ‘yes,’ there would have been.

Here’s another helpful thought from my friend:

The same way Whites don’t want to feel burdened to accept the grief of what your ancestors did, we don’t always want to feel burdened to just sweep aside and pretend like what happened to us didn’t happen, nor that it doesn’t have long, long, looooooong lasting affects.

It doesn’t mean I should feel like it’s my fault. What happened 400 years ago is not my fault. What happened 60-80 years ago during the Jim Crow era, not my fault. And what happened last night. Not my fault. I can grieve with the black community and acknowledge that white privilege exists and is not justice while not feeling that it’s my responsibility to shoulder the blame for white folks that came before me that made bad decisions in relation to black folks.

#Alllivesmatter is not helping

I have two beautiful children. Let’s imagine that I’m walking through a park with them and my little girl was attacked by a bear and my son ran away (which is unlikely because he’s a boss!) and rolled his ankle. Being the manly, fearless dad I am I spring into action and begin attacking this bear to save my daughter.

Now imagine someone runs up to me and says ‘Don’t you see your son over there? He stubbed his toe and is really hurting. Don’t all your kids matter? Why are you giving this attention to your daughter?’

This is how I feel when people say All Lives Matter. Present circumstances bring perspective to what should carry present weight.

And at present their is a disproportionate amount of violence and injustice towards the black community from law enforcement. Nationally young black men are being mauled by a bear while most others have rolled their ankle. This is why #blacklivesmatter.

I do feel the same way towards #bluelivesmatter when I see violence against other officers as a result. Just because you are pro-black doesn’t mean you’re anti-cop. Just because you’re pro-cop doesn’t mean you’re anti-black. If you can mourn Alton Sterling but not the officers that lost their lives in Dallas last night, you’re part of the problem.

I can’t change that feeling that the weight is comparable and cyclic in response.

This doesn’t mean all lives don’t matter. To me this seems to be a proper response by identifying areas of systemic injustice. And being dismissive by countering with #AllLivesMatter is counter productive to seeing fruit in this particular area. I’m aware that all life is important…but George Orwell said it best with this: ‘All animals are created equal. Some animals are more equal than others.

Love Wins When Reconciliation Is Mutual

Right now, there doesn’t need to be any videos about how the cops were justified. There need to be mourning and a legitimate step towards seeing this through the eyes of our black friends and the black community. You can’t demand anyone see from your vantage point if you are unwilling to see from theirs.

There doesn’t need to be any more F**k whites #blacklivesmatter tweets. It genuinely hurt my heart that these tweets from people I will never know were returning racism with racism when I, a white male, was trying to join in grieving.

There definitely doesn’t need to be violent retaliation against cops. A cyclical reaction of more discord out of rage will literally never be a good idea.

There doesn’t need to be a continuation of fear. Love casts out fear.

I don’t have all the answers. I do want to make the right choices. All I know right now is that Love will win when reconciliation becomes mutual and forgiveness becomes the response.

Charleston should have blown up, friends. It should have blown Ferguson out of the water. Forgiveness defused the situation. I remember sitting with an influential pastor that was in the courtroom when Roof was being sentenced. He recounted how one by one the victims families stood in front of him…and forgave him openly.

Yes our response must be mourning right now. Mourning with the families of these young black men. Mourning with the officers that died  because of a cyclic response of stereotypical hate. Mourning that the love of Jesus is absent at large. But through the mourning, if the light of forgiveness can break through, reconciliation is a journey that is possible.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.