I’m going to tell you a story that seems unbelievable right now. When I was in high school in Des Moines, Iowa, we spent several days studying Civil Rights. When we were finishing the section, I turned to my friend sitting next to me and said, “I am so glad we don’t have racism anymore.” And I really thought it was over.
I went to a school that was very diverse, and my parents were involved with the international student program at our church. We had students from Qatar and Mexico live with us for several years, and we adopted students from many other countries who became like family. Growing up in constant fellowship with people of different minorities gave me a comfortability with outside cultures that I now know was rare at that time. In my narrow perspective, people of different colors were interesting, and racism was something in my history book.
The first time I saw senseless racist brutality in a video, I was shocked. My first thought was that the white offender would certainly receive swift and severe punishment. But, the videos kept coming. The racist tragedies we’ve all seen recently, and, honestly, ever since phones became recording devices, are a testament to how wrong I have been in my perceptions.
The awful videos that have come out are heart wrenching. The protests and subsequent riots are overwhelming. This is the first time I’ve experienced a statewide curfew, and it is the first time I’ve been personally scared due to something happening in my city.
I am distraught. I want to be part of the solution, but I don’t know how or where to start.
I got married young, and we took a break from school to travel to Alaska. Then I had some babies, and by the time I was finishing my degree in science, technology had moved on without me. One of my finals was a chemistry project I spent the whole semester working on. The program I needed to use seemed simple when I watched other people do it, but it ended up being extremely tedious and complicated. I couldn’t get my project done no matter what I tried. Exasperated, I wound up attending an evening class on the program, which helped a little, but I still couldn’t finish the project on my own. I finally found a group of students younger than me and assumed they would know the program better than me, so I sat by them and asked them all my questions.
This might be a similar situation. In order to help, I first have to learn. I have to study, I have to ask those who know, and I have to trust and believe their answers. I can start with asking people of color who I know, “Have you experienced racism?” And, I can further ask, “Have you experienced it in our church? In our friend group? In me?”
The color of my skin dictates that I am a learner in this, not an expert. I need to have more questions and less opinions. And I need the guidance of the Spirit of the Lord to know when to act or speak. There are no words to make this right – it is a series of steady, deliberate adjustments permeating every aspect of our society.
Lord, we need you.