Racism: Show Up, Say Something Supportive, Sit There
I’ve been trying to write about this topic in a deep way for months.
Then a brief encounter made me catch my breath, literally. I was power-walking through a nearby park and woods where I often go at lunchtime. It is also a prayer time for me, and time to relieve my stress of being tied to a mouse. You know the kind.
What would it be like to be of a race where you usually have to second-guess the looks, motivations, and actions of people you are interacting with?
So I had my head glued to the path, thinking about the prayer concerns on my heart. I glanced up and drew my breath in, because 20 feet away was a tall handsome black guy in jogging shorts running with his dog, perhaps a Great Dane or a lab. I had not heard them coming.
I was not in the least bit afraid—even though I do try to be careful and alert in the woods, and only walk in daylight—but I’m afraid and ashamed that the gasp I drew might have made the jogger think I was a little fearful. Runners are rare but not unheard of in that woods, and it was also the nearness of the dog that I think surprised me.
I recovered quickly (I think), flashed my best smile, and gave a super-friendly “Hi,” which is my normal response in making eye contact on that path. He smiled and said “Hi” back and we both went on our way.
An older woman alone. A young man alone. In the woods. I was actually a little grateful for the dog, and that the man was jogging. For me, color had nothing to do with it. But the young man has no way of knowing that.
And that is what made me think, again: What would it be like to be of a race where you usually have to second-guess the looks, motivations, and actions of people you are interacting with? When you are of the majority race/culture, you usually don’t have to second-guess.
As of this writing, we have four adorable, little, lily-white grandsons, one just born two weeks ago. Each of my grandsons, at their childcare places, interacts and plays with a majority of children who are not white. Their playmates will have to—unless things change a lot in a short time—be careful as they grow up about how they interact with cops, teachers, principals, and store clerks, to not be accused of lipping off. Or worse, to not be second-guessed that when they reach for their car’s glove compartment, they could be reaching for a gun.
I have hesitated to write on this topic . . . because. Because everyone is saying and writing too much, and I’m fearful that by the time whatever I write comes out, it will be dated by the next terrible bad tragedy. Because I don’t know enough, or I don’t find it in me to be marching the streets, and also because I no longer have enough friends of other races to give me the cred to write meaningfully.
Osheta Moore, a blogger friend I’ve met in person, and a forthcoming book author for Herald Press (where I work), filmed a video of her own reflections after the tragic, horrible shooting events in Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas. She reflected on this business of children with brown or black skin having to watch their p’s and cues as they grow into the teenage and young adult years. (And I mean cues here, not q’s.) Osheta is black, is married to a white man (who happens to be a pastor), and she shares from her heart in a video available on YouTube: https://youtu.be/IZZPVrc8R10?.
Osheta says in a very real and moving way that you don’t have to know everything about race relations or solutions, or even have the best lines so that everyone will sit up and say, Oh how brilliant. As a writer/blogger/influencer, you just have to show up, say something supportive, and sit there—or create a space to sit and be with those suffering acutely during these difficult times. The book Osheta is working on is tentatively called Shalom Sista, and I invite you to also take a peek at her website and podcasts at http://shalominthecity.com/shalom-sessions/.
There have been seasons in my life when I had roommates, friends, boyfriends, and work colleagues of colors different than I am. My church would love to be more interracial, but struggles. But I know that, truly, the way forward toward more interracial understanding is spelled relationships.
We are a society on edge. Everything seems so open to wrong moves, misinterpretation, and politicization. Those leaders, black and white, who draw us together and ask for inclusion of all groups, must have the day.
So. I show up. I say something supportive. And I’ll sit here open for conversation. What thoughts does this leave you with? How can you and I build friendships and relationships across racial divides?
For a thoughtful and stirring look at the issues of racism in the U.S. and the church, read Drew G. I. Hart’s Trouble I’ve Seen.