On New Year’s Eve 2019, heading into 2020, I made a celebratory dinner for my family, lit candles to fill our home with my favorite aroma, took a mid-day nap so this mama could actually make it to the fireworks, and spent some time praying about what the year to come would hold. I prayed and asked the Lord for a year unlike a year I’ve ever experienced. Specifically, I asked him to blow my mind with growth, revelation, truth, love, and advancement. Seven months into the year, I find myself asking, “Wait, Lord, did I pray the wrong prayer? This was not the advancement I imagined.”
Isn’t that how life works, though? We see things from an eye-to-eye level when God sees the scene of our lives from a bird’s eye view and within the framework of the good, fruitful, and prosperous plans He has for us.
The Mixture of Joy and Grief
This year has brought some of my greatest moments of joy: I was accepted into a top business school; my husband and I have made a decision to choose happiness over history; we adopted my first ever puppy; and God has provided for my family in a way that has been beyond my imagination. With that, I have experienced heavy grief that has impacted me as a woman, a mother, a believer, a friend, an educator, and a person of color.
Each week since the COVID-19 related closures and restrictions began in my region, my husband and I decided to support a local coffee shop. One day in March, on the way home from one of the local gems we found, we passed a building that looked familiar. It read “Southside on Lamar” on the façade and within a minute of seeing it, I became overwhelmed with sadness. I looked to James and said, “Those were the apartments where Botham Jean was killed last year.” Silence fell onto our ride as I held back tears. And what felt worse was the proximity of the apartment homes to the local police station.
Botham Jean’s murder was heartbreaking for me, and then there was Atatiana Jefferson. Not only was she murdered, but her mother and father passed away within a year of her death. The weight of heartbreak, injustice, fear, and stress can cause even the strongest to crumble. Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McClain, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd… These names don’t represent the tip of the iceberg of beautiful, Black lives we’ve lost at the hands of presumption, poor training, and systems that have disproportionately impacted the Black community as a whole. It hurts.
It Is Not Enough to Say a Trendy Statement
In the midst of being so stunned by the grief I’ve felt with each of those lost lives, I reflected on the reality that this is not a new experience for me. The pain reaches more layers, but it’s certainly not new. Both sets of my grandparents and their siblings have shared stories of running into their homes from dogs that were released on them as the fight for integration took place. My parents were not even teenagers when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into existence. I remember being the only Black American in the majority of my classroom experiences and feeling trapped in the room when the painful ignorance of my peers was exposed, but having to exist within a social construct that excuses ignorance with the thought, “I’m sure they meant well…”
Also in the midst of the grief my heart felt, I found myself disappointed by the response of people I’ve called friends. Disappointed by the response of corporations who thought adding a statement to their website to condemn systemic racism, while having nominal, if any, representation of BIPOC within upper level executive positions was sufficient. Disappointed, especially, by people who say they love Jesus, to remain silent. The thought that I’ve consistently mulled over in my heart is that the cause of my community is not a trend. Believing the truth that black lives matter is truly the minimum. It is not enough to say, “Black Lives Matter” as a trendy statement. It is not enough to draft a press release and make no changes to how you operate.
Use Your Voice to Bring About Reconciliation
On a personal level, it is not enough to say you are an ally for people of color, but never use your voice for the destruction of systems that exist in a way to marginalize men and women who were created by the same God that created you. The Bible says salvation is worked out daily, with fear and trembling. We exercise our bodies daily with a commitment to health. We are mindful of nurturing relationships that matter. Addressing racism is no different; it is a lifestyle that works to bring about reconciliation and cannot be done in a lone event.
Step Outside of Your Homogenous Circle
I want to be clear: at the most basic and foundational level, the issue is the sin of racism, and when we turn a blind eye to our sin and to the sin of others whom we have influence over, we are complicit in the wildfire of sin spreading. It was never God’s design for us to live, worship, love, and interact in homogenous circles.
Be Willing to Have the Uncomfortable Conversations
Racism and its effects can’t be minimized to a single Instagram or Facebook post. It can’t be addressed in a self-focused way to ease the internal convictions there may be to recognizing your own bias. Racism, ignorance, bigotry, and hatred have to be counter-balanced by an actionable and quantifiable love. Lean into the uncomfortable conversations. Listen with a humble heart. Ask the Lord to search your heart and reveal thoughts, biases, and attitudes that don’t reflect His commission for you.
Learn more on how we’re hoping to make a difference, in this video:
Don’t Just Listen, Seek to Understand
As I sat with the grief that plagued me and put a spotlight on experiences I have had with racism as a professional, a consumer, an advocate, a wife, and a mother, God revealed to me that I too had a responsibility in eradicating racism. I initially found myself haughtily standing behind the banner that says, “It is not my job to teach you empathy, sensitivity, or racial awareness.” Although I believe that we research and seek out information on what we’re interested in, I also know that I have been in so many rooms and seated at plenty of tables with people who were gracious enough to invite me into the conversation and educate me about topics of which I was unaware. They were gracious enough to listen to questions that may have been glaringly uninformed. Who am I that I wouldn’t extend the same grace to the willing heart in my life that had been extended to me?
Live Within the Tension and Stand With Me
This year has been challenging. It has presented new layers of old difficulties. It has exposed recesses of my heart that have required repentance and action. It has certainly revealed how lonely and unsafe our world can feel at the intersection of faith, patriotism, and culture. But God in His infinite wisdom has also given each of us an opportunity to examine our hearts before Him. To be exposed before Him and ask ourselves about the alignment of our beliefs with our actions. How can I say that I love Jesus, but not seek the justice of all His people? How can I say I love Jesus and succumb to the temptation of division by not speaking graciously to my brothers and sisters who strive to represent the cause of Christ?
I am committed to becoming the fullness of who God has called me to be. In discomfort and ease. In fear and boldness. In confusion and clarity. In heartbreak and love. When the hashtag is trending and when it has long been forgotten. Stand with me.
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