In the last week, it seems like our country has imploded in violence. Death peers at me from the television screen, from the newspaper, from the computer screen, and instead of mourning together, we have segregated our grief.
We stand across a chasm that seems too wide to ever cross, blame shouted from both sides into the void. We point to facts and stats and whatever else will back up our opinion.
And people continue to die.
One person posts a list of ways white people are racist without knowing it. The hashtag reads Black Lives Matter.
Another post has a white man sharing FBI statistics, trying to disprove the effectiveness of the Black Lives Matter narrative. The hashtag reads All Lives Matter.
And people continue to die.
I wish I had the answers to the issues that plague our country. I wish I knew how to draw people together instead of watching us rip each other apart. I wish the solutions were simple. I wish we were talking about any solutions rather than continuing to throw words at each other.
Because people continue to die.
On the one hand, my heart bleeds for my black brothers and sisters who are hurting, who live with real fear, who have legitimate complaints. Who deserve justice and fairness.
On the other hand, part of me feels defensive, like I have to apologize for being white. That I somehow am held responsible for a society that has unwritten rules that I didn’t write. That the fact that I was born white, somehow means I have colluded to have whatever privilege that affords me. My mind whirls as it tries to wrap itself around the many issues that make up racial division in our country.
Meanwhile, people continue to die.
So, I do what I always do when I want to know more – I read and I read and I read. I want to share some of what I read because I think it is important. The two articles I’m sharing were both written by black police officers. As both black men and police officers, I thought they had a unique perspective in all of this. I also thought it extremely interesting that their perspectives were very different.
Please take the time to read BOTH articles because together I think they really give a full picture from all sides of the issues facing us.
The first is a Facebook post by Jay Stalien. You can read it here (if you scroll down, you’ll see his post in its entirety), but the basic premise is that Black Lives Matter only refers to black lives that are taken by police officers or white people, that the huge number of black people killed by other black people don’t matter. Stalien shares about growing up and watching many people die and how bothered he was by it, how that was his reason for becoming a police officer – to help. But instead, he is the recipient of hate and anger. His own anger and heartbreak over this is palpable.
In the other article, Redditt Hudson shares his own perspective HERE. He wrote about his own experiences of police officers that intentionally abuse their power over the people they are supposed to serve. He talks about the idea that bad officers corrupt the departments they work in, and that the idea of viewing being a police officer as a noble profession (which it is) allows the corrupt ones to hide. While Hudson gives his negative views without pulling punches, he also offers hope and solutions. Not only are there groups of officers who want to address these issues, but he advocates for the use of body cameras to ensure a more objective view of incidents that do happen.
The reason that the issue of race isn’t black and white (and I don’t mean that as a pun!) is because BOTH of these men’s narratives are true. Both narratives hold the seeds to the issues facing all of us.
The problem is we have decided in our own wisdom that you can’t simultaneously believe BOTH of these narratives, and until we embrace them both we will never find solutions or peace. Until we embrace them both, Black Lives Will Continue to Not Matter.
And people will continue to die.
I’m a white woman who grew up in a middle-class suburb surrounded for the most part by other white people, so I know less than anything about a black person’s life experience. What I’m learning, though, is that black people face daily challenges that put their lives at risk. I’ve naively believed that while abuses happen, it was the exception, not the norm. I’m learning that just because I don’t participate in racist words or attitudes, that those words and attitudes and actions happen on a much more regular basis than I ever imagined.
I’m a writer who has never even handled a gun or come face to face with a criminal, so I know less than anything about a police officers’ life experience either. I’m learning, though, that they also face daily challenges that put their lives on the line. I’m learning that even if you have a lot of training, making life and death split-second decisions is never easy and that being the object of hate is hard to deal with day in and day out.
As I’ve been reading and thinking and praying about this, I keep coming back to the word FEAR. And I can’t help but think that a lot of the issues we face are rooted in fear.
Fear of police harassment and abuse.
Fear that every call to a situation might be the last.
Fear of being falsely accused and targeted.
Fear of being hated.
Fear of dying by violence.
In I John 4:18-20, it says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
The one thing I do know is that we can never change things unless we are willing to love each other – not the way the world defines love but the way God does. God clearly lays out what HE means to love in I Corinthians 13.
Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love is not jealous.
Love doesn’t brag and isn’t arrogant.
Love doesn’t act unbecomingly.
Love does not seek it’s own.
Love is not provoked.
Love doesn’t take into account a wrong suffered.
Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness.
Love rejoices in truth.
Love bears all things.
Love believes all things.
Love never fails.
As a white woman, I have to love my black brothers and sisters enough to really see and really listen to them, to be willing to step outside the world I thought I knew into the reality about which I’m still learning. I have to love enough to have hard conversations without putting up my defenses, to listen without an agenda or trying to prove I’m right. I have to love enough to hold on to hope and offer it to others even when the world says we don’t have any.
I’m going to leave you with this video of a young woman, Osheta Moore, who articulates quite clearly what she needs from her white brothers and sisters right now. I really hope you’ll take time to watch it.