Does Grace Have to Battle with Race?

Does Grace Have to Battle with Race? October 3, 2019
Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

Does Grace Have to Battle with Race?

It’s the question I posed to not only myself, but to others. It was my reactionary remark to the statements that have been made about “the reflexive demand of forgiveness.”

The context of this type of commentary stems from the Amber Guyger ruling and the extension of forgiveness—grace—by Brant Jean, Botham Jean’s brother.

“Yet, the almost reflexive demand of forgiveness, especially for those dealing with death by racism, is about protecting whiteness, and America as a whole. This is yet another burden for black American.”

But Is It Justice?

I know that I will never be able to experience what it is like for Black America. No matter how much I pay attention and try to insert myself in an experience that is unlike my own, I know it will never be the same. I can only write from my own experience.

With that being said, I have to ask, did anyone really expect actual, restorative justice could take place in an instance like this? We knew the loopholes that were being jumped through. We knew about the efforts being made to discredit the victim. We knew that this was going to be swept as loosely as possible. As much as I don’t like the idea of it myself, I know that for me, I must accept this for what it is. Earth. Not heaven. Not the Kingdom, and not what God had intended, not from my interpretation, anyway.

God’s justice is hard to come by here on earth. Man’s justice, however, is nothing short of evil in some regard. It’s punitive, retributive, and it offers no actual redemption unless a price is paid. I thought Martin Luther nailed some opinions up on a door about that 500 years ago that addressed these shenanigans? Apparently, we have yet again, missed the mark.

From the path I am standing on, after the journey I have walked through, presently, I can’t say that I will ever expect a man-made system to provide actual justice. At times, I don’t really believe in “justice” as we define it. I don’t think anyone ever really receives closure from a ruling and I don’t think justice provides what we sometimes expect, which is a swift slam of the gavel that—presto-—erases the past transgression.

More than that, we are so technologically connected to instances like this so much that it’s hard not to react to what we see happening. I love that we have the ability to share our immediate emotions. I really do. It’s a human rawness, albeit unfiltered at times, that really bares our naked feelings. I think our immediate reactions reveal something deeper to our individuality. It shows what we fear, what scares us, what makes us want to do better and fight harder.

But, it also allows us to attack others just as immediately as we can react to others. It’s a dangerous realm that none of us know how to handle. We are all the social media experiment.

Whiteness is a Known Comfort

I have to admit, when I first started seeing all of the police brutality finally making its way into my news-feeds, I was both appalled and appreciative for finally being able to see more of what is actually taking place in our society. I could no longer ignore or deny what I was watching before my own eyes. But before the rage of the internet, I wasn’t so ignorant. I paid attention. I grew up in nonwhite neighborhoods and attended schools where white kids were the minority. If I wanted to understand the people around me, I had to pay attention to cultures different than my own. And I thank Black America for the education that I have received. Again, it still doesn’t fully reveal to me the reality of millions, but it does provide me with better insight as to why ignorance can no longer be ignored.

But most people in suburban, rural, and white America do not do what I do, or what many of you, I assume, also do. Most people pay attention to what they see, and all they see is white. They just don’t see it as that. They see it as their reality. You don’t see the water you are swimming in, you just see other ponds that look different when you poke your head up for some air. And what you see doesn’t look like what you are in, so you stay away from the other ponds. And you just keep swimming, aimlessly, like Dory, ignorant to all your own surroundings as well. It isn’t whiteness, it’s just comfortable reality. And we all prefer to stay cozy in comfort more than anything else.

I think, from where I am standing, this particular ruling is affecting people in a whole new way and it friggin scares the crap out of them. It is getting harder and harder to ignore reality, so people want to find reason to make sense of continuing to hold on to what they know and have always known. That’s why people are so divided. They are so comfortable in their surroundings that the fear of the unknown, the fear of seeing evidence that they have been ill-informed and ignorant is uncomfortable.

And for many, it does seem disloyal to say bad things about police, the justice system, and even the government. We have been taught all our lives that police are “good people” who want to “protect us”. And for many who grow up in whiter, richer neighborhoods, police= scandal and gossip, it isn’t an every- day occurrence. Many white neighborhoods are insulated from the harsher reality of the rest of the world. Insulated homes in the winter in Minnesota are good. Insulated lives that block out the breeze of brisk reality are dangerous.

This is not an excuse, mind you. I am just trying to understand others. We forget to do that. We forget to understand that others don’t have the same information as we do, because they haven’t been exposed to the same reality that others have.

Is it All a Lie?

I don’t like the divisive nature of this ruling, or any other incident that has taken place across our screens or before our eyes anymore than you. It’s disheartening. Everyone is emotional. Everyone is scared. People! We are all doing this thing called living with the same limited information as everyone else. Of course we are all reacting with emotional proclamations—we don’t know what the hell we are supposed to do! We thought the system would resolve these issues, but from so many views, it looks like the system is actively working against us.

I think all of this is a reality shock to so many people. I think they defend because they themselves feel betrayed by seeing what has happened. They know, in their hearts, what went down is wrong. But if they accept that, if they admit that, especially publicly, that means there’s a possibility that everything they know is wrong. Who wants to hear that? They will feel like their whole life is a lie.

I don’t know how to remedy that except to keep being vocal about reality. It’s still reality even if it’s not in their direct proximity. And maybe that’s what needs to be clarified first. Your world isn’t the whole world, it’s just small sector of it and you owe it to yourselves to expand your experience of the entire potentiality of reality, not just your metropolitan area. I mean, especially if you want to comment on it.

What-aboutism

It’s complicated, especially for People of Color. I am white. All I have is my experience as a white woman. My perception is limited and my knowledge is still lacking. By default of where I live, I am ignorant.

I know there are so many emotions running around in the bodies of everyone who are paying attention to this. I know so many are reacting out of fear and hurt and anger. My guess is 90% of the reactions I am seeing are all impulsive and come from past wounds. And as someone who is impulsive, I relate wholeheartedly.

While the emotions are valid, they can be worked through. I will take people’s initial reactions, I will hold them. But we must figure out a way to look at those emotions, you know? Really sit with them before we give them that much attention, especially public attention.

Otherwise, we are all going to keep dividing ourselves up until there are no more lines to stand behind and we are all alone.

It’s Not About Silence

We don’t have to be idle and silent. That’s not what I am suggesting. But we can be reflective and patient to the moments as they unfold. Can we focus on what we are feeling first and see if we can’t first extend grace to ourselves and then to others? Can we do this before we go on a social media vengeance spree where we cut into every divergent view and attack others who might see things differently based on limited perception? Can we remember that we can only see through our own eyes, we can only hear through our own ears, and we can only relate to the experience that we ourselves have lived through? Let’s stop expecting that everyone has lived our lives exactly the way that we have?

We can expose evil for evil. We can humiliate the actions and behaviors of sin. We are commanded to. I am just not sure if we have really figured out the “right” way or the Christ-like way to do it. Perhaps we are still evolving?

I have heard others suggest that those who disrupt the potentiality of this demonstration of grace should be shamed. I don’t know if shaming people works, really. What Brandt Jean did was bold, it was Christ-like. I have no doubts that this man truly understands the teachings of Jesus. I also have no doubts that most of us do not know how to practice what Brandt Jean acted on. Grace is hard. And when squared against race and the notion that if you embrace one you dismiss the other, it sure creates added challenges to unity.

Is It Political?

Is this case, and the obvious confrontation of racism, being used as political propaganda? Is it being weaponized? Politics has really invaded all aspects of our lives. For many, it has literally shaped their entire reality. When has our country ever not used a social justice cause for propaganda? To suggest that the expectation for it to take place now as a sound piece of advice is laughable. History has demonstrated that we do not learn from history. Progress is slow on this side of the pond. Hasn’t history demonstrated that?

But of course, we want an insta-transformation of our society. We want everyone to feel the same way as we do, and we want those who do not to shut up and go away. But, does that actually solve anything?

That being said, all people are going to have to heal on their own time, and the way they are reacting to the situation is no more right or wrong than the next person. I hope for a day in which we all respond instead of reacting. I hope for a day that we won’t take other people’s insta-reactions personally and that we will understand everyone is trying to do the best they can with what they have.

But until such time, I don’t have the answers. And if I don’t have any answers, or any remedy to the ailment that pervades our society, I cannot find cause to judge others. I am sure I will continue misunderstanding people, just as people will misunderstand me.

 

 

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  • bill wald

    White in a known comfort? With White people? Why? Several reasons. Small town in NJ, commuting distance to Manhattan. Every kind of white person, working class to rich. I knew the people who were OK and who I might want to avoid. White losers are losers because they are losers, not because they are white. Only had one black kid in school until 10th grade. His dad was a chemist for Bell Labs. He was more civilized than I was. Don’t know anything about his friends. I was a loner.

    With what kind of people are you with? You know the OK from those to avoid? “Your” losers . . . why are they losers? Whose fault is it?

    Been living in the Pacific NW since 1962. Out here, civilized white people get along fine with civilized black people.
    White losers don’t get along with anyone. Black losers don’t get along with anyone. Civilized white and black people get along with civilized Asian people. Uncivilized Asian people are statistically insignificant.