A few weeks ago, I would have started this post by saying something like:
“In light of recent events” or “In the midst of all the struggles our nation is going through.”
But that was before, before I (re)learned some powerful truths as a white pastor attempting to shepherd and speak into a multi-ethnic community. So let me start this post a better way:
In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd while in police custody, I have learned and have been reminded of some powerful truths as a white pastor. Here are five of them:
1. Specifics speak volumes. Attempting to speak to a tragedy without specifically addressing the tragedy or injustice itself demeans the potency of the pain of those who are suffering. My first inclination would have been to speak in vague generalities so as to not offend anyone with harsh words like “murder,” “racism” or “police brutality.” But that vagueness was actually to assuage the consciences of the unaffected. To speak specifically and call a murder a murder acknowledges the injustice that has taken place. The protests sweeping the nation wasn’t sparked because of “recent events” or unspecified “struggles.” The protests started as a response to the killing of George Floyd while in the custody of a white police officer, all caught on video. Specifics speak volumes.
2. There are many things I can’t personally identify with. I’ve never been discriminated against because of the color of my skin. I’ve never seen blue lights in the rearview mirror and thought it had anything to do with my race. I’ve never had to think about having a talk with my sons about how to de-escalate the situation when the inevitable time a police officer stops them. I’ve never thought twice about going outside for a walk after dark or even going outside while wearing a hoodie. I’ve never had a friend or relative that experienced injustice at the hands of our criminal justice system. People that look like me have never had to sit on the back of the bus. I never had laws designed to keep me in a state of subjugation. I’m white, which means there are many things I can’t personally identify with.
3. The hurt of the black community is much deeper than I ever imagined. That ignorance is on me. It’s not that the black community wasn’t speaking of their hurt. It’s just that I wasn’t listening. It seems harsh and uncaring for me to admit that, and that’s because it was harsh and uncaring. Their hurt, their injustice, their discrimination didn’t affect me personally, so I didn’t care enough to empathize and listen. Only when things got set on fire (not even when the protests started) did I stop long enough to truly listen. That revealed a flaw in my character, especially as a pastor, that I’ve had to repent of.
4. I have a corporate responsibility. As I listened and learned, a friend passed on an incredible sermon given by Tim Keller called “Racism and Corporate Evil: A White Guy’s Perspective” that truly opened my eyes to the responsibility I bear for systemic racism in this country, even if I don’t personally engage in racist acts towards others (which I don’t, by the way). My silence, my inaction, is part of the problem. Keller’s illustration of the Holocaust and who was responsible for it was a gut-punch of conviction that changed me.
5. When enough people unite behind something, lasting change can happen. This is a transcendent moment for America. Change is in the air, and we have an opportunity to affect real change. Why? Because enough people are (really) talking about this issue. We’re two weeks into the protests, and they’re only getting bigger. Our church devoted an entire Sunday service to speak directly to racism and the gospel. After decades (and even centuries), enough (white) people are willing to listen, talk, and affect positive change, and that’s inspiring.
QUESTION: What have you learned or relearned in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder?