Because Black Lives Really Do Matter

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I understand white privilege. The term gives a label to what I discovered the first time I read Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin. At the age of 12 I realized that my life, though by no means perfect, is privileged. I am white. My children are white. I will never have to worry about my son dying because of the colour of his skin. No one will fear for their life when he walks down the street.

I ought to find comfort in this fact. But I can not.

As someone committed to following Jesus, I must not rest in the comfort of injustice. Doing so makes a mockery of my faith. Psalm 45:6 says: Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.

Since I’ve been able to speak, I’ve recited the Lord’s prayer. With sincerity, I say “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10). But as long as I continue to benefit from an unjust system, my prayer is in vain. The kingdom of God comes with justice.

In a land that has long proclaimed His name, there is no justice. My facebook feed is saturated with calls to pray for the safety of police officers in response to the shootings in Dallas. There are videos and strong signs of solidarity. As you may have guessed, most of my friends are white. There weren’t any posts calling for prayer for young men walking home after the Trayvon Martin shooting in February 2012. It seemed no one really cared.

As Canadians, I suspect we are largely unaware of the situation in America. It crosses the path of our media outlets. But we don’t really understand the systems and structures in place.

Even in our ignorance, we can no longer dismiss the vast number of black lives being taken. Black lives do matter. That isn’t a statement meant to offend. It’s spoken in response to a nation’s actions that say otherwise. The reply that “all lives matter” is cruel. And should not be coming from the church.

We ought to be leading the way in dismantling injustice. Psalm 9:12 says: For He who avenges blood remembers; He does not ignore the cries of the afflicted.

It’s time for us to stop ignoring the cries of the afflicted.

As a teenager, I read every book available to me on American black history. Living in a pre-internet world, the selection was slim in the library of the Canadian city I grew up in. But I learned enough to know there is an on-going tragedy occurring in our midst. It’s part of the fabric of our Canadian culture. We’re inundated by American movies, television shows, news stations, music, celebrities, etc. We’re very much linked to America. With the mandate of Canada – to bring healing to nations – I challenge you to look at what’s happening. Really look. Look at the reality that black mothers and fathers live in fear that their sons will not come home from simple outings like going to the corner store.

Because it’s more than anyone can possibly bear, that burden of fear is sparking action.

More death is not the answer. But do you have one? The times we live in are spoken of in the Old Testament prophets. ….And He looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress. (Isaiah 5:7)

When God looks at us, does He find justice? Does He see righteousness? Even if you don’t, He hears the cries of distress. If you’re unable to, I beg of you to open your ears.

I’m white, living in Canada. I’m safe. My children are safe. But this fight is mine. And it ought to be yours because no child is free until all are free. I do not want my children to be established on a foundation of injustice. Nor should you.

Let it no longer be true that: No one calls for justice; no one pleads a case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments, they utter lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil. Isaiah 59:4

It alarms me that our culture is so crippled by fear. The white men who are quick to take black lives claim they feared the loss of their own lives. Fear is not a lens through which any of us can see clearly. We can not let fear dictate our actions. We must disarm the fear that is derailing our culture.

For me, it’s been the fear of offending that’s kept me from speaking out before now. My voice is small and insignificant. But in not speaking, I run the risk of being counted among the masses who are satisfied with the continuation of white privilege. Please don’t count me in. These words I’ve written won’t change anything. But they’ve been burning inside of me and I had to get them out.

Beyond the words, I’m doing the only things I know to – teaching my children not to fear and praying.

Here’s what my prayers sound like:

Father God, forgive me for participating in a structure that evaluates the worth of individuals based on the colour of their skin. Forgive me for benefiting from a system that places me above my brothers and sisters. Remove from me the mindset that says this is alright. I recognize that we are all made in Your image. You intentionally created differences in appearance to fully capture who You are. Teach me to rejoice in the diversity while fully embracing those who don’t share my appearance.

Break off of me the belief that I am powerless to change things. I seek the scepter of Your justice in my life. Holy Spirit, I invite You to illuminate any wrong attitudes, racism, prejudice, or malice that exist in me. As You reveal these things, I am committed to removing them from my being.

Open my eyes to see as You see. Black lives matter to You. I choose to live in a manner that confirms this truth. Forgive us for arguing against this truth. Forgive us for wanting to ignore the breaking of Your heart. You weep over the blood that is being spilt. Let us not add to Your suffering by our response. We choose to break off apathy and ignorance that have prevented us from acting. We join our voice with Yours in calling for justice. We choose to no longer be content with freedom for some. We seek freedom for all. Let us no longer live in the poverty that separation brings. Let us know the rich blessing of unity.

I ask for wisdom and divine strategies. I don’t know how to solve this, but You do. Thank you for the opportunity to partner with You. Enable me to respond and serve in a manner that establishes Your kingdom. Let the justice of Your kingdom be established in me and enable me to bring it to the culture I’m a part of.  

Amen.

All Dressed Up with Nowhere to Go

Seems the word “party” is a huge trigger for our new foster child. Yesterday we went to my mom’s for lunch. Little J had a great time with my nephew, niece, sister, and mom.

And at first she was very excited to attend my mother’s graduation today. Then Raine and Athena started calling it a party – because there would be food after the ceremony. Getting ready, J became increasing anxious. Outside, she refused to get in the car.

I should have stopped then and there, but I really wanted to go to the graduation and it was too late to make arrangements for a babysitter. So, I forged forward. Got J in the car. Got her buckled. Traveled about a block before I had to pull over because J unbuckled. She was also screaming, kicking, and throwing things. We pulled over three times before getting on the highway. For some reason I thought we could make it. I wanted to make this happen.

After five minutes, I had to pull over to the side of the highway. J insisted that she was going to move immediately to a new home “that doesn’t go to stupid parties”. She kicked, screamed, and said if I took her to the graduation or my house she’d harm herself “and tell the social worker you did it, so that I don’t have to live with you anymore.”

We stayed parked on the side of the road for about 10 minutes. Raine, Athena, and I cried. We really wanted to go to the graduation. Mostly the kids wanted cake. I really wanted to be a normal, supportive daughter. But, having chosen this path, my life is not normal. I can’t always be the person I want to be. That’s just the way it is.

So I got off the highway and headed home.

J continued making threats. Her detailed plan of harming herself involved jumping off the dresser in her room. The only problem with that is that there’s no dresser in her room. When informed of this, J said she’d find something to jump off of and kill herself. Then I’d be sorry.

“Mom will loose her job if the foster kid is dead,” Raine pointed out.

At home, I sent Raine and Athena inside. J and I stayed in the car for a while. She didn’t want to hear anything I had to say. So I just started praying out loud.

Eventually we managed to move inside the house. J cried and cried. “It’s not my fault I’m in foster care. It’s my parents. I didn’t do anything wrong.” I agreed.

When she was ready to listen, I explained that even though it wasn’t her fault she has a choice about what her experience in foster care will be like.

“Mom’s seen kids act way worse than you,” Raine said. “This is what she does for her job. Screaming won’t get you moved.”

That caused J to shed the bravado she’d taken on since we left the house an hour ago. “I don’t really want to go,” she responded.

I explained that she would not be moving for outbursts like that. Her previous foster mom was a veteran with 25yrs experience in the field. It’s clear she did her best with J. But sometimes kids are unresponsive – especially when they first come into care. The decision for J to move was complicated and prompted by an outburst similar to the one we just experienced. After 5 months in that home, J told the emergency on-call social worker she wouldn’t stay any longer. And that’s how she ended up with me, after a few nights in a group home.

And so, here we are. The nearly 9yr old is under the impression that she can leave anytime. It’s a detrimental view because it will keep her from putting roots down anywhere. Though I don’t know how long she’ll be in care or how long she’ll be with us, it’s likely to be a while. Blocking herself from growing where she is, does J no good. As I prayed many times in the car with her, this is a season of growth. J has the opportunity to be a child and learn how to interact with the world in a new way.

I laughed at her attempts to frighten me with her screaming. I’m not scared. I’ve done this before. I may be all dressed up with no where to go, I may have mascara lining my cheeks, but I’m not scared. I know I can do this. And I know J can move out of anger and grown in peace and joy.

To make amends with Raine and Athena, J let them play with her toy sticky feet she got from the doctor’s. J apologized with sincerity and regretted her decision to keep us from the party. While she recovered in her room, Raine and Athena played – all dressed up with no where to go.

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