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.