I have remained silent on social media and this blog about the shootings of last week mostly because I couldn’t translate all the heaviness and grief I felt into words.
At the prompting of some black friends’ social media posts calling for white voices and allies in grief & after reading this Letter to White Christian Women, I am choosing to speak up. Not because I have answers or especially profound opinions or solutions, but because there is something valuable in a word of solidarity across racial boundaries.
When I read about Alton Sterling last Tuesday, I felt physically sick.
Two days later, I checked social media for the first time at 1 pm after a morning park playdate. News of Philando Castile flooded my news feeds and tears streamed down my face. I pictured the fiancee calmly filming, the 4 year old watching in the back seat… no one seeking to help or aid or comfort them, no one offering physical aid to the man who’d been shot. I pictured the impulsive & inexperienced officer now having to live with this choice for the rest of his life. Anger flooded over me as I wept in the silence, comfort, and safety of my own living room. I nursed my 8 week old son and thought about the injustice of a mom nursing her 8 week old son who is black… that she has a lifetime of fear and prejudice to navigate with him and I don’t. Just because my child is white.
I thought about my black friends and white friends with black children. I thought about my former high school students, many of whom are now young black men and women. What are they feeling and thinking?
I thought about my husband – if he were pulled over in a routine traffic stop and told the officer he had a weapon, there is a 99.9% chance he would not be shot. Because he is white. I was outraged as I thought about the injustice of that… what? Can a black man not obtain his CCW and carry a gun legally without risking his life? Does the constitutional right to bear and keep arms not pertain to Philando Castile because he is black?
And then… the shootings in Dallas.
By the end of that Friday night, my heart was so heavy with grief.
I could go on and on, rambling the thoughts that are still circling in my head. But I won’t.
In the letter I mentioned earlier (which you can and should read in its brief entirety here), a young African American woman asks this of her white Christian sisters:
“You don’t have to worry about getting it right. Please just let us know that you “get it.” Let us know that you acknowledge the pain we feel when we witness another news story about a police officer unnecessarily firing on a man that reminds us of our sons, fathers, brothers, uncles and cousins. If you have a social media outlet, we don’t expect you to pen an essay every time this happens…because frankly, it’s just too often. But a statement of solidarity goes a long way.”
So that is really the only reason I’m posting this. As a statement of solidarity.
To acknowledge that I “get it.” That I somehow simultaneously empathize with and cannot fathom the grief and fear and pain that she feels when there is a news story about yet another unnecessary life taken from a man that reminds her of her family. When I attempt to put myself in your shoes, dear sister… when I think about my brother and my dad and my husband and try to imagine fearing for their lives while they walk around their neighborhoods or get pulled over for speeding or or or, I feel sick with grief. Sick at the thought of living with that fear myself, and sick at the fact that you have to live with it simply because the men closest to you are black.
That is injustice and it’s wrong.
The last thing I want to share is something I witnessed Saturday night in our little city of Omaha.
Several church leaders across our city urged people to gather together for prayer on Saturday night. We would meet at one church building, many local congregations, but all of us together, the Church.
I’m sure my words can’t adequately describe the scene, but I’ll try to give you a glimpse. (Or maybe you experienced something similar in your own community.)
So I’m sitting next to Ben, nursing my baby while a chorus of singing fills the room, praising God for his goodness at all times. From my seat, I can see all kinds of people.
The guy in front of me with a man bun and sleeve tattoos. The young lady next to him, holding her toddler wearing the same exhaustion I’m wearing that comes from staying home with littles all day. A hispanic coworker of my husband’s and his white wife. A black coworker of my husband’s. An elderly black man, holding his wife around the shoulders. She’s weeping. The elderly white lady next to me in a floor length floral skirt and nylons.
I watch the community leaders file on stage: black and white; men and women. Hand shaking, hugs, tears, smiles. I see a white police man with a grey mustache, in uniform, walk up to an older black man. They hug, obviously friends.
The two pastors co-leading this prayer service… one is a young, energetic black man who became a Christian in prison. He’s married to a white woman. The other pastor appears about as white-nerdy-midwestern as it gets. Thick rimmed glasses, hair gel, plaid checked shirt.
(Of course I’m describing all these people by appearances only to create a mental image for you.)
The pastors leading the service ask the other people on stage to pray. They pray for our community and our nation. They pray for the victims and perpetrators of racial injustice. They pray for the families of those killed during that week. They pray for police officers and young black men. They repent of individual wrong thinking and racial bias and the messages they’ve passed on to their children. They ask for wisdom and practical insight as to what to do next, how to move forward towards breaking the patterns of racial injustice. They ask for our eyes to be opened to see people who look different as God sees them – loved ones, image bearers, His creation. They pray against the violent, destructive work of Satan, and the demonic powers of racism and violence that are plaguing our society. They ask God to raise up a generation of people who love mercy and seek justice and walk humbly with Him.
This service lasted almost 2 hours. People worshipped and prayed. There was crying and laughing. And what came to mind as we walked out of that room was the instance recorded in the Bible where Jesus says to Peter:
“You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
I’m telling you, friends, this prayer service was powerful. Not because the people there were anything special. But because when God’s people come together as His Church and pray His Word to Him in the name of Jesus, Satan goes running.
“Resist the devil and he will flee from you…” James 4:7 says.
You could almost feel it in the room – the presence of Satan leaving as God’s Holy Spirit flooded the room.
Most of the last several days I have felt my heart sink at one point or another as I am reminded of the ongoing patterns of injustice in our communities, as I think about the family members who are feeling such active and ongoing grief over last week’s events, as I wonder what I’m supposed to do as a young, white, midwestern housewife and stay at home mom…
And while there is lots to be done – conversations, actions, legislations, trials, etc… – there is also lots to be prayed over. And while I hope there will be opportunities for me to learn and change and grow across existing racial and cultural boundaries, I know that for now, I can pray. Let’s not underestimate the power of prayer in such a time as this.
In solidarity with you dear black Christian sister,