A former Lutheran pastor sharing thoughts on faith and life. Please join the conversation! I love your comments!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Open to Fighting Racism and Not for Church Publicity

I have read and thought about the shooting of Michael Brown.  I have thought about white privilege, how to stand with those suffering from discrimination, how to speak on such issues when I know so little, how our country responds to protests, our judicial system, etc.  Lots of thoughts but few words.  Why is this?  I have read comments which suggest white folks hesitate to speak on these issues because they are afraid speaking out about racism might be unpopular.  This is not my concern.  If I worried about who amongst my Mid-west neighbors might dislike my words I couldn’t write half the things I do.  Rather I am concerned about the reactions of those suffering from discrimination.  I live in an area of the country which is very white.  It is difficult to understand racism when I am surrounded by people who look pretty much like I do.  I am speaking from a place of ignorance and yet not speaking feels wrong.  I am afraid of offending the very people who are already hurting.  So, I hesitate to speak.

I thought about going to Ferguson.  It is not so terribly far away.  I saw pictures of a white female pastor participating in the protests.  Could I, like her, be of help?  But, she was from the community.  I am an outsider.  What do I know?  Do I intrude upon this community in their struggle so I can feel good about standing against injustice? 

There was some talk of pastors putting themselves between the protestors and the police.  I understand using position of privilege to intervene for others.  Yet would using the position of pastor as a shield not in a sense condone the grading of human lives as more or less worthy of protection?  Does this not lend some credence to attitudes which say “he robbed a store, therefore it is okay he was killed?”   The life of a pastor should not be more valuable than any other human life. 

Part of me was relieved to see a church presence at those protests because too often the church is absent from justice issues.  Another part of me wanted to roll my eyes.  Remember that old and no longer politically correct joke about dyslexic people worshipping dog?  I think there was more truth in the joke than we realized but not just for people with learning disabilities.  Way too often the Christian church treats God like some cosmic dog who needs to constantly mark his territory.   If we stand up for justice do we have to do so while waving a cross in the air?  Do we have to claim our actions as Christian rather than simply human?  Can we not work for justice without it feeling like a publicity stunt? 

Everywhere I turn I have more questions than answers.  Yet the pain of racism in this country has been laid bare before us.  Regardless of the particularities of this particular case the anger it has revealed does not fall from the sky.  There are racist realities in our society which need to be acknowledged, confronted and transformed into justice.  I do not know how to help this happen.  A wise friend once told me if I hold myself open to helping in such situations opportunity will come.  It already has in some very small ways.  So, I hold myself open to helping fight the injustice of racism and other injustices, not as a pastor, not as a white person, not as a Christian but as a human being with no more or less value than any other human being. 

For now, it is the only thing I know to do.


Chellelaine85 said...

I too have thought a lot about the events unfolding in Ferguson. I also hesitate to say anything that would be considered too controversial...but for me this issue hits close to home on many levels and find myself unable to not speak out. I have a vested interest in finding justice for and hoping to end racism.

I have two beautiful boys who are half white and half black. I also no longer have a father in my life because he is a racist. He disowned me before he ever met my significant other and he has never met my children. I'm not sure how we even begin to address the hurt this has caused me and my family. So I truly have an understanding of how closed minded people are and how deeply those beliefs lie.

On the other side of this issue, I watch very closely to how things play out because it sets the tone for how the next case is handled. My boys are going to grow up and they will be judged by their skin color first. This has been proven again and again...it's not fair nor is it easy to swallow. I fear the day they are teenagers, I wonder if I'll ever sleep at night, knowing that they may be profiled and targeted while shopping, hanging out with friends may be seen as being in a gang, or worse shot for jay walking or walking home in a hoodie... There are no words to express how scary it is.

As for going to Ferguson...I think in these situations you have to follow your heart. It's hard to know if your presence will help, but if you don't go you will never know. I doubt you would hurt the situation. I've been tempted myself, it seems like a worthy cause.

As I mature, I have decided that I want to be known as a person who lives by her own convictions. I want to follow my instincts and when I lay my head down at night, I want to feel good about what I've said and done.

It seems for me, the best way I can fight racism, is to live my life and expose people to my lovely family. I will raise my kids to be respectful, honest, with a healthy respect for authority, but I will also arm them with knowledge so they will have the sense to leave situations before they become dangerous.

Sheri Ellwood said...

Thanks for sharing your story and your wisdom. You have given me a lot to think about. I posted a longer response on facebook but wanted to thank you again here!