Here are some articles that have helped me in the past few weeks when I think about how to approach what I see happening on the news and in my community.
Jesus is Michael Brown. You and I are Michael Brown. Elijah Zehyoue is a seminary colleague of mine, and a master communicator. He knows how to communicate one thing that I think most people miss in this conversation: this is personal for everyone.
We are called to see Mike Brown, a big, black teenage boy, as one of us, and as family. We are expected through our reading of the Bible to take Mike Brown’s murder personally. We are mandated to act in some form of solidarity whether it be marching in the streets, convincing our neighbors it is injustice, or simply putting our hands in the air saying “hands up, don’t shoot”.
Jim Wallis wrote a Pastoral Letter to White Christians on HuffPost Religion today. His message: It’s time to start listening, to the voices out there, to your friends and congregants–to the people of color around you. If you don’t have any people of color around you, it’s time to start wondering why.
Many white Americans tend to see this problem as unfortunate incidents based on individual circumstances. Black Americans see a system in which their black lives matter less than white lives. That is a fundamental difference of experience between white and black Americans, between black and white parents, even between white and black Christians. The question is: Are we white people going to listen or not?
You are not a prophet. This letter is a little less “pastoral.” She makes a good point: white preachers in this conversation are not prophets. To claim such is to take over the voices of others. Instead we are followers of a prophetic movement–and not a prophetic movement where “all lives matter.” A prophetic movement where black lives matter.
Wondering, then, what story to tell when you preach if not the other’s story? Tell your story, tell your church’s story, tell your community’s story of whiteness. I don’t mean your story of German-ness or your story of Norwegian-ness or your story of New England-ness (or whatever region has shaped you). I don’t mean your story of white guilt and liberal lament. I mean that story of how you came to pastor a predominantly white church in a predominantly white town.
This is why #AllLivesMatter is actually hurting the message. Seriously, pay attention to this one. It’s important. This movement isn’t about all lives mattering, though that is the underlying point. The point is that black lives appear to have been left out when we discussed “all lives.” So, responding “all lives” actually defeats the point.
We’re crying out, we’re Tweeting, we’re posting on Facebook, we’re marching with the refrain #BLACKLIVESMATTER because that notion is precarious these days. Every time a white person says ALL LIVES MATTER they’re not only missing the point of these voices rising up together, they’re inflicting further pain and anguish.