This may be the hardest blog I've ever written. Please forgive any grammatical errors because I'm just going to speak from my heart. It's time to acknowledge the truth. I've been convicted of staying silent because it was comfortable. I may not have any magical solutions, but I'm going to step out in faith and hope it inspires others to do the same. God will provide the answers to those He is raising up to lead us. Buckle up friends, this blog might be longer than usual, but it's worth reading.
I'm a white, Christian, Southern girl who has been convicted. God has exposed me to things I've felt, said, or not said that may have hurt others. First I want to say I'm sorry. I was ignorant. Not only was I not listening, but I wasn't asking the right questions to gain the knowledge I needed. My prayer is that my apology will heal any hurt I might have unknowingly caused, and lead others like me to seek repentance at the foot of the Cross. That's the only way true change will come.
I grew up in Montgomery, Alabama - the birthplace of the Civil Rights movement. I've visited the museums and truly felt sadness and compassion for those that were hurt by the sin of slavery. I've cried over my ancestors sins. I've also had the "but I never owned slaves and never would" attitude. Although that was a factually correct feeling, it wasn't a compassionate one. I went to a public school named after the President of the Confederacy. I had black friends. We cheered loudly alongside each other for the JD Vols every Friday night. We went to Homecoming dances, pep rallies, club functions together. But I never once asked them if it hurt them to go to a school named after Jefferson Davis. To be honest, the question never crossed my mind to even ask. I thought their pride in our school meant that all was healed and everything was ok. But was it? Were they just staying silent not to rock the boat and doing their part to be good members of the student body and good friends to those who looked like me? I'm so sorry I never knew to ask. Now I do. I'm listening.
I've often used the term " I don't see color" or, "I raised my kids to not see color". That may be the stupidest thing I've ever said. I'm taking that phrase out of my vocabulary. If we have the gift of sight, of course we see color! God wants us to see color because He loves our differences! What I missed was that He also wants me to ask questions to get to know the hurt of those different than me so that I can understand them, no matter what color they are. It's our job as whites to ask. Blacks have been trying to share their pain with us for years, but it's fallen on deaf ears. I imagine at some point it's easier to keep your mouth shut and carry on. But the pain is still there, bottled up inside. I never saw the pain in my black friends. My problem wasn't "not seeing color", it was not hearing it.
We've all got a story. We all need love and acceptance. Listening with an open heart can bring the education the history books never taught us in school. Maya Angelou said it beautifully. "Do the best with what you know, then when you know more, do better." I'm now reading, listening, and learning more so that I can do better. I see color, now I'm trying to hear it so that I can begin to help.
I recently watched a video of a black pastor talking about the racial struggle and white privilege. I was never rich, so I never felt privileged. I've had to work hard for everything I've ever had. But I was missing the point. The pastor gave a great example to help explain white privilege. I'll paraphrase, but put it in quotes to not take credit for his thoughts:
"Imagine playing Monopoly with a group of black and white friends. In the beginning, the rules state that the blacks cannot have a turn until the whites have rolled 400 times. Then they can play. Does that sound fair? What's left? Can they truly enjoy the game and get an equal shot at winning? Is it wrong for them to feel frustrated because they weren't allowed to roll the dice and watch the whites buy up everything on the board? The mold in which our country was formed did not include minorities. We expect blacks to fit into the white mold because it's comfortable. It's how we've always done it. In relationships, both people have to compromise. Neither can have their way all the time. Relationships don't survive if both people cannot humble themselves and sacrifice a little comfort. People don't want to sacrifice comfort and the things that make them comfortable, but that's exactly what minorities have been asked to do since this country was formed. If this same struggle was happening to Christians, we'd all be losing our minds!" (Think about it, we've been asked to stay home from church for 3 months for others' safety and there's an uproar.)
The current mold of our country is all we've known. It's our comfort zone. We've been ignorant. That's not the same as stupid, it means not knowing. Our country is going to have to change its mold. That's going to take time. It's going to take humility. Its going to take listening. It's going to take compromise. Conversations about race are uncomfortable for everyone. Change isn't comfortable. Do you actually think Jesus liked leaving His heavenly comfort zone to come down to sinful ole Earth to save us from our sins? No! He humbled Himself and did it because He loved us. He came down here and taught us that the rules of the land were broken. I think He's trying to shake us up and tell us that again today. If we truly love our neighbor we will be willing to do the same, no matter how uncomfortable it is. Simply not hating someone doesn't mean you love them. Simply posting a hashtag, black box or a Bible verse isn't enough. It's time to walk the talk and live out the golden rule we've been reciting for years. Only LOVE drives out hate.
There are no immediate answers. Nothing will be solved overnight. We have to take the time to TRULY listen and learn first. We cannot make the right changes if we remain ignorant. However, we can begin to make changes in our own lives, our own churches, our own communities. We can open up our hearts in prayer and let God convict us of our past, even if it was just being silent to stay in our comfort zone. We can repent and get the compassion that only comes from God, the One who created us ALL in His image. I imagine He's tired of seeing His kids fight.
It's time to raise our white voices for our black brothers and sisters. I love my black friends. Now I will be asking questions and listening to understand their feelings. Now I want to help them. If that begins with joining a group to change the name of our high school, then so be it. Just because "it's always been that way" doesn't make it right. Jesus told the Sadducees and Pharisees that very thing years ago. He's trying to show us that again. Our traditions and comfort zones may not be right. The only way to swallow that pill is with a glass of humility.
If it means supporting a museum to put the Confederate monuments and history in a place where everyone can learn from past mistakes, then so be it. I don't see any statues of Hitler around taunting my Jewish friends. Visiting the Holocaust Museum was one of the most moving things I've ever done in my life. I learned not only information, but an extra dose of compassion for the Jewish people. Maybe a Confederate Museum should be built right here in Montgomery to educate us on the history, just like the Holocaust Museum. History isn't always pretty, but it teaches us what NOT to do in the future. That would be something we could ALL be proud of.
Let's move forward with humble hearts, and in love. Let's not wait on the government to try and fix it. Politics don't really change anything, God's people do. Let's soften our hearts and open our ears and minds and begin the long overdue, much needed conversations. It's time.