Silence is complicit.
I’m sure I’ll get something wrong here. However, if I wait until I’ve figured out exactly what to say, I probably won’t say anything, and that’s part of the problem.
We see the pain and the chaos, and we say a prayer and try to move on with our lives. However, we can’t afford to wash our hands and act like nothing’s wrong.
Don’t wash your hands; instead, put them to work making a difference.
We must recognize while we are all in the same storm, we’re not all in the same boat. America’s “original sin” (slavery) still haunts the systems we have in place.
If anything, the coronavirus and recent police violence have revealed shortcomings in our society, which disproportionately affect some racial and ethnic minority groups.
While the Bible calls us to stand up for justice and to love our neighbors as ourselves, White Christians have historically stood silent in large numbers. And silence is complicit.
The biblical response to injustice is to stand in solidarity with the oppressed, to turn over the money tables of corruption and to call for fair treatment of our neighbors of color.
To stand by while oppression continues is to wash your hands of any responsibility and to rub shoulders with Pilate while the executions continue to play out.
In my own journey, I’ve had to examine my own unconscious involvement in perpetuating stereotypes and being blind to the suffering right in front of me.
I assumed because I never actively sought to cause anyone harm on purpose because of the color of their skin, that the problem was gone.
But then I turn on the news and read the stories of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
The problem we’re seeing now is called systemic racial injustice.
I’m White (I capitalize the words Black and White to emphasize the social categories our world has created around these concepts), which means I can turn off the news and go to sleep.
But my Black brothers and sisters don’t always have that option. They can turn off the news, but they can’t turn off the pain, fear and frustration that persists in their hearts and minds when the same narrative of injustice happens over and over again.
The same news story making a White family shake their heads casts a shadow of fear for a Black family indefinitely, disrupting normal life that, especially during a pandemic, has enough disruptions on its own.
The fact that there’s such disparity between one people group and the next indicates there’s a problem – one that all Christians should acknowledge and work to change.
Too often, I’ve watched while my Black brothers and sisters have suffered and held my tongue. I didn’t want to upset anyone. And that silence makes me complicit.
Imagine your house is burning and you yell for your neighbor to help. And they just stand there.
They don’t even acknowledge your pain and suffering in that moment, let alone pick up a bucket of water. They just stand there.
So, you yell louder, “My house matters!” And they look at you, a little annoyed, and reply, “All houses matter!”
You can wash your hands all you want after that, but you’ll never get them clean.
A few years ago, I discovered my own unconscious racism.
I always thought of myself as treating everyone fairly, occasionally telling a few off-color jokes and wondering why everyone didn’t work as hard so they could be as successful as me.
I was a high school English teacher with morals and a colorblind philosophy. Then some of my students pointed out that I consistently called out one of the few Black students in the room for talking out of turn when several other White students were doing the same thing and I never said a word.
I was ashamed. I didn’t mean to. I never sought to single him out.
But it all became too clear one day when I called out his name for talking without turning around, and I discovered he wasn’t even in class that day.
I started paying attention. I started reading. I went to a diversity institute for teachers one summer.
My world was turned upside down. I started catching myself. I started listening to other peoples’ language.
White Christians are uniquely poised to make a difference because we’re part of various systems of power, which gives us the responsibility to stand up for justice.
We didn’t personally make the system unfair, and maybe we’ve never noticed how it puts some people at a disadvantage. But if we wake up to the reality of systemic racial injustice, we can make a difference.
Christians should lead the charge in loving our neighbors by being outspoken advocates of social and racial justice.
So, I challenge you to find something on this list you can get behind: “75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice.”
And have a look at what Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia pastors are up to as they call on state leaders to address this problem.
Jesus did not wash hands. He fed the hungry. He healed the lame. He spoke up for the disenfranchised. He challenged the systems that left people starving at the gates of the city.
And so should we.