The world is on fire. How are we going to respond?
In the past week, my attention and all my news and social feeds were riveted to the protests in more than 140 cities in the US and globally, over the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. We took a full day of silence from social media on #BlackOutTuesday following leaders in the music industry to demonstrate solidarity and highlight the urgency of listening. We love amplifying black voices about the experience of transforming injustice, and the wisdom of care for grief. We will continue.
At this important moment, I’m following the lead of the movement for black lives to take actions that defend back lives. And I’ve been working in ways not so public to put the stories of black ministers, politicians and faith leaders at the center of my work, including making financial donations to support the movement. I’ve also been fielding questions and conversations with a variety of white folks this week. They are trying to understand how to respond to the outcries from black Americans.
I see some of my work in this moment is to continue reshaping my thinking and action. I’m using the tools of prayer and storytelling to drop my own defenses. I’m working to be a more compassionate witness and actor.
Additionally, my dear white friends, I see some of my work is to invite you to join me in expanding your imagination about how to respond. The fires that are burning have been burning for 400 years in this country. The cries for racial justice have been a part of every day of this country’s 244-year history.
What we are responding to is the unmasking of white supremacy for the evil that it is. White supremacy is an ideology that fuels our ways of seeing and being in the world. It is not just two white men with guns hunting down a black man and killing him. It is also in our grasping to believe that it was an isolated incident. It is in the belief that all protests should be calm and not inconvenience us. It is in the outrage we feel when we see property marred and think that concrete might be more valuable than a human life lost to violence.
Will you stay in it?
Please don’t make another excuse or look away… unless you are looking for another white person to help you feel good or righteous or like you have a better view of what is happening in the world this moment. If that is what you want, then go ahead and go. I cannot help you.
If you are looking for someone to join you in this challenge, then stay. If you want someone to be with as you as we work to see differently, think differently, act differently and become a different kind of white person in this world that hands you privilege on a platter, then stay. I hope you will stay and be part of this conversation. There are many ways we could go and many doorways into this conversation. I’m choosing four in the days ahead.
If white people want to become participants in the movement to change the fabric of our social, political and religious life in the United States, here are four questions to get us started:
- How can I cultivate empathy in myself for individual and collective black experience?
- How can I value people over property?
- How will I prioritize the voices and perspectives of black lives?
- Where and how can I join the movement(s) for justice?
The world is on fire. It is burning in our streets. But more importantly it is burning in our hearts. It is a fire for justice and change to save black lives, a fire that honors the humanity of black people, a fire that becomes a witness to pain and trauma. It is the consuming fire of Pentecost to remake the world.