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August 1, 2021 | Javan Shashaty
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By Brendy Garcia
The events over the last couple of weeks are hard to witness. I was enraged reading about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, and the senseless killing of Breonna Taylor and then waking up to the news of George Floyd’s death was like a punch in the gut. I couldn’t bring myself to watch a man die on video at the hands of someone who’s supposed to protect him.
It is raw and it is REAL!
But like many, I find myself stuck in a turbine of emotions—anger, sadness, impotence. This is not the first time we are witness to racism in this country. And I find myself wondering, will things ever change? Will a new generation be able to walk down the street without fearing for their lives? Will my children be subjected to a different way of life because their skin is darker than others?
Racism is a reality; it is not a myth; it is not an instance. It’s a systemic inequality that continually suffocates our society, not allowing it to grow and flourish. It is the reality that Black Americans and other people of color (POC) experience a world that doesn’t welcome and support them day in and day out.
When confronted with this reality, what can we do? That is what I found myself wondering after turning off the news last night.
Be an Advocate
Jeremiah 22:3 (NIV, emphasis added) declares, “This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”
Your support matters more than you can imagine. At the core of racism is the idea that someone doesn’t matter, that they have no value and don’t belong. By becoming an advocate—or as Pastor Darren Bennett called it in his powerful article, a minister of reconciliation—you counter that ideology. When you fight for the rights of others you let them know that they are valued and have a voice; and more importantly you help to create spaces where their voices can be heard. Familiarize yourself with organizations and causes that are fighting racism and help support and champion Black Americans and POC.
Look at some of the pleas of King David in the Psalms . . . He asks God to “Create in me a clean heart” and “renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10 ESV), to “Search me, O God, and know my heart . . . point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23–24 NLT). He takes it as far as to say, “Put me on trial, LORD, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart” (Psalm 26:2 NLT).
Why is this such a frequent prayer of his heart? Because as Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV) reminds us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
We ALL have implicit biases and prejudices that inform our thoughts and views. These biases can consciously and/or unconsciously lead us to unfairly judge others and devalue them. Prayerfully take an introspective look and check your biases. Ask the Spirit to point out and root out all traces of prejudice and sinful presuppositions. Confess and seek forgiveness and healing from it. We can’t hope for change in others if we are unwilling to do the hard work of change in us.
Be an Influencer
Proverbs 31:8 (NIV, emphasis added) says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
We all have influence. We have a small space in which our opinions and thoughts are heard and valued. In that space is where we can enact the biggest and most impactful change. Look to the life and ministry of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the perfect example on how to do this. Consider some of the hard conversations He had with the Pharisees, with people like Nicodemus, Zaccheus, His family members, the rich young ruler, the masses, and His own disciples. He was not afraid of losing followers, He didn’t hesitate to speak truths that made people uncomfortable. He spoke with grace, truth, and wisdom. And here is the most profound aspect of everything Jesus ever spoke: “For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken” (John 12:49 NIV).
Friends, step into the difficult and tough conversations with your circle of influence. Don’t be afraid! In the same way that Peter and John were filled with the Holy Spirit to speak with boldness and left their hearers astonished in Acts 4, pray for boldness to speak the truth in love and share wisdom that is “helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV).
Have honest and open discussions about why your group is diverse or why it isn’t? Speak to your children about the inherent and infinite value of every life, explain to them what diversity is and why its important. Bring up issues of representation with trusted co-workers, classmates, and friends, and speak into how they can be better addressed. And as you do this with the compassion and wisdom of Jesus, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, you will “make the teaching about God our Savior attractive” (Titus 2:10 NIV).
Call It Out
James 4:17 (BSB) tells us in no uncertain terms, “Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do, yet fails to do it, is guilty of sin.” Jesus made this clear in Matthew 25:44–45 (NIV), saying, “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”
See something? Say something! Don’t tolerate racist behavior around you. If you see someone displaying acts of hatred towards another call it out safely in the manner Jesus explained in Matthew 18:15–20, and acknowledge that is unacceptable. Racism comes in many forms; sometimes blatant and overtly (“I hate black people”) and other times it comes in covert form or microaggressions—telling a POC, “You are so articulate”. No matter which way it is expressed, call it out and stop it from spreading.
Dr. Martin Luther King said it best when he said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” It is a challenging time in this county and it is time to stand up on the right side of justice!