Truth is: The past couple weeks have been filled with internal wrestling that include pain, hurt, and anger. I haven’t written much because I still don’t quite know what words to say. I understand that as a black woman, I am not alone in my suffering. I’ve been going before the Lord in prayer, reading his words, and I find myself drawing on the words, hope, and intestinal fortitude of our African American heroes and modern-day faith leaders, peacemakers, and activists.
I’m not very interested in sharing my opinions in this sacred moment. However, I do want to help my readers by encouraging them to listen well, and try to understand the painful history and trauma that people who look like me feel and experience in this country every day.
Even if you have friends who are from a different racial or ethnic minority group, you won’t know or understand these truths if the level of trust hasn’t been built, or if they don’t find you a safe person in which they can fully be themselves. That’s not your minority friend’s problem. That is a reality for you to explore.
The truth is: we, as racial and ethnic minorities (and I can speak for black people in particular) have been taught from a very early age how to navigate our lives, choices, and spaces in an America that doesn’t value us, and where the same rules that apply to white people don’t apply to us.
On many levels, we are at least bilingual. Generally, we know what is socially acceptable by the dominate, white society regarding speech, attire, hair and accessories, etc. And we may respond completely difficult if we are truly at home with our biological family members and friends. These tensions impact every area of our lives — how we interact with those in authority over us; how we perform in the classroom; whether or not we have a right to a good education, housing, or health care; the ways that we train up, discipline, and educate our children; how we seek both book and street knowledge and creditability; and the image we have of ourselves and the ways we are perceived in the world.
These complications and challenges are escalated to another level for those of us who have committed to the Christian faith. It’s a challenge because we read a Bible, and are taught certain biblical truths that we are called to accept: Love your neighbor. We are adopted into a new Christian family so that makes every believer of Jesus a sister or brother. God does not show favoritism. There is a sharp contrast between spiritual darkness and light in this world, and Jesus wants us to walk in the light. God calls the poor, oppressed, and brokenhearted blessed in his kingdom. As believers, God calls us to unity and oneness, reconciliation, to seek justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.
So it is a problem for me, and indeed sad when the same lies of the enemy and the same injustices from the world are perpetuated within the body of Christ particularly from my white brothers and sisters, pastors, or church leaders who have the privilege of ignoring or turning a blind eye to how injustices and systemic racism negatively affect people who look like me.
Lecrae is an African American hip hop artist, and he is also a Christian. He is taking a lot of heat as a result of becoming increasingly more vocal about racism and injustices in our culture. The message from some of his white Christian fans is very clear: “We like your music, but we don’t want you to talk about that.” I’ve read from a social media critic that, “They want Lecrae to be Christian, but they don’t want him to be black.”
I am thankful that he, a father of children—including one black male—refuses to remain silent.
My leadership hero, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once wrote:
Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
I’ve followed Dr. King’s life, ministry, and sermons for years. His “I have a dream speech” is arguably his most popular work because of its inspirational tones, and the challenge to live up to the true nature of our creed that all men and women are created equal. But my personal favorite is his, “I’ve been to the Mountaintop” speech. It was delivered on the day before he was murdered. It was a dreary day, he was physically suffering from a cold, some depression, and the reality of his impending death was setting in. He spoke to an audience of approximately 11,000 people without using notes.
This delivery was our Moses taking a look at the Promised Land, knowing that he had fought a good fight and perhaps finished his race, but he would not enter in on this side of Heaven. He was in Memphis because young people were promoting violence against the police. (This was the affect.) The cause of that violence was the injustices being imposed on poor garbage workers.
Andrew Young wrote:
“We were not aware…of how seriously threatened the Congress and the White House were at the thought of three thousand disciplined, organized, nonviolent protesters coming to Washington to wage a campaign for the rights of the poor.”
So they continued faithfully in their work, and he preached his way into glory as his people prepared to enter into their Promised Land.
We’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end. Nothing would be more tragic than to strop at Memphis. We’ve got to see it through. And when we have our march, you need to be there. If it means leaving work, if it means leaving school, be there. Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike, but either we go up together or we go down together. Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness.
A lot of people are asking today, “What can we do?” Dr. King says, we need to show up. Be present. Persevere in this faith and work, even when it’s hard, or if our friends or family reject us, even if we lose business opportunities or social media popularity. Show up! Be compassionate and care about the needs of the other. We are in this thing together—either we will work together to dismantle these unjust systems and stand against the hand of the evil one in the world, or we will all perish under it. We must develop a dangerous unselfishness. It takes courage to lay down our rights, comfort, and privilege to go to war. Let there be no doubt, this is indeed a spiritual war.
But the words of God to Joshua was this: Be strong and courageous. Be strong and very courageous. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go,” so “Get you’re your supplies ready!” If we are going to walk into the Promised Land or experience the fullness of God’s kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven, we must be prepared to work and fight.
As people of God, we get behind God. He is present with us, and he goes before us. And we do not wage war in the same manner that the world does.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete.
2 Cor 10:4-6 NIV
So we must stand! We must fight! We must do it together, and we cannot wait!
Listen to Pastor Howard-John Wesley share reflections from Dr. King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail as it relates to this historical moment we find ourselves in.
“Birmingham Revolution: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Epic Challenge to the Church” by Edward Gilbreath