In 2015 I wrote the original version of this. It was right after Charleston. But today, 5 years later, I feel even more compelled to not be silent. Silence is deadly. Silence makes me complicit. And I will not be complicit. Or silent.
I’m opinionated. (Shocker, I know.) And I usually don’t have a problem finding the words. Or saying the words I find. It’s a blessing and a curse. But I’m having trouble with words, thoughts, emotions today. But as I read from one of my favs on Facebook, Jamie the Very Worst Missionary, I felt this deep conviction. Almost a sickness about silence. Her words said it best, “To be honest, I still don’t know what to say, but I can’t keep saying nothing while my neighbor is terrorized by hate and violence. I was born white, but not silent.”
And that’s just it. I still don’t know exactly what to say. Or how to say it. But jumbling the words up a bit is better than silence. Praying my heart is seen if my words aren’t perfect. Speaking imperfect words is better than the sin of silence. Because silence, inaction…that’s sin.
By now we’ve all heard about the Charleston, SC church shooting. By now we all know that 9 of the 12 Bible Study attendees are now with Jesus. By now we all know a white man walked into a church BECAUSE the attendees were black and opened fire for the same reason. He is racist and decided to take black lives.
5 years later, and countless acts of racist hate speech & violence later, there are so many more names we need to speak. Ahmaud Arbury. George Floyd. Christian Cooper. Breonna Taylor. And these just scratch the surface of the last month of news in America. The common denominator? All were guilty of being black in America.
Last night, my heart ached. I cried. This struck me on so many levels. In Charleston, this wrecked me because it was in church. A place where people go to seek refuge, seek Jesus. A place that is perceived as safe. It was random…no connection to the people, no motive drawing him to a specific place or person. Ahamud? My son is a runner. I run. And I never have to question if my race makes people watch me as I run through our neighborhood. George Floyd? I’ve never had to worry that I’ll be pulled from my car and be held to the ground with a knee to my neck begging to breathe. Christian Cooper? I can walk anywhere freely and not worry that by speaking to someone, I’ll have the police called. Breonna Taylor? I can sleep in my own home and not worry that I’ll be shot and killed because the police were at the wrong house. And my husband would never have to face charges for defending his home that the police were wrongfully in. And this scratches the surface.
These were all fueled by a hatred that my mind can’t process. A predetermined idea that a certain skin color is a threat. I don’t understand hating a person, group of people or race of people to the point of taking lives. To the point of finding them guilty of being alive because my skin is different. I just don’t understand it. My mind can’t wrap around it. I guess that’s good.
Today, much like 5 years ago, I’ve had great pride as voices in the Christian community have stood individually, but united collectively, not trying to gloss this over. Or make it anything less than the heinous crime that it was. And I’ve sat heartbroken as others in the Christian community speak out about “not making this about race”.
Friends, if ever I wanted you to hear me say something this is it. Racism is real and I will no longer be silent as I watch my neighbors (whether in my home town or on the other side of the world) face terrorism for their skin color. I was born white, but I wasn’t born silent.
I have a voice. Maybe my voice doesn’t reach the masses, but it reaches some. And if one person sees racism in a new light, then my voice has made a difference. I will not sit by as my white brothers and sisters try to say that we shouldn’t assume this is about race. I will not sit by as others who say they love Jesus refuse to see the racial divide present in this country and act in a completely contrary way to Christ by sweeping things under the rug. Jesus didn’t sweep things under the rug. He wrote in the sand for everyone to see. This is my writing in the sand. I was born white, but I WAS NOT BORN SILENT.
Racism is real. This is a hate crime. There is a divide between black and white. There is a divide in the church…especially the American church.
There is a fear of addressing racism because we might say something wrong, so nothing is said at all. There is the fear of offending someone, so silence is chosen. But in the silence, the divide grows wider. And in the silence we become more & more complicit in the crime.
I was blessed to be raised in a household that believed we were all created in the image of God. Each and every one of us. I was blessed to be raised in a racially diverse community and attend racially diverse schools. It honestly made me rather naive about racism until I was in my late teens or early twenties. But I’m not naive anymore. I’m heartbroken.
In these words today, in this little blog post, I want to use my voice to say that I see you, Charleston. I see you, everyone who looks differently than me. I see all of you who are victimized daily because of the color of your skin. I won’t tell you I understand, because I don’t. I won’t tell you that I know how you feel, because I can’t. But I see you. I stand with you and I stand behind you. I’ll stand in front of you if it means I can shield you. And I will not remain silent. I will not just share a post on Facebook that has words that move me. I will use my voice.
Because I was born white, I cannot remain silent.