“But how do I join in the conversation about race if I don’t know any black people? And what if there aren’t actually any black people who live around me?” Her questions were earnest, her desire genuine. I’d spoken at her church earlier that morning, on the theme of racial reconciliation. As a white woman and as a Christian, it’s a topic I find myself learning more about every day, even if I sometimes feel like the least qualified one in the room to speak.
I looked at her. I may have gawked.
“Well,” I replied. “Maybe it’s not about you making friends with black people. Or maybe it is – but I think there’s a little more to it than that.”
Here’s the thing: even though people want to be handed answers, I don’t think straight answers can or even should be handed to them. I believed this when I once stood in front of a high school English classroom, and I believe this now, when many of my white friends find themselves grappling with conversations of race, most of them for the first time.
It’s not a matter of having swallowed the wrong pill – the blue pill or the red pill, as one friend accused me of doing a couple of weeks ago (the result of which is a mass of liberal bile he believes now resides in my intestinal track). But it’s a matter of my eyes being opened to the world around me.
It is no longer my privilege to avoid talking about police brutality toward the black community (and toward African American men in particular), when another man is shot by those who are supposed to be protecting him.
And it is no longer my privilege to chalk this up as a problem of the black community, to believe that this only applies to people whose skin is a darker shade than my own.
It is also no longer my privilege to remain silent.
“In the end,” Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
I don’t want to be someone who remains silent toward my friends, just as I don’t want to deny a friend the beauty of how their racial identity plays a part in their story.
But when it comes to these questions of friendship, we need to examine our motives.
Almost two years ago, this article ran in the Washington Post. I agree with everything Christopher Ingraham wrote, including his opening line from comedian Chris Rock: “All my black friends have a bunch of white friends. And all my white friends have one black friend.”
But as my friend Bethany pointed out a couple of weeks ago, the point is not that those in the white community have personal connections to the black community.
The point is, regardless of their connectedness – whether they have a black best friend, whether their best friend from high school who adopted a little boy from Ethiopia, whether they know a woman online who happens to write about her interracial marriage – they care, just because.
They care because every human on this great earth was made and created in the image of God. Imago dei, imago dei, imago dei.
They care because every person, red and yellow, black and white, are precious in God’s sight.
They care because when there is injustice toward one community, there is injustice toward every community. It grieves each of us at the core, or at least it should.
This injustice, this paralysis, this deep-seeded discrimination within the American system should make us want to raise hell for every single one of our brothers and sisters, especially our black brothers and sisters.
It’s then not a matter of someone asking me how I’m doing when another black life is wrongfully attacked, because I’m married to a black man, but it’s a matter of asking how every single one of us is doing, because we humans are interconnected, one to every other.
So, how are you doing?
How does this make you feel?
And how do the shootings of the past month affect you, how does this cause a change, a stirring in you to stand up and say, Something is not right. I will not be silent anymore.
All of this has to be a white cause, just as much as it has to be a black cause and a brown cause and a fill-in-the-black cause for it to really matter.
So, it’s not about you finding yourself a black friend to call your own (even though I guarantee entering into a friendship that is genuine and real will change you from the inside out).
But it’s about you caring deeply for the things God cares about. It’s about you believing Love trumps hate. And along the way, I bet you’ll find yourself entering into friendship with those who don’t necessarily look like you and being changed in the process.
In this with you,
Bring it. Agree, disagree? Find my words (and the pill I’ve gladly swallowed) utterly repulsive? Well, dear one: I hope it makes you think.