“We must fight racism!”
“I will actively join the fight against racism and urge my followers to do the same!”
These are the words I have heard as I’ve moved through the last couple of weeks, words that I admired because they sound so mighty, lofty, and brave. Fighting racism. It has a strong ring to it, doesn’t it? Then I started thinking, we talk a lot about “fighting racism” but do any of us really understand what it means when we say it?
How do we fight racism in a modern world? What does that look like on a daily basis? What steps do we need to take to ensure that our fellow brothers and sisters are heard?
Let’s Talk About This.
Before we get started, I want to share a bit of a post from a Black Christian hip-hop artist Shai Linne that The Gospel Coalition shared on their blog last week:
“In the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing, my wife and I received an email from a white sister in Christ. I was hesitant to let her know how I was feeling, for fear of being misunderstood and, frankly, because of emotional exhaustion. But as I began to write, I poured out my heart in a way I’ve never really articulated all at once. I’ve been encouraged by some around me to share this publicly….this is what I shared with her:
Sister, I am heartbroken and devastated. I feel gutted. I haven’t been able to focus on much at all since I saw the horrific video of George Floyd’s murder. The image of that officer with hand in pocket as he calmly and callously squeezed the life out of that man while he begged for his life is an image that will haunt me until the day I die. But it’s not just the video of this one incident. For many black people, it’s never about just one incident. Just as it wasn’t just about the videos of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Laquan McDonald, Walter Scott, Rodney King, etc., etc., etc., etc.
This is about how being a black man in America has shaped both the way I see myself and the way others have seen me my whole life. It’s about being told to leave the sneaker store as a 12-year-old, because I was taking too long to decide which sneakers I wanted to buy with my birthday money and the white saleswoman assumed I was in the store to steal something.
It’s about being handcuffed and thrown into the back of a police car while walking down the street during college, and then waiting for a white couple to come identify whether or not I was the one who’d committed a crime against them, knowing that if they said I was the one, I would be immediately taken to jail, no questions asked.
It’s about walking down the street as a young man and beginning to notice that white people, women especially, would cross to the other side of the street to avoid walking past me—and me beginning to preemptively cross to the other side myself to save them the trouble of being afraid and to save me the humiliation of that silent transaction.
It’s about taking a road trip with my sons to visit Blair’s family in Michigan—and my greatest fear being getting pulled over for no reason other than driving while black, told to get out of the car, cuffed, and sat down on the side of the road, utterly emasculated and humiliated with my young boys looking out the window, terrified, which is exactly what happened to a good friend of mine when he took his family on a road trip.
It’s about the exhaustion of constantly feeling I have to assert my humanity in front of some white people I’m meeting for the first time, to let them know, “Hey! I’m not a threat! You don’t need to be afraid. If you got to know me, I’m sure we have things in common!”
It’s about me sometimes asking my wife to do things in certain customer-service situations, since I know she’ll likely get treated better than I will.
It’s about borrowing a baby swing from a white friend in our mostly white suburb of D.C. and her telling me, “Sure you can borrow it. I have to step out, but I’ll leave it on the porch for you. Just go grab it”—and then feeling heart palpitations as my car approached her home, debating whether or not to get the swing and being terrified as I walked up the steps that someone would think I was stealing it and call the cops on me.
It’s about intentionally making sure the car seats are in the car, even if the kids aren’t, so that when (not “if”—it happens all the time) I’m stopped by the police, they will perhaps notice the carseats and also the wedding band on one of my visible hands on the wheel (which I’ve been taught to keep there and not move until he tells me to—and even then, in an exaggeratedly slow manner) and will perhaps think to himself, This man is married with a family and small kids like me. Maybe he wants to get home safely to his family just like I do.
It’s about having to explain to my 4-year-old son at his mostly white Christian school that the kids who laughed at him for having brown skin were wrong, that God made him in his image, and that his skin is beautiful—after he told me, “Daddy, I don’t want brown skin. I want white skin.”
It’s about having what feels like genuine fellowship with my white brothers and sisters who share the same Reformed theology—until I mention racism, injustice, or police brutality, at which point I’m looked at skeptically as if I embrace a “social gospel” or am some kind of “liberal” or “social justice warrior.”
And it’s about sometimes feeling like some of my white friends aren’t that particularly interested in truly knowing me—at least not in any meaningful way that might actually challenge their preconceptions. Rather, it feels like they use me to feel better about themselves because I check off the “black friend” box. Much more could be mentioned. These were the first things that came to mind.
So when I watch a video like George Floyd’s, it represents for me the fresh reopening of a deep wound and the reliving of layers of trauma that get exponentially compounded each time a well-meaning white friend says, “All lives matter.” Of course they do, but in this country, black lives have been treated like they don’t matter for centuries and present inequities in criminal justice, income, housing, health care, education, etc. show that all lives don’t actually matter like they should.”
~ ~ ~
This. This is why we need to fight racism. This is why we need to use our voices for good and to make a change. This is why I am writing this blog post because I want other young people like myself who are turning to the internet for answers on what actively fighting racism looks like, and to have something to refer back to as the voices of the world clamour all too loud.
1: Use Your Voice In Your Community, Home, and Workplace
Just because you are a young person, doesn’t mean you don’t have a say. God has given you a voice so that you can use it to spark change and speak out in your home, your work, and your community. Today, it’s the youth that are leading some of the major movements for change, and honestly, it starts small.
If someone in your family makes a racist statement without meaning to (or intentionally), you can take a stand and say something, thus starting a conversation.
Rian Finney, 17, grew up hearing gunshots from his bedroom window after witnessing the aftermath of Freddie Gray in Baltimore in 2015, he decided to take action.
“If I don’t speak up and do something” he said in a later interview, “then who will?”
Who will indeed.
2: Listen To Those Closest To You and People of Other Ethnicities
I think our greatest weakness as humans is our inability to listen. Everyone has so much to say but rarely do we slow down to actually listen, and we end up talking over each other which leads to miscommunication, hurt feelings, and general discord.
James 1:19 says, “…Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”
When we stop talking and start listening, we validate an individual’s feelings and emotions and create a safe space where they can be heard instead of talked over.
3: Use Your Creative Talents
There are so many ways you can be using your creative gifts to make a change. On social media I see countless examples of this varying from paintings and jewelry, to poetry and novels. You can use the funds gathered from the sales of those items to support foundations like We Need Diverse Books.
We Need Diverse Books is a nonprofit organization created to promote cultural diversity of multiple forms in children’s and YA literature while giving back to communities by making sure low-income children and families have access to quality (diverse) books and education through various volunteer work and scholarships.
Art is very healing and plays a major role in social justice movements. Inspired yet? Grab those paintbrushes, jewelry makers, blank Word documents, and let’s get to work. 😀
4: Support Black Small Business Owners, Authors, and Creatives
Make an active effort to seek Black-owned businesses. The U.S alone is home to roughly 2.5 million Black-owned businesses which means there are MANY you can support. Follow them on social media, sign up for their newsletters, help Black authors launch their books, buy their products, and promote them on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Try making it a habit to find new business and social media accounts to follow each month and lend your support.
Last, but certainly not least, pray, because prayer is a form of activism just as much as campaigning and protesting are. Prayer is no different in the Scriptures during times of injustice. In (Ps. 10:12–18), David calls out to the Lord and petitions before His throne for justice and then I think of Jeremiah and his prayers for mercy (Jer. 14:19–22), or even Daniel as he pleads with God to “incline your ear and hear” and “open your eyes and see our desolations”
So, before you rush out to make a change, be still, be quiet, and humble yourself before the throne of God because He is the ultimate judge. Also, take some time to educate yourself on an emotional level before you go out there and spew dry facts, information, and statistics because if you don’t, you run the risk of becoming a pharisee.
Our unseen “activism” in prayer will earn us no virtue from the public eye, no attention, no recognition so at times, it may feel pointless. If you don’t bother with things like silent prayer, because it doesn’t earn you brownie points in the world–then I think being an active fighter against racism isn’t your problem, and would advise you to check your heart.
Prayer develops empathy and compassion, and that’s what we need right now, not more anger, or loud voices adding to the chaos in our country. Instead, we need more compassion, kindness, empathy, understanding, and tenderness.
I will close with this thought: I pray that we continue to put our hope in Jesus, to keep turning to Him in turbulent times, He who is the author and perfecter of faith, who hates injustice, and who will one day wipe away every tear, make all things new, and bring about a peaceful eternity with Him.