Yesterday as I drove, I cried and thanked God for waking me up. I repented, then asked for God to show me more of my unconscious biases, then repented again, repeat.
I grew up in a tiny Indiana town, literally only knew two OF two adopted half/black people in our town, both in white families, and neither did I know personally. The county I lived in is literally named White County, and more than once I heard adult and teens around me say, "White County needs to stay white."
My best friend was a 2nd generation Latina, who was born in Indiana, with parents from El Salvador. She was sometimes bullied by the Mexican kids for hanging out with white kids. I loved her, but I never understood her experiences as a person of color, because she was accepted by me and our friends, so I didn't get how others wouldn't accept her. I saw how racist my classmates and adults surrounding me were to the Mexican kids, ones who spoke Spanish and wore dark lipstick. I will admit, I was too. I didn't think of myself as racist by any means, but they were different to me, and that made me uncomfortable.
I am ashamed to admit I saw my best friend as different from the Mexican immigrants, and I didn't fully equate her experience with theirs. I loved being part of her culture when we were at her house, and listening to her parents speak Spanish, but she was like me. We were from the same town, wore the same clothes, liked the same music. When others saw her with me and all our white friends they acted differently to her than the Mexican kids in our town. If anyone gave her any crap, I saw it as isolated racists from a small town. I didn't realize until recently that my white privilege protected her when she was with me.
I didn't want to be a racist, but I just didn't know many people of color, and no black people at all. The only black people I ever saw were on the news.
As a teen, I heard on the news about profiling, and I remember not knowing why it was wrong.
Why wouldn't you pull over someone that fits the description of the suspect? Why would you be scared of the police if you did nothing wrong?
I didn't know how times the only "description" they fit was "black".
I didn't know how times the is no suspect at all.
I didn't know how many times just the color of dark skin meant escalation, that turned to violence.
I didn't know how many times that "suspicious feeling" that led to white people calling the cops many times just meant "they are black in a white area".
I didn't know.
I married young and moved away from that tiny town, and it took way too long for me to fully wake up, but I was trying. I knew I didn't want to be racist. I wanted to be awake to injustice, but I felt like in a dream where I was trying to wake up, but my you can't can't open your eyes. I just didn't get it.
My husband and I starting working with Young Life in South Bend. I got to serve with amazing African American teens and adult leaders. I will admit it was really really uncomfortable at first. Remember, white girl from a white town in White County. I was so nervous all the time, not of them, but that I would say the wrong thing, I was always hyper aware when I was with a black teen versus a white teen. It was new, and it was hard. But it was so good for me because it started to wake me up.
When I say awake, I mean you can't sleep though it because it doesn't effect you. You can sleep through a train when it is 10 miles away, but you can't when it's in your living room, or in your neighbor's yard. As a white girl, I can easily live as if the train of racism is 10 miles away. I could stay in my bubble and know that my sons or husband don't have to live the consequences. But that is wrong on every level, as a human and a Christian. The train is crashing through the bedrooms of human beings, of image-bearers of God. Who am I to go to sleep again, just because it doesn't touch my life personally?
The best thing that ever happened to me as a naive little white girl was when I went to Windy Gap Summer Camp as a Young Life leader when I was 21. My husband and I were two of only a dozen white people, at a camp of 500 black and Hispanic leaders and students. I experienced for the first time even a fraction of what it felt like to be a minority. Guys it was the most uncomfortable I have been in my skin in my entire life. I didn't understand the music references, hair culture, the movies, even just words used made me feel like I was always just out of the loop. I literally stuck out in every single group, and saw all eyes look at me every time I entered a room.
I don't share for pity for the poor little white girl. It was scary, but oh how wonderful it was for me to walk even a step in the shoes of a minority. I was brave enough to ask about why they wore a do-rag at night, and the girls asked why I watched my hair so much. I saw teen girls fight over stupid and serious stuff. I learned about the importance of respect in my teen's lives and how little they got in the world, which led to them fighting so hard for it, even in sometimes trivial little things like someone stealing their Pepsi.
I also saw teen boys of color conquer literal mountains, with their leader of color right next to them. I think God wanted me to be surrounded by my brothers and sisters of color in a way that there was no way I could ever be the same as I was before. I could never not know again what it feel like, even a tiny tiny sliver of a percentage, of what it felt like to be a minority. I hadn't woken up fully, but it had begun.
Over the next 16 years I would be able to befriend more people of color (not enough and I will admit my circle of friend is still predominantly white, which I don't want to always be that way).
I would see men and women of color in local church and government leadership, and learn the truth behind profiling.
I would serve on a jury where an elderly black man was chased in a car by 3 rich white college students at 3:00 am, yet HE was charged with a charged crime of brandishing a weapon and other random charges after they chased him with no other reason than "he looked suspicious". It took me and one other man on the jury to advocate for this man to not he found guilty on all charges, and even then he had to be found guilty on brandishing a weapon, because he did, and it was completely unjust that the white boys had no culpability.
I have been trying to read books that not only centered on civil rights, but intentionally seek out books and movies that don't just feature people of color as being "sassy" or the sidekick. I sometimes felt odd as a white girl watching Janet Jackson in "Poetic Justice", singing "Freedom is coming tomorrow" from Sarafina, or the loving the amazing Whitney in "Waiting to Exhale", but I wanted to see more. I wanted to not become colorblind, but to embrace the differences of our beautiful colors, and grow from them.
I think I was pretty close to being fully awake, but Ahmaud, Breonna, and George have fully woken me up. It took too long I am sure, but I am awake.
I am the mother to two almost 13 year old white boys. As they become men, I become even more awake to what black boys and girls have to live everyday. My sons will never have to be scared to be pulled over by police. They will never have to worry about wearing a hoodie on a walk in their grandparents neighborhood.
No, black lives do not matter MORE, they matter TOO. The point of #blacklivesmatter is because unconscious and conscious bias are real. If racism is a trigger word for you, and you get defensive when it's mentioned, then the frame the discussion in a way that you can use to grow. I know racist is a scary word that congers up KKK and Nazis, but it isn't a dichotomy of racists and not racist, it is a spectrum that we ALL fall somewhere on. We all have unconscious and conscious bias that we must work on as human beings, and challenge those in power to work on in our systems of justice.
White Guilt is not what I am advocating. It isn't my fault I was born a white girl in an all community, but it is my responsibility to educate myself, and to grow. What is your unconscious bias? What are your blind spots? I wasn't "racist" like a KKK member, but I was way too biased for way too long, even though I didn't want to be. I know I still have unconscious biases, but I want to do better.
Lord, don't ever let me fall asleep to the pains and wounds of an entire community. Lord, please please allow my white brothers and sisters to choose to be awake to the WHYS behind BLACK LIVES MATTER.