Inspirational Author Shannon Alder wrote, “There comes a time in your life when you can no longer put off choosing. You have to choose one path or the other.”
It has come and gone many times for us. We missed that moment. Maybe it was Rodney King, Ahmaud Arbery, or Breonna Taylor…but… George Floyd. It was a moment beyond many other moments. We are so guilty of missing these others. But this one. It rang our white privileged bell with “I can’t breathe”, “MAMA, MAMA”, the cold look in the eyes of a white executioner and the complacency and willing participation of three others in uniform. This moment affords us a grief stricken and shameful look back and yet another opportunity for us to realize we have become anesthetized to to realities outside of our own. Our hearts are broken and although long overdue we are asking, finally “What can I do?” and “How can I become an ally?”.
We must look to the allies of the past in both the civil rights movement and ancient times to understand truly what it means to post more than a meme or change our profile picture with the latest social justice hashtag and actually become an ally in this modern hateful world.
BOMBED BY THE KKK
In 1956, a white minister recently reassigned to a mostly black congregation in Montgomery, AL knew the the explosions beginning to rock his house were not from who lived inside his house but who lived next door. Robert Graetz, lived next door to Rosa Parks and had become very active in the civil rights movement. As his wife, Jeannie said years later, “We met her very early. We were glad to meet her and find out things about her. But we were all surprised when what she did changed the world.”
Robert knew that during those times that a white person helping a black person was worse than the black person in the minds of the hateful. As he joined the movement and became an ally, he learned through fear and pain that if change was going to come it would take more than a statement from his pulpit.
We can learn from Pastor Graetz that becoming an ally means fighting oppression and prejudice by:
1. Educating ourselves and understanding the power and beauty of differences.
2. Challenging our own comfort zone, privilege, and ignorance
3. Realizing hope is the currency of agents of change.
I DEFENDED YOU WITH MY SWORD…WHY ARE YOU MAD?
Simon Peter, in John 18, knew that an unjust arrest was imminent and although Jesus was the one that was being unfairly arrested and murdered by the state, Peter became more incensed than Him and with a sword cut off the ear of a solider. We must learn that our anger cannot surpass the anger of those that we are becoming an ally and advocate for. This is not our rodeo and not our story to tell. We are there to make room and support/amplify the voices of our marginalized black and brown friends. Jesus was leading the movement and Peter had pledged to follow.
Know this, we as white people, are not called to be the voice and face of this movement. We can empower and fuel and encourage and sacrifice but more than anything we need to take cues from the black community and follow their lead.
Jesus looked at Peter and told him to put the sword away. We need to lay down our sword and pick up the heads of the lowly and oppressed in our city.
Peter’s miscues and missteps along the journey of change did not stop here. He failed and missed many moments along the path like many of us today. He went on to deny his very relationship of the leader of the movement, 3 TIMES! He thought he was being culturally relevant when he had never stopped to consider the inequalities and closed doors that he was blinded to because of his birthright and privilege as a jew. But, there is hope for you and I. He missed the moments, turned his back and was culturally blind and yet once awakened he became the the cornerstone of reconciliation between two cultures and built a model for inviting all to experience and receive the same treatment.
I CAN’T BREATHE
Can you breathe? Has my breath been taken away? We are watching an entire generation, the largest demographic in our nation, begin to passionately and fervently raise their voices and march through rain for miles and keep their eyes focused despite the teargas and rubber bullets. Once dubbed lazy and powerless and snowflakes, we no longer can ignore the next civil rights movement is upon us and history is asking the question to all of us. “You have to choose one path or the other?” George Floyd spent 9 min fighting for his life, looking for an ally to step in, put themselves in harms way, and choose the right path. Alder finishes her thought with this, “You can live safe and be protected by people just like you, or you can stand up and be a leader for what is right.”
We choose right over safety.
We choose to stand for those who have been pinned to the ground.
We choose to let hope guide us and inspire us when we want to give up.
We choose to challenge our own comfort zone and put some skin in the game.
We choose to follow the lead of those who have experienced the pain and injustice personally.
We choose to lay down our sword and pick up the heads of every person that needs to be heard and seen.
We choose change and action over talk and social media platitudes.
We choose life because death has become to commonplace.