I’m not a connoisseur of history- My husband will tell you a lot of the time, he has to correct my historical facts- I don’t know a lot about a lot, least of all American history but over the past week or so, I found myself unable to switch my heart off from what I was seeing and hearing.
I think a lot of it stems from the fact that I can empathise- as a black person, I have experienced first hand the pain of racism. And it is always shocking whenever it has happened to me. And I think the reason why it shocks me is because unlike some black African Americans, I don’t have to live with the culture of it all of the time.
So last week I found myself really disturbed by the plight of black people in America. And even though I am not American, it made me sad that many African Americans were expressing the feeling that they live under a different regime to the rest of the nation. Now I don’t know all the facts; but as a fellow human being, that made me sad.
A lot of the time, I watch the news and there is one tragedy after another and I struggle to understand- so, often times, I find myself unable to articulate any words or emotion and find myself falling silent, despite knowing that what I have seen is not ok.
But this time around, it was much harder to detach because more than ever, even in this country in the UK right now, racism is still alive. I got told the other week to ‘go back home’- I can only think the lady in question meant for me to go back down south because of my London accent- maybe.
When the shootings in America happened, it brought it home just how much more we need to be having conversations about race. Because unfortunately, whether we like it or not, racism is still alive even today and silence is not an option when it results in the devastating loss of human life on the scale that we are seeing on both ‘sides’ of this issue.
This week I have felt more than ever the need to speak up. Mostly because if this type of thing was happening not to me but to my friend, I would speak up. I would say something. I wouldn’t just stay quiet, I would tell everyone who would listen that something bad has happened to my friend and that my friend needed help.
Martin Luther King once said that “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”- Our voice, as human beings, as people, as friends, matters right now. Our friends in the USA, our black friends who have endured gross injustice for hundreds of years need our voice now more than ever.
When we don’t speak up, nothing changes. The same cycle is repeated over and over again- and I believe as a Christian that I am not only commanded to pray but also to ‘loose the chains of injustice’.
As I watched the news this week, I desperately listened out for voices of hope in this situation- sadly, when it comes to such divisive issues such as race, there are less and less voices speaking up about it. And sadly, the church has been the most silent.
But I believe that we are missing a trick here. Conversation and dialogue, especially at a time like this, is vitally important. Conversation isn’t possession of all the facts but to start a conversation with me at a time when I am facing persecution because of my race makes me feel like you care. It makes me feel like even though you may not fully understand what I am going through, you are interested in me as an individual. It makes me feel as though my struggle matters to you.
And more often than not, conversation leads to understanding, understanding to compassion and compassion to action. But action can only happen when a choice is made, first and foremost to speak. If not to the public, then at least to me, the one who is going through it. And that is why, this week, I chose to speak up for the first time ever at a rally. To say it’s not ok. To say that even though I may not get it, I stand with those who are impacted.
My voice this week expressed that I am interested in having a conversation about this. And even though I have no idea what can be done right now in this moment about the complex issues of race that face us and inequality both in the UK and abroad, I chose to use my voice at this time to express my sadness at what I am seeing, to commit to seek understanding and to pray that compassion grows in me from that place that leads to the right action. But first, I must speak up.
If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again