It would behoove us all to wonder “why?”
For three days I saw no media. It wasn’t intentional, I just got busy with work and life and didn’t do the social medial scroll/troll, didn’t turn on NPR, and didn’t read my normal NYTimes briefing. Therefore yesterday when my son called and told me how sad he was because of the state of our country, I was a little confused. I was aware of the death of George Floyd and knew that Raleigh had experienced a demonstration that was destructive in nature, but I had no idea of the protests, the looting, the unrest.
As Andrew and I discussed the situation I said, “I don’t understand the looting.”
His reply was, “Of course you don’t! You’ve never lived unjustly oppressed.”
And he was right.
From July 2019 – March 2020 I served as the pastor of a sister African American church. Many in the church knew me, believed in me, and the fact that I didn’t have an agenda to take over their property, etc. But some did not. They knew nothing of me except here was this new person that they needed to “trust” to be their pastor.
The first Sunday I preached there were two individuals that would not look at me. In a smaller room that was well lit, it was pretty darn noticeable that I couldn’t connect with them. They sat indignantly, looking off in the opposite direction from where I was speaking. It was unnerving. During the time where everyone greeted one another following the sermon, I wanted to make it a point to introduce myself to them. But they avoided me. Short of chasing them, I decided to let it go. One never came back to church the entire time I was there. The other did, but every time I would preach they would avoid my eyes and during the greeting time – would avoid me.
And every single time this would hurt my feelings.
“Why do they assume because of my skin color that I am out to take over their church?”
When I asked that question . . . and made myself think about the “why” . . . I had my answer. And knew that the work honestly was on me to overcome their fear and frustration. As life would have it, honestly I just couldn’t continue to carry two churches so I am asked my boss to appoint another pastor there to be fair to both churches.
My one regret is that I didn’t have enough time to show them that “Hey, I really am here because I love the mission of this church and believe you are doing great things in our community and I want to help you as best I can.” For me to help them, I needed to get out of the way.
I told Andrew that I didn’t understand the looting, that destruction of anything is never good.
He agreed . . . but his words were, “You also don’t understand the pain of being judged, oppressed, and often times considered to be lesser than because of your skin color for hundreds of years! Two wrongs don’t make a right . . . but there is a pain that runs so deep you can’t begin to understand it and sometimes people feel like they’ve just had enough. Maybe try to remember the “why” . . .”
And he was right.
Two wrongs do not make a right and hurting property and non-peaceful protests do nothing but invoke more pain and fear.
But – – – we are called to look at the “why” folks do what they do.
Then we are called to do something about it.
I don’t have the answers . . . and am in conversation with some of my colleagues and friends that don’t have white privilege like I do to hear and discern what they recommend. I think any answers I offer you need to not come from someone in “my shoes.”
In the meantime, may we all remember that there are feelings and experiences we don’t and can’t understand because we’ve not lived it. And maybe we might have to take EXTRA steps on our end to combat pain, fear, and distrust with love.