Thursday, July 7, 2016

simplicity 2016: feeling my privilege

Tonight I went to a prayer vigil for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

If you don't know who they are, educate yourself, immediately.

No excuses. No reasons why it doesn't affect you. It does affect you. So learn and be humble.

Tonight, I stood in a crowd of over a thousand people. In the pouring rain. And I listened.

I listened to the passionate and gracious words of black leaders in our community who, rather than berate those who have wronged them, offered grace and a request for accountability and justice.

It was truly humbling.

Because, as a white, middle class, evangelical (with a dash of liberality) Christian woman, I have heard people complain about persecution my whole life. Specifically surrounding faith.

Now, I am not ignorant, and I can read a history book. But in America today, my personal opinion is that Christians are the least persecuted people group in this nation.

And I might lose a couple of you over this, but I have never been persecuted for my faith. Ever.

Made fun of? Maybe once or twice. But not really.

In all honesty, I have received far more negative aggression for being a woman than I have for being a Christian.

But even that isn't what I would call persecution.

What happened in orlando? What happened this week with Alton Sterling and Philando Castro? What has happened within the black community over the last several years?

That's persecution. whether you want to admit it or not.

And tonight, I looked around and felt the depth of my privilege.

And it was acutely uncomfortable.

And it wasn't just feeling the privilege that comes with the color of my skin.

I was intensely feeling the privilege of how I was raised.

You see, growing up, my dad was the police.

And to me, he  and his friends were the safest people in the whole wide world.

He taught me that everyone is equal. He told me that certain words were never to be spoken because of how disrespectful, hurtful and defensive they were to other people.

Once, I stupidly made fun of a friend's doo-rag, and he had me call up my friend and apologize. He told me "that's his culture and there is nothing wrong with it. So you shouldn't make fun. That's hurtful and not right."

I had friends of all different nationalities and backgrounds and never really thought anything about it; in large part because my dad never treated anyone any different and taught me to do the same.

But standing there in the pouring rain and realizing that to most of the people gathered there, my dad would've been the enemy, my heart broke.

Like I mentioned before, I felt my privilege and it was making me uncomfortable. And I think that was good.

Because, I felt my privilege when the man standing next to me seemed surprised that I took his hand when we prayed.

I felt it when I looked around at the police officers across the street and felt kinship instead of fear. Knowing I could approach them with total guile and trust, while also knowing I was probably one of the few who felt that way.

I felt it when I shook the speaker's hand and he thanked me profusely for coming - like it was a surprise I was there. It shouldn't have been so, but it was.

I wrestled all the way home with the amount of grief I was feeling.

Feeling like it wasn't my sorrow to grieve over; and yet, at the same time, feeling like it is worth grieving over, and that I should have a reaction.

And I do. Several actually...

I'm pissed. And sad. And confused. Puzzled even.

I'm pissed. Pissed that shitty cops give the wonderful men and women in law enforcement a bad name. It seriously enrages me. Because those very men and women who are wonderful humans, stood next to me and loved me when my dad died. And they still love me to this day.  So those cops in Louisiana and Minnesota who are not fit to wear their uniforms? Yeah, they piss me off and make me all kinds of angry.

I'm sad. So incredibly sad that a 15 year old boy is now without a father. Hearing the son of Alton Sterling weep on the radio this afternoon took me back hard. I was almost 15 when my dad died. And while the circumstances are in no way comparable, it is still the deepest of griefs. And I feel for him. So intensely. I can only imagine that his grief and sorrow is deeper because his father's murder could've been avoided.

I'm confused. So fricking confused why it is so hard to get justice for people who have already fought so hard for it. And we in our privilege would say that they have it. But really, we would just be talking out our asses because oppression is still a daily part of the life of a person of color. And that's something we don't know anything about. So we should keep our opinions to a minimum.

I'm puzzled. Puzzled why so many people will post all over Facebook about the Supreme Court decision to legalize marriage for all people and how "appalled" we are about it, but when an entire people group are targeted in Orlando and black men are gunned down by dirty cops, the internet falls silent. At least the side of the internet I am seeing in my newsfeed...

Guys, we have to do better. We have to. It's not an option. Jesus says that we are to stand up for those who are oppressed and afflicted. But we aren't doing it. We are burying our heads in the sand and acting like it's not a big deal or that it doesn't affect us. But it does. Or at least it should.

Change starts with us. And it doesn't start by us using politically correct jargon or acting like we get it. It starts by acknowledging our privilege and accepting that it's our very privilege that gives us a platform on which to stand up for our friends.

"We already know that all lives matter, this movement is just about the fact that black lives matter too..."