Black Lives Matter
On a recent visit to the church, I found an older white man waiting outside his car wanting to talk. He was not a member and does not attend church at JUC. While he said he didn’t need anything, I suspect he was a bit lonely. We chatted briefly. Then, as he was getting back in his car, he said, “You guys had Black Lives Matter on your sign before anyone else.”
I said, “It’s been up a long time.”
“I guess you were right,” he said. “We just didn’t know it.”
Of course, a part of me felt proud. And yet, a bigger part wanted to ask, “Who is ‘we’?” That is an important question. Who is included in the word “we?” It is particularly important in this moment in expressing solidarity with Black Lives Matter and racial justice.
The “we” that just didn’t know it, surely isn’t our Black and People of Color (POC) siblings. For years, as in generations, they have been sharing that there lived experience is not one of equal opportunity. Indeed, for 66 years (May 17, 1954), ever since the Brown v. Board of Education decision was rendered, our nation has proclaimed that “separate but equal” does not exist. That schools must be integrated. Yet, schools are more segregated than ever. This is not news.
For generations, our Black and POC siblings have been saying that their experience with the police is different. While we are now watching it happen, this is not news.
For generations, our Black and POC siblings have been telling white America, this is not the land of democracy and equality. From original disenfranchisement, to post-Civil War Jim Crow laws to current efforts to gerrymander and curtail access to vote, this is not news.
In point of fact, these are all things “we” and by that I mean, white Americans could have known based on data and testimony.
White Americans were content to believe that these things were improving. We pacified ourselves with the goal of colorblindness. We said, “Color doesn’t matter.” Though again and again we were told by Blacks and People of Color, my color is part of my identity. If you can’t see it, you aren’t seeing me. You aren’t hearing me tell you how my life and my experience is different than yours.
And so, protests and riots sweep across this country. Voices from the margins have been moved to the center. And the center is being asked to listen, to see, and to align with the quest for a justice that is rigorous enough to see, own, and remedy rampant and systemic injustice.
We are a predominantly white church and denomination. We can be proud of our justice work. Yet, we have not been perfect and posting Black Lives Matter on our sign is an insufficient response to the call upon us. Rather, we are being invited into the work of becoming actively Anti-Racist. That means gaining a deeper understanding of what it means to be white and listening to and trusting voices of Blacks and People of Color when they share their experience. It means cultivating an understanding of the complex history of race in this country. It means grieving and showing up in ways that support the defense of Black Lives.
We begin Reflecting on Race together. We will keep you posted on times and locations in which you can participate in protests and vigils in Denver and Jefferson County. We will from time to time offer book and movie discussions. We will post resources from which you may learn more. However, the goal is not an intellectual understanding. Instead, we are responding to James Baldwin’s important axiom that “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” In our church, we face this time and this work together. Join us.