What a year to be black in America! We’ve all witnessed the strength and plight of being a black man or woman. It’s championed, it’s criticized, it’s marginalized, and again championed, then misunderstood, ignored and at times forgotten. It reminds me of a wooden rollercoaster from my childhood: a bit rough at the turns, unstable, and faster than expected. This journey, heightened by a pandemic, a murder, riots, elections and this sort of eternal blood letter of racial trauma, has felt much like that wooden ride — rough, unstable, and fast. This is an all too familiar ride, if I’m honest, with each experience being a little different. Some parts of the ride are quite the thrill, with smooth turns and just enough complexity and speed to make it feel effortless, then again, many are jarring, rough and nauseating.
The defining element of it all?
Where many choose to jump on and off “the ride” of black culture, with all of its great influences and its perceived burdens, that isn’t an option for me. I don’t take off my blackness with the ebb and flow of attention on black America. Regardless of the day, glorified month or year, I’m consistently strapped in, with each trending narrative, googled statistic or scrolling headline. I will always be black in America…
As I’m writing this, we’ve just wrapped up protests at the U.S Capital, sworn in a new president, and made history by electing the first woman (and woman of color at that), as Vice President of the United States. Though monumental, there is still an all too familiar tension in the air. This political season has truly been a ride from hell. I’ve seen the worst come out of all media platforms, producing a proverbial line in the sand. Middle ground is unpopular and those who can’t quite get a grip on how to show up, don’t show up at all, or worse, show up ready to stir up more division. With each new headline, protest or killing illuminated on our screens, we become more and more emotionally numb. Numb to the affects and impact of this racial narrative or numb to the progress, producing a pendulum from hyper emotion to deep apathy. These polar opposites produce a dysfunctional potency that provides the perfect escape from dealing with what I deem is the root cause… Our inability to love one other as ourselves.
“How can you love someone you don’t know?”
The million-dollar question, right? I’d argue that you can’t. On the surface we can attack it from a faith-based position — God loved us, in spite of, so loving one another isn’t an obligation, it’s a gift. It checks the box for the modern-day Christian but dismisses a world that is quickly running from the concepts of traditional Christian faith. It does not change biblical truth, but a full picture of faith has room for everyone. In fact, I’ve seen more Christians claim loving those who don’t look, sound, act or move like them, yet never step foot into real diversity in culture or thought. Words are cheap and lack more value today than they ever have. From the mindless tweets to passive aggressive posts, our generation is slowly recognizing that most have strong fingers of opinion and weak feet of action. We need a paradigm shift. A revitalized social narrative…
We need invitation.
I’m not talking about inviting the one white or black person you know to coffee or lunch. That has its place, but for a paradigm shift we’ll have to deepen the definition and make it personal. As I mentioned earlier, our inability to love one another is the root cause, so to invite real diversity of thought and culture into our lives can only happen through relationships that are consistent, intimate and accessible. This is where so many of us go wrong. We check the box by having a couple meals, drinks or conversations and end up experiencing the commercial ad version of diversity. It’s fun and often dynamic because it’s something “new,” and makes us feel good in the moment. Some mega churches will rent culture for a Sunday service or two, and champion the cause, but as our schedules fill up, a few dinner dates are missed, and the allure fades, we begin to lose proximity with diversity. With lost proximity, we lose perspective, and when we lose perspective, we lose the intimacy needed to authentically show up and love well through the challenges of those who don’t look, act or move like we do.
So, the question is this: How do we get out of the stands of judgement, apathy or ignorance, and get on the playing field of real diverse experiences, rooted in invitation and love?
We make a choice. We move.
A complex concept made simple. We don’t minimize our roles. We don’t leave it for someone else. We don’t use excuses to stay in the shadows. We step forward. Often uncertain, but boldly toward what we know love should look like. We step into some discomfort knowing that it has the capacity to change everyone and everything around us. We recognize that without the discomfort, we can never fully grow in faith, nor into the person we are called to be. Media quickly loses its grip on the social narrative, and is redefined by intimate communities of rich texture, deep understanding, and consistent proximity. Here is where we answer the elusive question of loving someone as we love ourselves. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary.
Ignorance should be the greatest offense in 2021. Let’s make a choice, collectively, and be daring enough to move.