Why #whitepeoplesactionsmatter should be trending

I remember the day in American History class when we watched decades-old news footage of the American Civil Rights Movement.

I watched in horror as young black men and women were beaten in the streets, mauled by dogs, and ravaged by water hoses. I saw the signs that pointed to negro bathrooms and water fountains, cringing as the consonant sounds came together forming all-too-close to the word I’d read so many times in To Kill a Mockingbird and other such famed American works.

I remember learning about how it had gotten so much better.

Fast forward a few years and I remember the day we elected the first black president.  I watched with pride thinking to myself, this is one of those moments where history is made and you tell the story to your grandchildren.

But the truth is, my horror, just the same as my pride, did not glean for me an insight into empathy.  As an American-born white, Christian woman, no form of discrimination brought against me will ever compare to that which has plagued my black peers and their ancestors.

There are too many names that flood my head, and far too many more I don’t even know, when I think through the violent acts committed against individual black people, and moreover, the collective black community in recent years.

For too long I thought it best to keep quiet on the matter. Nothing I could think of to say felt empathetic or enough, so instead I said nothing. 

Well, I’m done saying nothing.

Do I say African American instead of black?  Is it weird to mention how I grew up in white suburbia but went to a Title I middle school? Is it racist and stereotypical to offer up that I was raised by a single mother?

I may clunk through my words, or mar the politically correct niceties. I may get some of it wrong, or I may miss the mark on the whole lot of it, but as a Christian, as a woman, as a white person, as an American, and most-importantly as a human I will tell you black lives matter, and none of this is okay.

But it got me thinking.  Words don’t feel like enough because most of the time words are just a little bit empty.  They don’t require action, but worse they imply it.  Our words don’t actually make us accountable to the action that follows them. More often than not, without our knowledge they make hypocrites out of us faster than we even realize.

So, without ceremony, I offer up just a few things we average white folk can start putting into action to stand in the gap for black lives.

Quit Mapping

I remember it clearly from my childhood, at certain stoplights, in distinct areas of town my grandmother would, likely subconsciously, lock the doors of the car as we came to a full stop.  Just a few short weeks ago, I began driving the highway home from work after multiple shootings were reported in the neighborhoods along the path of my back road shortcut.

Having spent time ministering to children in Alabama Village in Prichard, AL, one of the deadliest gang-violence ridden communities in America, where concrete road blockades were placed to leave one way in and one way out, I can only mildly communicate the injustice we create by segmenting our cities into safe zones and danger zones, or worse white neighborhoods and black ‘hoods without bile forming in the back of my throat.

On the heels of Jesse Williams’ impassioned BET acceptance speech, I found myself Googling “systemic poverty” only to grow more appalled by something I myself have been privileged not to experience all while being complicit in perpetuating the issue. While my white peers’ parents enrolled their soon-to-be sixth graders in private school, my mother enrolled me in a Title I middle school, where for the first time I found myself uniquely familiar with the cultural norms accepted inside the invisible walls of poverty built less than a mile from grandiose displays of systemic white privilege.

Call it like you may not see it

Growing up with a single mother, I found myself familiar with a tight budget and a babysitter. Mom worked hard to provide, but what she couldn’t fell flat in the face of a firm “No.” My sister and I wanted for nothing until we saw what others had, some would call this the beginnings of cultural gluttony and envy. Both of us would likely shy away from the phrase “privileged upbringing” counting the list of luxuries we were wont for.

But we grew up white, so we grew up privileged.

Fact of the matter is, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, if you grow up white in America, you have an 87 percent chance of graduating high school (compared to black students’ 69 percent).  Only 42 percent of black high school graduates go on to college while 62 percent of their white peers pursue similar higher education.

School discipline, crime rates, sexual assault and domestic dispute statistics follow similar trends.  Meanwhile, trends for Latino Americans and Asian Americans plot in between whites and blacks in equal opportunity and sociological categories.

If you understand Black Lives Matter, act like it.

Our subconscious has power. Late at night as we walk to the car our eyes dart for safe havens when a black male is in our midst. The condescending “bless her heart” escapes our lips when we see a young black woman caring for a less-than-content child in the grocery store. Lean into those moments, becoming aware of your own habits helps you to adjust them to align better with what you actually believe.

But what about those conscious decisions? Research the ballot initiatives on social policy and reform. Pay attention to issues like education, health care and government aid programs. Don’t vote blindly based on party affiliation.  Do your own research, pray for discernment and seek wise counsel. Make good decisions.

In typical Mom form, mine has always told me, “When you know better, you do better.”  Put to use the tenacity with which you filter and absorb your hours-old Twitter feed and figure out what you need to know.

Then do better.

Look to Jesus and remember that life matters.

When we look to Jesus to direct our steps, it is easiest for me to draw parallels where I see the Jew who walked through Samaria. 

Shocked that He, a Jew, would ask her for water, the Samaritan woman goes on to say, “Do you think yourself greater than our ancestor Jacob who gave us this well?” 

The truth is, the well of systemic inequality we sit at, inherited from our forefathers has brought us water that isn’t quenching the thirst for liberty and justice for all.

Jesus, God in human form, came to earth to minister to humans made in the image of God. He saw no lines of Samaritan or Jew. Rich or poor. Prostitute or queen. God uses the afflicted and the affirmed. The children of God, made in the image of God, redeemed (or still redeemable) by the blood of Jesus, matter to the heart of God.

 

What Barre class taught me about God.

What Barre class taught me about God.

Scripture tells us there is a time for everything, and it seems in life, there's always a time for shaking. Here's what I've learned from a recent season AND a recent barre3 class. 


If you’re a lady and you’ve ever taken a barre exercise class (guys, I have no idea what the male equivalent would be, but go with me here.) you’ve probably heard the phrase, “Embrace the shake.” 

It’s that moment when your muscles feel maxed, but your instructor tells you to hold.  They almost always say, “Embrace the shake. Shaking is where change happens.”

Last week I was in an incredible Barre3 class where my instructor expanded on the idea.  Ashley said to us, “Find that shake.  Find where you’re uncomfortable and stay there.” 

“How many of you have ever seen real change come from a situation where you were comfortable?”

It was only fifteen minutes into the class and we were doing a sort of hybrid plié/squat situation. My legs were shaking as if there were an earthquake. My brain screamed quit. Ashley said stay.  I fought for it. Tears welled up in my eyes from the truth she’d just spoken over us, and maybe a little bit from the shake in my quads and hamstrings.

You see, when I think about the last year and a half of my life, I’ve spent much of it truly uncomfortable.  I’ve spent whole months questioning whether God actually knew what he was doing.  (Similar to the way I question the authority of my exercise teachers when my muscles start to shake.)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
— James 1:2-3 NIV

I spent so many quiet moments asking God if I had gone wrong, or if his sovereign plan maybe wasn’t so sovereign.  Had we lost control?

The truth is, God was letting me shake so I would change.

When God let’s us get uncomfortable, we have one option, to seek our comfort in Him.  When our metaphorical faith muscles begin to shake, it’s prayer and worship that are breathing life back into them. 

The shaking is where change happens.

If you’ve ever taken an exercise class and prayed, and I really mean prayed, for that final 10 count because your legs are shaking so bad you think they may unhinge straight from your hips, you know the desperate feeling I’m explaining.

When I stopped questioning God, I began to ask him questions that would help me grow, remain obedient, and remain faithful.

“God what is your purpose for me here and how can I best fulfill it?”

“God, if this is where I am supposed to remain, will you show me where I can best experience you in this season?”

“God, how can I be like Jesus to the people I encounter while here?”

“God, when it is time for me to leave and be done with this, will you show me in a way that is undeniably from you so that I will know it’s not just me quitting?”

That last one though.

In my most recent season, there were always moments where I just wanted to quit.  Throw up my hands and say I’m out. 

For whatever reason, I could always find one – it’s too hard, I can’t handle it, I’m not qualified, I’m afraid … the list goes on and on.

I’ve quit my job, packed my car and played out the scenario in my head more times than I care to admit.  But the day God lead me to that moment was full of so much grace, so much freedom and so much joy that the relief didn’t even really register.  I knew it was there, but it didn’t matter so much. 

There are so many parallel experiences in life that show us this day in and day out.  We rise to the challenge and “embrace the shake” in plenty of circumstances in order to allow change to happen and “something better” to prevail.

I can think of a few off-hand:

-       Marriage counseling

-       Physical therapy

-       Grad school

-       Medical treatments

The hardest seasons in life tend to teach us the most. 

And for me, when I walk out of that barre class, shaky legged and sweaty, it’s not relief I feel, but power.  That soreness, that shakiness, it’s building muscle inside me. 

Sure for a few days I may walk a little funny, but the change is there, it’s taking root, and I will be stronger for it.

Xo. SW. 

Top photo sourced from Well and Good. 

Welcome!

Y'all ... I said I would start a blog when I moved to Michigan, and here I am 7 months later with no words to show for my adventure.  BUT, I've gotta start somewhere, so here's where it begins, with the building of my site! 

I just want to thank Annabeth Kierspe for taking the amazing pictures used throughout the site (and for choosing my outfit, jewelry, hairstyle and the location to provide such incredible images.) She's CRAZY talented.  You should check out her instagram, here

So I promise, more posts to come soon, along with updates on the work I'm doing at Central and some other things.  Whoo hoo! 

xo. S