By Tami Boesiger
My first day back in the office after closure for COVID, I was sent home within a few hours because of a riot threat. “What a strange time we’re living in,” I thought. Later it struck me that pandemic living may be new, but racial inequity is not. This strange time has always existed for our friends of color. Why has it taken me so long to acknowledge it? Did it have to land in my backyard to give it notice?
I see it and want to come alongside, but how? What can I, an ordinary white woman, add to the discussion? What power, what influence could I possibly lend? What can I do to address systemic racism? As I listen to the stories, I feel inept, naïve, clueless, unsure of how to proceed in a way that is not offensive. I want to acknowledge and validate the pain of my black brothers and sisters, yet I don’t want to drown their voices by inserting white, ignorant rhetoric either. How should I respond?
1 Peter 4:8 reverberates in my brain. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” Love each other deeply. Love covers over a multitude of sins. LOVE. How can we apply this today? What does it mean to love each other deeply in our current climate of racial and social injustice? How can we respond in love?
Love by admitting your limitations.
As a white woman, raised in a small rural community with little exposure to racial diversity, I cannot possibly understand the oppression of minority groups. I’ve led a sheltered life. I am limited in my understanding of systemic oppression. There’s no shame in that unless I try to cover it up and pretend it isn’t there. I fully admit my viewpoint, my perspective, and my experience is very limited. Once I acknowledge that, I understand my need to be enlightened by those who know the sting of racism, who’ve lived it. I need the stories of others to fill this gap in my life.
Love by listening.
The temptation is to make our opinion known, to join the dialogue, to make others aware, but what might happen if we listened instead? “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19) Listening is hearing with your heart, focusing on the words of another without becoming defensive for yourself. Listening is the absence of agenda, the quest for understanding. Listening provides a safe space for others to be heard without judgment. In a world that tends to be very loud, true listening is a form of love rarely offered.
Love by learning.
While we’re listening, we learn. Assimilate what you’re hearing. Humble yourself, feel the tension of not quite understanding but wanting to, and put yourself in a position to be educated. Open your ears, your heart, your mind. Don’t allow your biases to cloud your understanding. It’s quite possible, and dare I say likely, our history classes did not tell the whole story. What black suffering has been swept under the rug? Love by taking the time to find out. The CORE has put together a webpage of resources that include blogs, movies & podcasts that will get you started.
Love by considering your involvement.
Pray about what else God may ask of you. Will you be called to action, to stand among or give a platform to those who have been squelched? What is your sphere of influence or gift that could be lent to the cause? What can you do? Talk about racism with your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, children. How could you raise awareness in a unique way? How might you use your voice in defense of those who have not been heard?
How should we respond to years, generations, centuries of abuse? How could we ever begin to make things right? We can’t. But we can take a positive step by loving, offering ears of compassion, minds that suspend judgment, and humble hearts extending grace. How will you respond in love?
Above all, love each other deeply, for love covers over a multitude of sins.