I'm sure your social media threads are blowing up today with news of the tragic deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile--two black men shot by police in the last two days. I'm struck by these deaths for a variety of reasons.
First, my daughter is black. I can't ignore the deep rumblings of hatred and racism that seem to surround the deaths of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, and others. I can't ignore the research that shows that "black girls are six times more likely to be suspended than white girls" (Bates). I can't ignore the privilege I have as a white, middle class woman; I can't ignore that my daughter won't have the same access to things that I have despite how hard I will fight for her equal access. I can't ignore when people try to tell me that her race doesn't matter because it does matter; her race is a part of who she is.
These deaths are striking to me because the argument relating to semantics will overshadow action. Social media is lit up with debates about #blacklivesmatter vs. #alllivesmatter. But what will we do??? We can argue semantics until we're blue in the face, but it won't do a damn thing to stop racism from permeating American culture; it hasn't so far. Of course, we must speak out on unjust policies, but we must also take action. Reach out to marginalized groups in your community--do it, not because you want to feel good about yourself; do it because you want to create a healthy, thriving community for ALL of its members. And if you have kids--get your kids involved in this kind of service to others, so we can raise a generation of folks who are willing to reach across whatever divide separates them from others.
And finally, I'm struck by these deaths because the underlying problem to these tragedies is not racism. People: Racism and violence and our f'd up political system and all kinds of other injustices are all a result of the lack of Jesus in our society. I keep wondering how many Evangelical churches will interrupt their regularly scheduled Sunday sermons to speak out against this violence and to encourage its members to be Jesus to EVERYONE--even to those who are unfamiliar to us, who are vastly different from us, and who live antithetically to the Bible (seriously, we're ALL guilty of this).
I've been in enough Evangelical churches to know that, sadly, not many churches will touch these deaths on Sunday. It's too controversial. It's too risky. It might make too many people uncomfortable (even though Jesus was totes okay with calling to light tough issues that made church-folks squirm in their pants).
So, Christ-followers: It's up to us. We cannot allow ourselves to be unaffected by these deaths or other senseless acts of violence and injustice any longer. We need to educate ourselves and our families on tough issues, allow ourselves to feel, to get angry, and then we need to love and help people. We need to be overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit to help us drive out fear of those who are different than us and to help us overcome stereotypical thinking that makes us do/say stupid things. We are called to "not grow weary from doing good"--including to those different from us (Galatians 6:9-10).
Even if you're not a Jesus person, I encourage you to find something in these tragedies that resonates with you and spurs you to action. Don't turn your eyes away from injustice. Speak up, and then do something to impact positive change in your community to make it more equitable for all of its members.