We Can Do Better

Am I qualified to write about difficult subjects like race? Not necessarily. But as someone who loves people and loves people the way Jesus loves people, I cannot stand aside and be silent. I do not have all the knowledge, but I have a heart and a voice; and I am called to use it.

Before I get into the nitty gritty of what I have been reflecting on for the past few days, I want to say a couple more words to get our hearts in the right place. First: whether you are Black, White, Yellow, Brown, you do not need to apologize for the color of your skin. You were beautifully born this way, into a broken and fallen world. You are a chosen child of God, even if you do not believe in Him. You are fearfully and wonderfully made in His perfect image.

 

Let’s Admit We Are Wrong

“Sometimes in order to take a stand, you must take a seat” – Steven Furtick.

One of the first things that I want to call out on myself, is not being able to admit that I’m wrong. I have a difficult time doing this on many things, but especially when it comes to moments where that if I admit that I’m wrong, then I admit that I have wronged others. But I am wrong, about so many things. Which is why I am inviting you on this journey with me as I dive deeper into my past and my inaction.

The goal is not to bring these things up to just brush it aside the next moment, to check a box and move on as if nothing has happened. It’s not so the person of color in your life can pat you on the head and give you a gold star at the end of the day. The goal is not to feel bad about our ancestors, our past, our present, or the things that are happening around us. No, that is guilt. And guilt is not a strategy of movement but rather one of reclusiveness and silence.

The goal is repentance. Admitting we are wrong, turning from our old ways and walking in the opposite direction. Repentance changes things. There is no law that can be written, no bill that can be passed, that will change the hearts of those who are racist. There has to be a change of heart: the only real change comes from inside. And if we are going to change our minds and hearts we need to be honest with how we got here in the first place. What makes us think we own everything under the sun but yet we cannot own up to own own faults, or cannot think about or speak out about race?

 

But…But…But…

I have seen a lot of excuses just on my own news feed that I’ve given some thought to:

“All lives matter.”

I’m glad you think that people matter, I think they matter too. But this not about us. By saying that all lives matter, we are dismissing and devaluing the experience of Black people. We cannot position ourselves to stand up for Black people if we are pushing our own agenda, trying to make justice for Black people in America all about us.

“Not all cops are bad cops, there’s always going to be some bad apples out there.”

Again, a very dismissive statement that brushes over the widespread racism, marginalization and privilege in America. Remember, this fight is not cop versus people of color. This is generations of systemic racism and white supremacy versus humanity.

“People need to show respect and be sentenced & held accountable for looting and setting buildings on fire.”

Are we really going to equate the value of a man’s life to the inventory at a Target store? By thinking this way, we are limiting and placing value on someone’s life. The love of Jesus does not isolate scenarios and define people based on their actions, but sees the whole person, their story, beginning to end. Instead of seeing the riots at a store He sees an entire race of people who for generations upon generations have been hurt and traumatized, instead of celebrated, seen and recognized.

 

Let’s Listen

Listen with the goal to understand, not to respond. Everyone’s life is so beautifully unique and we need to be open and available to hear from those experiences. We need to see and empathize with people’s pain, not blame people for how they act while in pain.

I am personally praying that I continue to see my brothers and sisters in Christ (and out of Christ lol) through the eyes of God. A God who gives everyone endless grace, love, and new mercies should they choose to accept it. I pray that as our country continues to walk this road together, that we become radically defined by grace. That our new narrative is how well we empathize with each other.

 

Check in on Your People

Reach out to the people of color in your lives. (And if you don’t have any people of color in your life, I suggest you open your eyes and step into new experiences). Spend some time to speak gold into their lives, to call out the truth. Make them feel seen, loved and heard in a world that does not see them. Let them know that they are worth fighting for! Encourage them the way that Jesus did. This is a small step in the right direction. The “how are you, really” text (which I’ve sent recently-oops) is not always best way to let someone know we are here for them in life’s heaviest moments. Lift someone up when they are tired and weary. When things are heavy, try to find a way to lighten the load.

Put in the Time & Do Your Homework

One of those most important things that we can do to educate ourselves is to do some homework. Yes, we are about to get schooled. Personally, I have felt overwhelmed by the amount of content that has been shoved in my face for the past week. So by taking one bite at a time, we are able to digest and fill ourselves with the knowledge and the truth about the experiences of others.

Revelation-knowledge is a delicacy, sweet like flowing honey that melts in your mouth. Eat as much of it as you can, my friend! For then you will perceive what is true wisdom, your future will be bright and this hope living within will never disappoint you. Proverbs 24: 13-14, TPT

Resources

Black voices have stories. Listen to them, read them. Take in their knowledge. Below you will find a sampling of works that have moved and impacted me. As I keep learning and growing in this area of my life, I will keep updating this list.

Books

Jacqueline Woodson: Brown Girl Dreaming

A book of simple, impactful, and poetic words. Jacqueline’s childhood memoir is extremely moving, a story full of poems that will change your perspective and soften your heart. Below, I’ve included one of my favorites. Purchase Here. 

Podcasts

Why Tho: Why Whites Will Not Make America Great Again Tho

I liked this episode of Tiffany Bluhm and Ashley Abercrombie’s podcast because it sheds light on how injustice is viewed in the eyes of God; and how our words and our subtleties can impact others. It provides examples of Psalms to lament to, to collectively cry out for justice to. Personally, it was eye opening to see how different ways that racism has been steeped in my life. Listen Here.

1619: The Fight for a True Democracy

Recommended by my boss, this is the first episode of an audio series hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones that dives into the beginning of American slavery. I’m still working my way through the series, but this first episode enlightened me to the ignorance and manipulation that America was founded on, but never addressed. I recommend this series if you haven’t before taken the time to learn about the timeline of slavery and the impact it had on the world we live in today. Listen Here. 

Why Tho: Why Justice is Not a Trend Tho

As Ashley and Tiffany have said: justice is not a trend, it is the heart of The Father. It is here to stay and in your every day. “But wait! We’ve had a black president! Racism doesn’t exist! Slavery was 400 years ago! None of this is biblical! Stop being political!” If any of those statements are triggering, give this episode a listen. Listen Here.

Head to Heart: Is God Really Good?

I first listened to this episode of Christa Black’s podcast a few years ago and it helped me to make sense of the old “if God is real, then why do these things happen?” question. My biggest takeaway? God is in charge, but He is not in control. I repeat this to myself when I feel helpless and hopeless in a world where there is so much hate and suffering. Listen Here.

Articles

Medium: 75 Things White People can Do For Racial Injustice

One of the many things that I love about this article (besides being incredibly practical), is that it is continually updated with current information relative. This article has challenged me to rise up and show up. Read Here.

NPR: One White Fear Being Weaponized

This was written almost 2 years ago to the day that Amy Cooper called the police on Christian Cooper this past week. “We’ve got to come up with some policies that raise the costs of bad behavior — of treating people differently than you would want to be treated. And that is a problem of white fear being weaponized, and that is a problem of police officers being a little too prickly when people are upset about having been judged harshly or inappropriately.” Read Here.

Teen Vogue: Beyond The Hashtag: How to Take Anti-Racist Action in Your Life

This article provides incredible resources and I love the way the author Zyahna Bryant challenges the existing narratives that we so often hear. Here is what they write about Black Lives Matter: “Not only is it a signal to call out the injustices that have prompted us to continue to take to the streets to defend ourselves, it is simply the act of saying that we do matter in a world where it’s obvious some people believe some lives matter more than ours.” Read Here.

Vocabulary

Hopefully (and I say hopefully with a grain of salt) we know that racism can take the form of things including but not limited to hate crimes, neo-nazism, and racial slurs. But what about subtleties and microaggressions? Before combing though the below photo and taking a look a sampling of the ways that we (we = white people) can be covertly racist, I (ashamedly) could not tell you what many of these things meant.

Photo via The Conscious Kid 

Does it take time to learn these words, to put in the work, to examine your own heart and the impact of your actions? Absolutely. Is it necessary? Even more so. On behalf of God’s creation: we cannot afford to be lazy about this. Below I have included some of the microaggressions I have felt personally convicted of over the past few weeks.

Reverse Racism. The concept that affirmative action and similar color-conscious programs for redressing racial inequality are a form of anti-white racism. That just because someone is a minority that they receive preferential treatment based on the color of their skin. At one time, I partially believed this to be true. As if affirmative action was solely an effort to create diversity, to make sure that all the boxes were checked. The truth is that this gives underrepresented people opportunities that they may not have had previously based on their qualifications and merits. We cannot celebrate diversity without addressing the disparity. I found this article from the Atlantic very helpful.

Prioritizing White Voices as Experts. This limits our point of view and perspective. One of the incredible things about this world is knowing people who come from different backgrounds. Let us use these experiences and resources at our disposal, to gain well-rounded knowledge and not a narrow mindset.

Denial of White Privilege. There are some things I knew about my privilege: being the victim of a racial joke, having bandages available in the color of my skin. But my privilege runs much deeper than that. After reading many stories, there are countless things that I don’t have to think twice about, that I can do without being afraid. Just because of the color of my skin. Things including but not limited to: driving 5 miles and hour over the speed limit, walking around my neighborhood safely, going for a run, taking out my wallet, not being afraid to talk to a cop (although that could change), the list goes on.

Assuming Good Intentions Are Enough. Without actions, intentions are nothing. Without impact, intentions are nothing. If your movements don’t make ripple effects, your intentions may as well be nonexistent. 

 

Speak Up and Take Action

It’s not enough to read over these words once. We have to study them, become familiar, so that when we are needed, we are equipped, educated and ready for action.

If you don’t know where to start start small. Every if you feel like your voice is a whisper, a drop in the bucket, say something. Have those difficult conversations with people who we are close with in our lives, people who are in our circles who are otherwise unreachable. People who will listen to and value what we have to say. And don’t stop bringing it up.

Here’s another thought: do we really think that reposting the same traumatizing video is really constructive to bringing this country together? Do we really think that posting an on-brand word art graphic saying “I stand with you” is really enough? There has to be more than just these surface-level mindless excuses for action. Words, faith, and knowledge without action is dead. Justice isn’t here today and gone tomorrow. It’s a lifestyle.

Action can be anything from signing a petition for a call to action in the face of injustice, to donating to an organization that gives Black people their voices, to speaking up in the face of an uncomfortable covertly-racist situation, to reading a book about a Black person’s life experience and how they have felt oppressed and suppressed, to supporting Black-owned businesses. It is not God’s job to be Mr. Fix It, while we sit back and do nothing. He provides the resources, and we do the work. So let us let action permeate our lives.

And please don’t wait. Why do we feel like we have to have all the facts and wrap everything in a pretty bow before speaking out, before reaching out? Why do we feel that we have to wait for someone who in our lives to be hurt in order to take action? It’s entitlement and it’s selfish and I am so guilty of this as well. We can do better.

 

“Epilogue”

At the end of the day, we can have all of the best intentions, but what matters is the impact that those intentions have. Before we jump to conclusions, before we point fingers, before we assume: think of the other human being on the receiving end of your intentions. Let us be willing to step outside of our comfort zone into someone else’s reality. It creates empathy. It creates humanity.

P.S.

I’m not here to prove anything, qualify myself, or present myself as a knowledgeable expert. I’m here to share what I have learned recently and to keep myself accountable for updating resources on this page that I have found helpful and can come back and refer to them any time I like. I share these things in the hopes that there are people who are otherwise unreachable will also repent, get curious, and learn. I pray that these words and resources are thought provoking (and convicting if necessary).

If you find anything here out of context, don’t get me started on “we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”

Solid as a Rock

Union Square

I started a new job a little over a month ago. The position is at a property management company, where I travel to different buildings within the tri-state area to help leads prospective residents into apartments and plan events for current residents! Yesterday I was in Jersey City and at lunch, I took a walk along the waterfront overlooking downtown Manhattan to have some quiet time.

Every time I spend time with God, I ask him to teach me something new or maybe remind me of something I’ve forgotten. I often feel that most things I hear are things I have heard before, but they are received differently based on context, the state of my heart, what season I am in, and how mature I am.

Yesterday I just sat on a bench in solitude. No headphones, my notebook tucked away (but at the ready because you never know when you’ll have a notebook emergency). I kept staring at the Freedom Tower, completely zoned out. I’ve lived in New York for almost 8 years, jaded by the skyline, but suddenly I started to remember how the World Trade Center was built. 

The space had been unoccupied for years. City planners, government officials, and citizens alike all had something to say with how to plan out the space. It took almost 10 years to plan and build a foundation for something so symbolic, so iconic, something to stand the test of time.  It wasn’t until 2009 that the foundation was finished and construction began expanding to more than just the building itself. 

I left New York for 7 months to live in London in late 2011. By then the construction of One World Trade was barely visible- not more than 200 ft above sea level (for New York skyscraper standards, this is invisible). When I came back in 2012, it was as if the entire skyline had changed. I could see the building from miles away. One World Trade was designed to be a symbol, a hub and a place for everyone for generations to enjoy. 

When a solid foundation is formed, there’s no telling how quickly the rest of the construction will go. It was just a matter of a few months and one building completely transformed the way Downtown Manhattan looked.

One World Trade from Jersey City Waterfront

I need to continually remind myself that laying a strong foundation is the key to creating and designing something built to stand the test of time. And even when I think is going slow, that’s okay. The best foundations are laid so carefully that when it’s really time work on the rest of the construction, it goes smoothly and quickly. And even when hiccups arise, the firm foundation accounts for that, and construction will be able to resume.

As I am still in the early stages of my new job, I know that the foundation is important. The same principles I apply to my faith to learn more, to grow more, can be applied and permeate the rest of my life. Learning the software programs, the processes, the policies, the mannerisms, and the vision of the company are all a part of the bigger picture. Along with developing relationships, building a reputation with clients, setting a standard for my work of course. I know this will take time; and humbling myself, being patient, and resisting the desire to be comfortable all the time are things I need to remind myself of daily. 

While I am of course reminded of the story in Matthew of the two builders: one who built a house on rock and the other who built his house on sand (then a storm comes, but only one of the houses survives. Spoiler alert: it’s the house made of rock), I am also reminded of the following:

“Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed” Isiah 28:16.

It is more than okay to set standards, set goals and learn new things. I personally have to remember to keep it all within the context of grace and mercy, because I am only human.

We can only have that strong cornerstone of a foundation because we have a God who can help us withstand the weight of a blessing so big it could only come from Him. He already has carried the weight of the world on his shoulders; and whatever we experience in this life, he can help us build that firm foundation as well.

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We All Deserve Nice Things

About a week ago, I had a very vivid dream about a couch (bear with me here). I had just purchased a house, and I had no furniture in it. I would sleep on the floor, because I was looking for the perfect pieces to complete “the look” and “the vision” I wanted to have for my new house.

One day I was heading home from running errands and when I walked in, I saw this beautiful tufted midnight blue velvet couch (with clawed-foot detail) much like this one here, just sitting in my living room. No note attached, no reason for me to think the delivery was a mistake. I was taken aback by the gesture of kindness from a stranger, a stranger who had gifted me something I didn’t think or know that I would like, but loved the moment I saw it. Immediately following, I thought “well, this couch is too nice to sit on. I wouldn’t want to ruin how perfect it looks in the moment.” Then I woke up from my dream.

Later that day, God told me, “why would I continue to give you nice things if you never use them?” And it struck me: all the things that I had been given as gifts that I had never used. Not just physical, tangible gifts, but gifts like hospitality, the ability to speak life into others, and talents that I have not used to glorify, encourage, or uplift others. They just sit there dormant and unused. Three verses that come to mind highlight the good and actionable work that God calls us to do through our talents.

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The first is 1 Corinthians 12: 5-6.

“There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” This is always a hard one for me because it deals with the aspect of comparison. God has given each and everyone a special set of skills, so when you compare your gifts to others, you are discounting your own ability and as a result, probably putting yourself in a lower position that no one asked you to be in. I have to remember that no matter where I am or what my gifts are, God is the one who is working through me. I am not authorized to discount my gift in any way, because it says in the Bible that my gift DOES look different from everyone else’s. I cannot compare apples to oranges, so why would our gifts be any different (despite what the world may say).

The second is Matthew 5:14-16. 14

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” We are called to be lights of the world. How can we possibly be a light if we keep all of our gifts hidden from the world?

The third is Proverbs 22:29.

“Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.” God tells us that when we are skilled and humbled in our work that we will presented before the highest officials as a way to honor Him in every place on earth.

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Luke 16:10 says “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” I believe that this not only applies to materials possessions, but also the gifts and people in our lives that God has entrusted us with. If every good and perfect gift comes from above, shouldn’t I be treating every good and perfect gift that comes my way with the upmost care, respect, and attention that it deserves?

We all are worthy and deserving of the gifts that God has given us (not to be confused with entitlement), so let’s use them to the best of our ability, knowing that the creator of the universe is working right alongside with us. This week I’m asking myself: what are some gifts that I have that may be going unused at the moment? And (more importantly), how can I use this gifts for the greater good?

 

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Follow the Trailblazer

Maker:S,Date:2017-9-26,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-ve

This past Saturday, I took a little day trip to go hiking in Cold Spring, NY to spend some time in solitude and nature. As I set out for the day, I decided I wasn’t going to listen to any music. 1- partly because I wanted to get “the most” our of my experience and 2- I didn’t want my phone to die in case I needed it for a emergency. Plus, nature and Spotify don’t really “go” together.

When I arrived at the trail head of Blue Hill, I read the directions for the hike several times and even took a picture of the map to bring with me. As I started up the trail, I saw this couple not too far ahead of me that had on their full hiking gear (special boots, backpacks, and sunglasses – I didn’t even know there were special hiking sunglasses!). I felt that because they had the right gear they clearly knew what they were doing. (As a newbie hiker, this is a totally logical explanation. Meanwhile, I’m still in my pearls and I’ve got my matcha to-go in a thermos tucked away in my backpack.)

So we set off on the hike (they didn’t know it was “we,” but I did!) At the beginning, the trail was clearly marked and there was only one way to go. Then, we reached a clearing after the first mile uphill and took a break for some water. I decide to continue on; and started walking the first direction I saw. I had an internal voice saying to me “wait a minute, there were a few forks in the road, how can I be sure this is the right way?” I hadn’t been paying attention, but there was a sign that had pointed me in the opposite direction of which I was walking. I quickly turned around and started proceeding on the right path; and, once again, following my newfound friends.

Maker:S,Date:2017-9-26,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-ve

I followed them all the way to the top until we hit a sign pointing in two different directions that said “short loop” or “long loop.” I wan’t sure on how much time I had before I had to catch the train, so I ended up taking the shorter of the two loops (which still had a great view). I rested on the mountain, taking in the view and enjoyed just being still.

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After the wind started picking up, I decided to head back down the trail. There were many hikers who were on the trail before me; and because it had just rained the previous night, so many of the paths were covered in mud.

I was about halfway down when I saw some hikers coming up a steep rocky path, so I started making my way down there, assuming they had come from the bottom of the trail. This path was awfully muddy and I found myself slipping a little more than usual, moving really slow, and gripping onto tress to get my balance back. After the two hikers past me, one of them shouted “the trail is actually back up this way, we just took a shortcut and went straight up the rock.” Relieved that I didn’t have to continue the steep descent I replied “thank you,” and proceeded back on the trail.

The path on the way down was marked with white tokens nailed to the trees; and I had to keep looking ahead to see which was the right direction to turn. As soon as I had passed a marked tree I immediately looked for the next token. If I kept looking at the ground for footprints where people had gone before, it was near impossible to tell which way was the right way, for so many hikers and made their own paths and gone through shortcuts.

Maker:S,Date:2017-9-26,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-ve

That is how our relationship with God is on our path of life. As an expert guide and trailblazer, God has already gone before us, laid out a path for us to take, and marked where we need to go with trail-markers in order to keep hiking through life. It is my job to keep my eyes open and head up in order to keep checking in to see where the marked path is. Like life, hiking is not exactly based on intuition alone and following other people’s “shortcuts” doesn’t always lead where I need to be going: it could in fact lead to the edge of a cliff. As long as we’re on this path of life, be sure to check in with the One who marked the path for us in the first place.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Psalm 23: 2-3

Looking to God has a guide, I let Him lead me on a path of righteousness & peace. I am called to be vigilant, aware, and constantly in contact with God. When I forge my own path because I think I’ve found a shortcut, the trail can be a lot more difficult than I had anticipated. When I follow other’s footsteps, I can find myself getting lost, or even putting myself into danger. Only God knows the perfect path for me because He has made it just for me and He has gone before me.

 

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