What I Do

what-i-do

Amid all the discussion and debate about the inequalities and dangers faced by black and brown individuals in the United States, the question arises: what can I do about it?

It is overwhelming to look at the endless accounts of police brutality, justice system failures, blatant and subtle racism, and white denial.  When feelings of helplessness begin to wash over me, I have to take action.  These actions are usually not big, but they are steps towards the larger cause.

I work full time, keep myself busy with some side gigs, am newly married, have been sick for several months, and am learning how to live with someone new—but the need to participate in this movement burns inside of me.

With such a busy schedule, some days my “action steps” look like me gobbling up articles from Truth Dig, Democracy Now, Police the Police, Shaun King, and others and then reposting them for my Facebook friends to see.  What good does this do?  My friends have posted articles that caused me to pause and contemplate—so I post with the hope that mine will do that same for someone else.

Facebook sharing isn’t the only way to be proactive—there are many other social media avenues that can help spread the word.  It also helps to follow the accounts of organizations that are organizing events, planning protests, and starting nationwide movements. (Stop Mass Incarceration Network, Black Lives Matter, their region specific social media accounts (i.e. Atlanta’s Stop Mass Incarceration Network chapter’s twitter: StopMassIncNet-ATL).

But what do you do with the information these articles communicate?  You can’t stay silent!  Talk about it.  I love starting conversations with peoplemy husband, family, friends, co-workers, or complete strangers.  It doesn’t take much for the conversation to turn towards social justice—hearing where they are, sharing your perspective and ideas, discussing the movements and problems in the country, and finding community (or not). Remember, by sharing about the need for social justice, people can never again claim ignorance about the problem.  Plus, given time, they may come to recognize the seriousness of injustice and become activists, too!

Another way I try to stay aware is to notice when police pull someone over or detain them. I look at the person’s skin color, keep track of how the situation is being handled, and have my phone ready “just in case.”  You never know when you’re going to be a witness to police misusing power.

You’re probably wondering what BIG STEPS you can take.  Look at the sites of the organizations that are in the fight for equality and see what’s happening in your area, an hour away from you, four hours away, or even further.  See if anyone wants to go with you, plan the trip, and go prepared for the unexpected to happen.  And use social media to talk about it.

I’ve shared a little bit of what I do (social media posting, talking with people, etc.). However, my husband and I have done some other things, too.  Last fall, A traveled to NYC for Rise Up October, organized by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network.  It was a multi-day event with big names, families who have lost parents, spouses, partners, children, cousins, siblings, etc. to police brutality.  There was a sit-in protest against one of the worst prisons in the country, and police made arrests.  While I wasn’t able to attend, it was my first exposure to big-time protesting.

Through that event, we learned about a regional event in Charlotte, which isn’t too far from where we live.  We attended, heard stories from family members who had lost someone, whether to death or prison, and began planning events at colleges and universities in the Southeast.  Excitingly, I got to plan the No More Stolen Lives Tour event at the University of South Carolina.  While not a large event, the people who were there were supportive and excited about the cause.

For those of you who live in bigger areas, start Googling and find out what’s going on.  For those of you who aren’t in a big area, see what’s happening in cities near you.  But, whatever you do, don’t feel that you are unable to contribute.

This is not a popular cause to join.  When you find like-minded people, bask in the community for the time you have it.  Most people think there are no real problems. However, as Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted the Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam executive committee: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.”

* Also, if you are interested in donating money to organizations that use the funds to further the mission of social justice and equality, you can do so at these links:

W.W.J.D? He’d Join Black Lives Matter

What Would Jesus Do?  Do you remember the bracelets that everyone wore in the 90s and early 2000s?  They were supposed to remind the wearer to ask what Jesus would do in certain situations…and let other people know they were a Christian.

Guess what?  That W.W.J.D. concept comes from a book—and I’m not talking about the Bible.

When I was a little girl, my parents gave me the children’s book called, “What Would Jesus Do?”  In this story, the normal, white churchgoers are portrayed as silly, self-absorbed, clique-y, and completely oblivious to the essence of the message of Christ.  However, there are three children who, along with the pastor, begin to have their eyes opened to the realities of their selfishness and prejudices—with the help of a poor, blind man and a young boy (both from the slums).

In the end, these children and their pastor recognize the need to love those who are different—that going against the culture to make hard decisions to advocate for “the least of these” is Biblical.  They know that if they are going to truly call themselves Christians, they have to act differently, even when their pride and reputations want to stay safe.  And they do.

What Would Jesus Do today?  He would join Black Lives Matter.

Why?  Because he cares about “the least of these.”  He cares about the brutal handling of humanity and, I think it’s safe to say, abhors prejudices that continue to justify such actions.

I think Jesus would look at all the white Christians who keep saying, “if you would just respect the police, you’d be safe,” and remind them that thousands of years ago, the “police” (Roman soldiers) treated Christians cruelly and made up crimes against them.  Jesus himself died (under questionable charges) at the hands of that unjust system.

Before the argument begins: yes, Jesus won’t approve of every aspect of the movement. That’s not the point. The point is that Jesus loves, Jesus cares, and Jesus made radical claims and took radical actions—the kind of actions that found him eating with prostitutes, seeking out greedy tax collectors, and calling the Pharisees whitewashed tombs.  He didn’t hole up in the temple praying for “all those people.”  He didn’t tell the Samaritan woman to take her grubby hands and tainted water away from him—he drank from what she offered, and then offered her something more.

It is time to stop and reevaluate.  It’s time to stop lauding and idolizing law enforcement—not everyone teaches their children to look for a police officer if they get lost.  It is time to call injustice out by name and stop hiding it behind the façade of public safety.

Before you post another anti-Black Lives Matter meme or hold rioters for racial equality to a different standard than fans of the winning Super Bowl team, consider that Jesus repeatedly violated the norms of his culture.  He sent shock waves wherever he went.

Stop preaching and raving about his radical actions on Sunday unless you are ready to imitate them on Monday.

A Painful Evolution (Awakening #3)

At my core, I am a journalist with the desire to fight for truth and justice.  This identity blossomed during my time with my university’s newspaper and continued in the years following graduation (especially while working as a reporter).  While I thought I was pushing the limits of my surrounding conservative culture, it was not until the 2014 murder of a gay man in a North Carolina hotel room that my journey towards gaining radically new eyes began.

My husband (then boyfriend) and I had our first big fight while discussing that news story.  He called it a hate-crime; I said, “How can you be sure it wasn’t just a (terrible) murder, one unmotivated by his sexual orientation?” I naively thought this fact was irrelevant.  Thus began the painful and long process of shedding the scales of my white, American upbringing to recognize the power of race, gender, and socio-economic status in my culture.

Over the coming weeks and months, I was introduced to and read/listened to newfound news sites, journalists, thinkers and philosophers, and public figures. They put me through the wringer and upset the ways I’d previously thought.  Many more heated conversations between my significant other and me catalyzed my mind and heart in a new direction—feeling deeply for those who are terrorized, brutalized, and killed because of the color of their skin.

At the same time, I was experiencing the beginning of a spiritual crisis.  I increasingly saw a trend among many evangelical Christians in the United States: intolerance towards the idea that prejudice and brutality against certain races exists, and resistance to questioning the authority of the police to execute these acts.  With each new police killing or act of brutality that made breaking news, I observed many Christians who profess love for Christ put down anyone who criticized the actions of the police–calling for the exaltation of those who “put their lives on the line for us every day.”

Turning a blind eye to the epidemic in our country, where the lives of some are not valued as highly as the lives of others, is an atrocity.  Watching people who profess Christianity, the religion of a slain God who was unjustly killed by the authorities, side so quickly with the institution carrying the weapons that brutally kill 12 year olds, 20 year olds, and 32 year olds without repercussion is heartbreaking, and even angering, for me.  

It’s especially difficult when I see people I love deeply, who are loving and compassionate people, perpetuating these ideologies.  It shows me that this response, like a tradition, is passed from one generation to the next.  However, just as some traditions need to be broken, so does this mentality..

I now sit, nearly two years into this process of self-evolution, frustrated with the many who refuse to have their worldviews altered, while understanding the intensity of undergoing such change. Yet, I am still perplexed as to how to move forward in a faith that is populated with so many ignoring the instructions of Christ, instead aligning with an ethnocentric religious patriotism.  Simultaneously, I am driven with the desire to educate and fight for something in which I deeply believe—that until black and brown lives matter, all lives do not matter, and that giving up on people as unchangeable is not an option.