I’ve started writing this so many times, but the truth is it’s so hard to find the right words. These days, I’m understanding more just how difficult, challenging, and awkward it can be to talk about race. How do I find the right words? How do I get my point across without offending anyone? Most days, it feels impossible to do either.
But today, I’m going to try to do my best in hopes that maybe someone reading this will have a better idea of my perspective. To give you some context, I’m from Eastern Clarendon county. Turbeville is my home and I could not be prouder to call it home. If you know me, you are well aware that a lot of my friends and their families are white. I work in politics, most of my colleagues are white. The church I attend is multi-cultural, but most of the attendees are white. A question I’ve found myself asking lately is ‘When the world reaches this boiling point in racial tensions, how do I use my voice to help those around me understand?’ Well, it’s not easy.
When we turn on the television or open up our social media platforms, we enter arenas of divisiveness. I’m convinced that most of what we consume on these mediums do more to divide us to bring us together. During a press conference on the JUSTICE Act, Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) made a good point: we tend to make it seem that being pro-communities of color and pro-law enforcement are mutually exclusive. I understand emotions are high, but I hope that’s something we as a nation really steer away from.
Here’s the thing: Black lives matter. If those words or that statement upsets you, I cannot apologize. For the past few weeks, we have watched minority communities cry out in their frustration with the lack of trust with law enforcement. We know that minority communities, specifically African Americans, are disproportionately stopped and killed despite being unarmed by law enforcement. To pretend the problem doesn’t exist is an injustice. You can love America and challenge her to be the best that she can be, and I believe that right now the injustices we’re seeing towards these communities are her biggest blemish. If your loved one had a scar or an injury, you wouldn’t simply watch it get progressively worse and hope for the best. You’d recommend solutions, products and help them find something to improve their ugly scar. Shouldn’t we do the same thing with our country?
There are so many people who I love, who have shown me unconditional love who are bothered by that statement. Often times, they say, ‘I don’t see color,’ or ‘I judge someone’s heart.’ Let me challenge you this way. I am black. My people love me because they know me. They know my story, my journey, they’ve watched me grow up. Very quickly I want you to think of your Taylor. Your friend of a different race who you know, cherish, and love. How do you treat people who look like them, but are different than them?
People who make more or less money? Those who don’t have the same religious beliefs or the same political ideology? Those whose family situation looks vastly different than your friend’s? Perhaps their past looks different than your friend’s, maybe they have a criminal record. Do you still love them the same? Do you still see the value in their life that you do of your friends?
If you hesitated to answer that question or can’t answer it with an easy yes, then I’d challenge you to reflect. Do you really value all lives if you don’t value the lives of those different than yours?
It’s a hard realization. We all have implicit biases. I have some of my own. I don’t think these biases make us bad people; they make us human. But we all have a responsibility to learn from them and grow, and we should use that growth to foster environments that are welcoming to every single one of our neighbors.
I know every person reading this isn’t a Christian, but I would assume you have some sort of tie to Clarendon County, and from your time in the community, you’ve met a lot of Christians. I’m a Christian and my faith is really important to me. During a lot of this, I think about how Jesus would want me to respond? He would want us to pursue love and unity rather than anger and divisiveness. We’re all called to pursue reconciliation, yet I don’t see a lot of that on my social media feed.
Rather, it’s this false narrative that if you believe black lives matter you don’t like law enforcement. And if you support law enforcement, you don’t think black lives matter. It is a false, ugly lie that quite literally needs to die.
I am thankful for law enforcement. I believe they make our communities safer and the men and women who put on those uniforms today just want to create a safer world for their neighbors. But there are indeed bad apples. Most people who find themselves on the blue lives matter side of this debate are often quick to highlight the rioting and looting that took place following the death of George Floyd. I’d argue to you, they are the bad apples of this movement. The same way the bad apples in law enforcement don’t determine the quality of law enforcement as a whole, the bad apples of the movement don’t determine the quality of the thousands upon thousands of peaceful protesters we’ve seen using their first amendment rights.
If we focus solely on pointing fingers and calling names, we’ll never make progress. The only way we get through this and move forward as a nation is if we sit at the table and have difficult, challenging conversations with people who are in no way like us. Rather than focusing on being right or dominating a response, we should focus on listening, understanding, and empathizing. Jesus was criticized for talking to the woman at the well because she had an ugly past. He still saw her value and deemed her worth loving. Shouldn’t we do the same?
From a government perspective, there are some solutions. Senator Scott has led the Senate effort in drafting a police reform bill to answer some of the concerns we’ve heard. I personally think it’s a good start. It isn’t a "one bill solves all" solution, but it’s a beginning to a long journey ahead. The government, however, isn’t the end-all-be-all to our problems.
Racism, covert and overt, can only be fixed on an individual level. Whether or not it’s intentional or unintentional, we should strive to identify our biases and prejudices and work through them; for the sake of the future of our children and their children. What will you do in the coming days, weeks, months, and years ahead to help bridge the divide we see in our country? Will you talk the talk of "things get better with time" or "I’m not racist so I don’t have to worry about it?" Or, will you walk the walk and strive to know those different than you and actively call out bigotry, hate, and micro-aggressive racism?
My last point I’ll make is this. That last line, micro-aggressive racism, is perhaps the biggest challenge facing our community. I can’t think of many times I was a victim of direct racism, but it’s the passive racism that has caused my pain. Those aggressions come in the form of ‘You talk really proper for a black person,’ ‘You are pretty for a black girl,’ or those God-awful jokes that you tell that are rooted in racial biases. We have a responsibility to call that out and speak against it. Silence is complicity. It tells people, it’s okay since it’s only a little racist, not that racist.
On your next drive or during your free time I want you to do one thing. Read or listen to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from the Birmingham Jail. The part of the letter that focuses on the white moderate, ask yourself ‘is this me?’ If you find yourself convicted, there is no shame but there is a lot of room for growth and improvement. Learn from it, ask yourself what more you can do, and work on yourself, work on those around you.
We can get through this and we will get through this as a stronger, better nation than we were before. As we work through it let’s all find our roles in knitting the solutions and quickly turn our words into actions.