When you look at me, you see a white lady. I have Native American, Black Dutch, and African genes in my body, but for over one hundred years, my family has blended in and intermarried as equals. My fair skin and blue eyes are the result. My grandfather and even my great-grandmother were able to attend the colleges of their choice. There were no restrictions. My family members were able to enjoy jobs of their choosing, houses where they wanted to purchase, mortgages approved, and equal wages.
This has not been the case for my African-American friends. Their recent ancestors couldn’t attend the colleges of their choice, or attend at all. Their families couldn’t live where they chose. They couldn’t marry across racial lines in some states. They weren’t paid equal wages. They had to drink from the “colored” water fountain, come in the back door, and sit in the balcony. They couldn’t always obtain the jobs they desired, or even a car loan, even though they may have been the highest qualified applicant. And, even today, they and their children are often singled out for unwarranted police attention.
Seeking to understand the current events, I began reading a variety of African-American authors and discussing racial issues with my friends. I thoughtfully listened and considered their perspective. Gradually, it dawned on me that people of African-American descent are mourning the racial oppression they have suffered, the continuing wrongs, and the lingering effects. I didn’t initially understand that their outrage over this treatment was an expression of grief. If you’re black, I pray you’ll please forgive my white cluelessness.
Protests, speaking out, taking the knee, Black Lives Matter, kneeling in open prayer – all of these are the black community publicly mourning and objecting to what has been done to them and to their families, and what continues to be done.
If you’re white like me, did you know this? Were you clueless like me? Did you recognize their grief? Knowing this, how should we who are white respond to their mourning? Not in the way that we have been; that’s for certain!
When we suffer an unspeakable loss and go into a period of mourning, we don’t expect people who know absolutely nothing of our loss to tell us how to mourn, to reprimand us at the cemetery (or sideline), or to chastise us for not bouncing back quicker afterward.
The black community has not invited us to critique their mourning process. Neither do they need our white input or advice about how they should mourn. To assume we have a right to intrude is the height of arrogance. However, the Bible does assign us this response:
“Mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15b).
To mourn alongside them, we who are white need to listen, to truly hear what is behind their words and actions as they grieve, and to wholeheartedly seek to understand. If this makes us angry or uncomfortable, we must ponder why that is so. Perhaps we need to repent – to turn and go the right direction, leaving behind our prejudices and hardheartedness.
We are called to mourn with those who mourn, to stand with them as they grieve. If we’re Christians, this response is required. Therefore, we cannot turn a blind eye. Three recent articles have helped me to understand this time of mourning. Please, take the time to read them. What is written there is far more important than my words.
The Centuries Old Habits of the Heart by Theon E. Hill. Read the embedded link on the Compromise of 1877 to fully comprehend this injustice.
White Policing of Black Protest by Jervette R. Ward.