by Christine Sine
Like most of us, I have just gone through a very harrowing week of pain and guilt and, at times, confusion. I have felt overwhelmed not just by the horror of what has been uncovered but by the incredible response around the world to the deep rooted injustice in our society. I am very aware that I am a white woman with privilege and power. I have had the privilege of a university education. I live in a predominantly white middle class neighborhood, Ian financially well off, I am respected because I am a physician. All of these factors give me privilege that I can easily brush over and take for granted.
So how do we respond?
Calm Your Mind
First, by calming my mind and my heart so that I am receptive to the possibility of change and open to the wisdom and instruction of those around me who are far more conversant with the situation and how best to respond than I am.
My own outward response has been slow, partly because I wanted to process my own inward journey and discern how to respond. This prayer was my initial response:
My friends weep,
My heart is filled with pain.
Black lives matter.
Too many cut short
Black lives matter.
What will we do
To stop the deaths.
To bridge the gaps.
To hear the voices that cry out for life.
Black lives matter,
But do they matter to us?
Then I was sent a link to this special contemplative service hosted at Cedar Park Church in Delta B.C. , by my good friend Tom Balke. Through song, image, prayer, and candles we were invited to hold our hearts open to God and to the devastating impact of racism. At the beginning the pastor Lee Kosa, shows a photo of a sign from a protest in Vancouver B.C. that said “We cannot retreat to the convenience of being overwhelmed”. As he says, when we are tempted to shut down contemplative practices encourage us to open up our hearts, our minds and our actions to respond in appropriate ways. And that is what I felt this service helped me to do.
Listen Prepared to Change
As I watched the service I was reminded of a gathering I was at many years ago with the Native American activist and evangelist Richard Twiss. Talking to the white people in the group he said: “We don’t want you to invite us to sit at your table, we want to create a new table together.” These words have never left me and I have struggled over the years to know how to listen at a deep level to my friends from African American, and Hispanic cultures as well as First Nations people who live constantly in deep pain because of the racism and its impact on their lives and societies.
In order to create a new table, we need to listen deeply to those from other cultures, especially those who are oppressed and despised because of their race and difference. As white people who live in the place of privilege and power, we do not realize how unconsciously we take charge and assume that everyone else should join us at our table – think like we do, act like we do and adhere to the same cultural values that underpin our lives. I try to listen deeply to my friends who have suffered from the deep impacts of racism. I am sure I am not always as sensitive as I should be but I hope that my heart and my soul continue to be open to listening and learning.
Fortunately today there are lots of resources out there to help us. Here on Godspace we have added a new Racial Reconciliation tile to our resource center with just a few of these – books to read, podcasts to listen to, meetings to attend. I encourage you to enter the journey of learning and understanding.
Commit to Respond
“Nobody is free until everyone is free” These words from the contemplative service resonated in my soul. What can I do to help bring freedom to others? Are there places in which I am complicit in their oppression? Maybe I have just turned a blind eye to the inequalities, maybe I have been reluctant to change because it will disturb my comforts.
This prayer for complicity is a good place to start in our response:
However it is not the place we should stop. We do need to restructure our lives and reorient our souls. I am not sure what that will look like for me in the future. I know I will continue to speak out and to use this blog to speak out too. I will continue to prayerful consider what other ways God might ask me to continue this journey too.
It Takes a Community to Change
One of the problems that many of us have especially in this time of isolation is that we feel the responses we make will be on our own. So we need to join a community of like minded people with whom we can walk. I think that this is one of the reasons the protests continue to grow. People want to connect to a community that will help them to continue to respond. Joining the protesters is not the only way to become part of a committed community though. Look for like minded people in your local community and search for ways to respond through neighborhood groups or through your church.
What do you think it will mean for you?
In many ways it seems eerily significant that this all came to a head at Pentecost. It seems to me that God is blowing a new wave of the Holy Spirit through all of our lives and communities, wanting to fill us with that breath that reaches across race and culture and social strata, enabling us to hear and understand, even though we speak different languages.
How do you plan to respond? It is not easy for any of us as we are feeling rather overwhelmed, but we need to persevere and make sure that we do not succumb to inertia and indifference.
What changes are you already feeling are necessary for you to make?
What ongoing commitments for change are you considering?