This is going to be really short because it's not really a topic that I feel super comfortable talking about, but it's something that's been on my mind the past couple of days specifically, the past couple of years especially, and my entire life honestly. I have to warn you that I am a white woman who has lived a fairly okay and privileged life so far, and I write this not to be patronizing, self-serving, or to make myself feel better, but hopefully to raise awareness, spark discussion, and also to just reflect. A lot of this will most likely be me rambling for a short while, so buckle up.
I'd like to start out by simply reflecting on the Lutheran Studies Conference that was put on here this past Thursday by my school, Pacific Lutheran University. The title was "Free at Last? Lutheran Perspectives on Racial Justice." I only went to two of the many talks occurring throughout the day, but the two that I did attend were fascinating both for different reasons. I'll be focusing primarily on the first.
There were several main points that he was trying to get across, but perhaps one of the ones that stuck out to me the most was his point that it is dangerous to assume that the work of Martin Luther King Jr. is done. He achieved so much during his time on this earth, but there is still so much to do, and that is becoming painfully evident with every unjust shooting of a person of color that we see week after week in the media. But it doesn't just stop there; every mistreatment of a person of color, every racist comment on social media, every time people disqualify the "black lives matter" movement as nothing more than a phrase, coming back with the "all lives matter" phrase. Of course all lives matter! But does that mean that those whose lives are repeatedly put in jeopardy over the color of their skin don't deserve so much more from the world than a response like that? From what I see, Black Lives Matter protesters and supporters want to make sure that black lives are actually included in the All Lives Matter argument for once.
The professor speaking in the first talk I went to mentioned the time that Martin Luther King Jr. was sent to the Birmingham prison. Inside prison, he received a letter from several local white clergymen, who fully supported the idea that change was needed, that segregation was wrong, and that they agreed with what MLK was trying to accomplish. They then went on to tell him better ways to protest, that he should function within the law, and that he should go back to where he was from and fix things there and they would do what they could in Birmingham. King responded as nicely as he could that until they experienced what he was experiencing, what his black brothers and sisters went through in their daily lives, they could not tell him the right way to bring about change.
This led to the next point that the speaker had to say, which was that white people don't get to tell people of color what to do about all this. I love this point, and it is arguably the most interesting thing that I've heard within discussions about race, ever. White people don't get to tell people of color how to react, how to feel, or what to think amidst the racial injustices they face every day, which we (meaning white people) cannot even begin to understand what that feels like.
And that brings me to my final point, which is that understanding piece. You know that phrase "People always fear what they do not understand." I feel uncomfortable speaking up about racial justice issues because I know I do not fully understand what's going on. None of us do. That's OK. I do know that what is going on is not right, and that change is in the air. I do know that we're all human, and deserve to be treated as such in each and every situation, period. I do know that though I'm scared I'll say the wrong thing, that it's more important that I say something than remain silent in the face of others' suffering at the hands of racism. I do know that what is right is not always easy, but that doesn't make it an impossible dream. I do know that King's dream has not yet been achieved. Do you?