Progress, Patience, and Perseverance: Thoughts on Racial Reconcilliation

Post Grad Duck #21

“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of division, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace.” -Ephesians 2:14-15

I’m hesitant to write down my thoughts. If I were to say everything that I’m thinking, I am confident that I would receive backlash and a variety of opinions. However, I am trying to be more confident in myself, and who Jesus is calling me to be, and so as I type, I pray that the Lord’s grace would fill in the gaps where I fall short and ultimately cover my words. Let me also say this, these words are meant for readers that consider themselves to be followers of Christ.

This past Monday was the day our country recognizes as Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It is a day—that I think—first is meant to celebrate and remember Dr. King’s life and work in the Civil Rights Movement, second to celebrate the racial reconciliation that has happened in our country over the past five and a half decades, and third to pursue change in light of what has already been done.

Almost 56 years ago Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave one the most memorable speeches in American history. It was on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that the infamous words “I have a dream…”, associated with equality between blacks and whites, entered the world. As a young, black woman, of course I am both thankful and inspired by Dr. King’s words. His delivery was didactic, his purpose was poignant, and the legacy he left was one marked by love.

Dr. King dreamt of a world where injustice would subside and freedom would ring throughout the country. He dreamt “…that one day this nation [would] rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.” He dreamt that his “…four little children [would] one day live in a nation where they [would] not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” It was these words, spoken with such conviction, that landed deep within the hearts of many and continued to spur change in our country during a time that change felt impossible. It was these words, and the perseverance of a passionate, brave, and intelligent black man that gave the Civil Rights Movement a momentum that has led to much of the progress in America today.

And that’s just it. There is progress in America today. Hear me when I say that I am not naive enough to believe that racism doesn’t exist anymore. Believe me when I say that I think our country still has much room to grow in terms of racial equality among peoples across the color spectrum. But please, don’t ignore me when I say that I am thankful for where our country is in comparison to where it was. Don’t take lightly the fact that I was able to receive a good, university level education not only as a woman, but as a black woman. Don’t pass by the beauty in my being able to not only sit at the same table as white Americans, but work with, and live with them as well. Where freedom was once beckoning to be rung, it is now in the middle of being heard.

Yes, it is in the middle. I do not believe that freedom has met its full potential, nor do I believe that America has reached capacity when it comes to loving and respecting those that are different, marginalized, oppressed, or forgotten. But Praise the Lord, that the situation at hand 56 years ago is not the same that is at hand today!

I think that we as a people have slightly forgotten what progress looks like. I think we as a people have forgotten what patience feels like. I think we as a people have forgotten what perseverance sounds like. Progress looks like the safety in men and women of different races and nationalities being able to sit in the same room peaceably and discuss a pressing matter. Patience feels like waking up every day waiting on the Lord and asking Him to maintain working in our country and in our own lives as we continue to endure unjust actions or slanderous comments. Perseverance sounds like hope and thanksgiving.

But it’s hard. How can we rejoice in progress when young black boys and men are still being killed in the streets? How can we be patient when we are tired? How can we persevere when it seems like our country feels more divided than unified as of late?

In short, we cannot.  The road to racial reconcilliation is long and hard. I believe Dr. King knew that when he was in the midst of fighting for such a reality, but I also think that he knew arrogance was not a tool of change powerful enough to carry in his arsenal. Arrogance is far too easy. Apart from the grace of Jesus Christ, apart from the narrative of the gospel, true and full racial reconciliation is futile, indeed it is selfish.

I tread these next verbal waters carefully because I realize that some people in the back community may not agree with what I have to say, which is this: I feel like sometimes we are too selfish when we seek after what we are claiming as racial reconciliation. I recently went an event where at least 97% of the people in attendance were black. The purpose of this gathering was to be an evening of celebration in memory of Dr. King. Overall, I enjoyed the event, but I found myself struck with pangs of disappointment at various moments throughout the evening. I sat, waiting in anticipation for an actual celebration to commence. I was disappointed when a performance that I thought should have inspired hope, evoked more feelings of hate—hate for what has happened in our society and for what has yet to happen. I was disappointed when the keynote speaker commented on her lack of forgiveness and several members of the audience began to cheer for her, as if to communicate, “Yes! Good! Harboring bitterness is just fine!” I was disappointed when I felt like time was not taken to honor the man for whom the black community, and America in general, owes so much.

But then this question enters my mind, why would the oppressed educate the oppressor? Is it their obligation, their duty? Maybe not. But as believers do we not serve a King that was oppressed and beaten and despised and mistreated, yet continued to educate and love those who inflicted so much pain on Him? I am well aware that there is much to swallow and even more to digest, but I believe these are things to think about. We must look at where we have come from in order to see where we are going, where we want to go. It does no good to hold on to deep resentment, ridiculous stereotypes, and years of pain in an effort to pursue real and genuine change. We must remember and move forward. remember the bad and learn from it; remember the good and thank God for it; then, we must keep walking, walking in love. Don’t you agree?

We are committed to collectively, lovingly and courageously working vigorously for freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension all people. As we forge our path, we intentionally build and nurture a beloved community that is bonded together through a beautiful struggle that is restorative, not depleting (#BlackLivesMatter on Restorative Justice).

I know this is weighty and that there are several layers to unpack. So, I will end with these words from Dr. King, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

 

[Dear Jesus,
take these words and may You become big and I small.]
❤ Amen

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