As a child, when my mother was teaching me about safety when crossing a street, she would instruct, “Stop. Look. Listen. And then Go.” As the current events regarding racial injustice continue to swirl around in my head, I wonder, what should I do?What should our ministry, Wisdom of the Wounded, say and do?
It occurs to me that the wisdom of my mother’s teaching applies here: I need to stop, look and listen before I “go.” So here is my starting point for proceeding.
“Stop.” If you are a compassionate person, it is so easy when confronted with suffering to rush in with a quick fix. Right now, wise voices are saying, “Stop and learn from those who have suffered for years and for centuries.” As a woman with white privilege I must stop and humble myself and look at the truths fueling these protests and riots.
“Look.” When I “stop” it slows me down and allows me to see the reality of others’ lives. Lives that haven’t always had the privilege enjoyed by those around me. One way I have been “looking” is to educate myself by watching movies and reading books about racism. Have you seen Just Mercy? My teenage grandson recommends, The Hate U Give. Two books that I’m currently reading are, White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo and Stamped by Jason Reynolds. When we see black individuals in the movies or in the news, can we see them as human beings like you and me created in the image of God, loved by God? Can we see them as individuals who love their families, like we love ours? Can we look and see individuals who want to be safe, healthy, with opportunities to realize their potential? Can we imagine what it feels like to live with daily fear, rejection and hopelessness?
“Listen.” At Wisdom of the Wounded we stress that one of the most important ways to care for a suffering person, is to encourage them to tell their story and then listen. So we should listen to black individuals tell us what they want and need from us in the white community. Can we listen and learn? When I listened to Emmanuel Acho’s YouTube series, Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man there were some “light bulb” moments for me. Emmanuel stresses the importance of having conversations that promote learning and then taking anti-racist actions.
As a society, many in the white community have failed to listen. In 1967 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. first gave the speech The Other America, during which he said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” 1967! Over 50 years ago. King continues, “And what is it America has failed to hear?… It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.” I confess to being someone who knew that racial injustice still existed, but I had no idea to what extent. I haven’t been truly listening. Have you?
I commit to doing a better job of “Stop. Look. Listen.” for those who don’t enjoy the same privileges as I do. It hurts my heart to see so many who are suffering. God sees this too and I can only imagine how much it pains him. Please join me in slowing down, looking, and listening to our suffering neighbors. It is a starting point for those of us who desire racial justice . . . and something we all can do, if we put our minds to it.