“I didn’t grow up in the South, so it’s not my thing… But what do you honestly think about getting rid of the Confederate flag?”
Elizabeth, a young 20-something hairstylist responded slowly, tensely, “Well, all people have opinions. Some people want to keep it for historical purposes…”
I could feel the tension in the air… and her struggle to cover all the bases. I am white. Elizabeth, who gave me my fabulous new summer ‘do, is black.
To speak openly our racial opinions is social and career suicide.
But what is this “don’t ask, don’t tell” protocol accomplishing? It is not removing racial opinions. It is driving opinions further underground. It is causing those who are looking for a conversation beyond, “We don’t say that” to look to more extreme sources. For Dylann Roof it was a Google search that helped him find people like himself, the white supremacist group Council of Conservative Citizens. Dylann found a group of people who would not judge him or challenge his beliefs. He found camaraderie in a group that would encourage his violent tendencies and foster his radical leanings.
Dylann killed nine black followers of Jesus while they studied the Bible together.
Horrific beyond words.
I am overwhelmed by the warm, loving response of the people of Emmanuel A.M.E Church. Family members and friends of the nine whose lives were tragically ended are showing supernatural love and forgiveness.
Now, while hearts are soft and people are showing empathy to one another… Now is the time to begin venturing into uncomfortable, but necessary racial dialogues.
I am doing this.
There are things in the news that make me mad and color my racial views. There are personal experiences that make me shake my head. Feeding into stereotypes. Ranting to my white friends is not the answer. It is gossip and unproductive. (And of course the racial reverse is true as well.)
When I, a white person, private message a black friend we can have Christ-centered, productive dialogue. Faith Reboot writer Tanisha Henderson often challenges my racial assumptions and I challenge hers. Often I am struck by, “Wow, I’ve never thought of it that way” moments.
Empathy is the goal.
If there is going to be racial reconciliation in this country it needs to start with those who have the Holy Spirit inside of them. The world is seeing at Emanuel A.M.E. that Christ can bring people the races together, like protests and violence cannot.