Racism, Politics and Relationship

Last week, I got off the train near the Freedom Tower on Fulton, to walk to our office. Help me Jesus, but my “excuse me” shrunk from a polite, high-pitched suggestion, to a low-toned snarl because tourists are the slowest humans on the face of the planet. Oh yes, please do stop in the center of the sidewalk to look at your phone. Please, do walk slow as Christmas, while you eat your ice cream. And please, do feel free to make a dead stop in front of me for no good reason at all. To encourage myself toward niceness, I thought about the significant amount of income tourists bring into our city, and thought, well, that’s great, but I don’t want them here.

Wait, I don’t want them here. Did I seriously just think that? I began to chase the train of thought down it’s track to the root, and words passed me by: frustration, annoyance, impatience, control, pride. Pride. There it is, in all it’s ugly. Pride. I don’t have time for this. My schedule is the only one that matters. My time and destination is more important than yours. I am more important than you. I am better than you… so MOVE.

I stopped dead in my tracks. How can the thing I hate so much, live in me? A selfish, privileged, polarizing mentality, this othering of people, that is subtle enough for deniable plausibility, but damaging enough to hurt and wound and silence and oppress the image of God living in humanity. Listen, I know it just started out with me mad at some tourists – what’s the big deal – but the big deal is that I am capable of thinking of people this way. I am capable of thinking I am better or more important than others, which is the exact opposite of how I want to think, and who I want to be.

On the heels of the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, the officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Charles Kinsey, and in the middle of this intense political climate, I’ve been struggling. I’m heartbroken over the state of our world, and I’ve felt overwhelmed and helpless. I am fighting hard to track what’s deep down inside me. What does my heart actually believe; what are my implicit biases; how do I judge others?

As a small example, in a meeting last week, a friend shared about how the Bachelorette and the Bachelor are shows people still watch. My exact response: “Oh, you mean watching a live brothel/harem on tv, is something people actually do?” And not thirty seconds later did I picture myself, back in the day, watching every single episode of Flavor Flav, and I love New York, which is basically the same thing. I’ve also found myself giving folks the side-eye, a bit baffled, as we sit on opposite sides of the spectrum in our convictions about politics, race, economics and more.

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I’m such a judgmental rascal. Geez.

Anyway, after almost unfollowing more people than I imagined were racists this week, I’ve been thinking about the distance social media puts between us. Not only are the networks we love potentially inflammatory in nature, but photos and tweets and snaps leave us with a mental picture, and the picture is the problem. There’s nothing consistent or complete about a snapshot of our lives; it’s not teeming with context, history or understanding. There are elements of connectivity, but without tangible, meaningful connection in real life, it’s easier to arrive at conclusions that might not be the whole truth.

I’ve done this more times than I’d care to admit. I’ve decided in an instant who I will never share a meal with, who I will not be opening my heart to, and while some of that might be wisdom, I’ve erected a wall between myself and good people who are just starting the journey of understanding privilege and how racism hides in systems and structures, forgetting that I was there once too. My skin is still white, which means there’s plenty I “don’t get” too.

Pride hinders us from sharing, from listening, from understanding others, and hinders us from all sitting at the table together, which is the only way we will ever affect change in this world. Until we know each other, we’ll remain on opposite sides, but if we are willing to press beyond our judgements, and sit together for the purpose of understanding, we begin to build relationship. Only through relationship will we find room for our humanity, our history, our perspective, and the important opportunity for us to learn our common ground, to respect each other as equals, and to move toward love in action. We must be reconciled in healthy community where we are less likely to disregard, wound, or abuse each other.

Humility is required for this, and humility is hard. It means we’re always taking an inventory, a personal account for our actions towards God, ourselves and others. Listen, I’m not that even-tempered (oh, you noticed?), and while I might forgive quickly, I am not sure I always forgive completely. After an incident, I tend to place people in this category: Suspect. But I don’t want to be this way, and I don’t want others to treat me this way either. I want to live a life of love, and I want to be loved. I want my heart to be whole, and I want all this grief to matter. I desperately want this struggle to lead us all toward freedom and unity and wholeness.

What about you? How’s your heart? How are your relationships? We need each other now, more than ever. There’s a reason we’re awake and alive. We matter. We count. We can make a difference in the lives of others, and others can make a difference in ours. You’re not alone, my friend.

Want more resources about the issue of race in our nation? Here’s a small list: Race, A Theological Account by J. Kameron Carter; The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander; This Ted Talk by Bryan Stevenson; Race and Grace, Resources from Redeemer Church; Follow Officer Tommy Norman on Instagram.

@AshAbercrombie

Hey there fellow truth-teller, welcome to our community. I'm so glad you're here. I love to help people take their mask off and tell the truth, and I believe the world needs what you have to give. I write books and blogs, live in Harlem, New York, with my hubby, and two rambunctious boys.

10 comments

  • I’m in a season where God is very much dealing with my heart and it has been made apparent to me that my heart is a place that only Oscar the Grouch would reside. I’m Miss Judgment which is ironic because I go about dreading to be judged so guess what, welcome to Pride town! Sheesh! Thank you for letting me know that I’m not alone and that change is possible and inevitable because we can believe God’s word. He will deliver us as we desire it. Love you friend!

  • How is my heart? Do you really want to know lollll? Well here goes… in a nutshell, “my heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked who can know it.” This scripture sums up what I think about my heart. The less than stellar ways I have responded to different situations coupled with the crazy thoughts that intermittently cross my mind make it especially true. In fact, these ungodly and very creative thoughts have caused me, many a times to question if I was really saved, because how can someone who loves Jesus think and behave the way I do lollll. Ok, ok maybe I am being melodramatic but I am sure you catch my drift. That said, It’s hard to be kind always, thoughtful always, loving always and to do the right thing always. Most of the time the heart is willing but the “P” word you mentioned above often succeeds at getting the best of me. Bit by bit, I am learning how to have a teachable spirit and how to yield my will and control to the Holy Spirit. Doing so has been rewarding because of late, most of the ugly thoughts are quieted swiftly. I have also come to the realization that being a Christian or categorizing yourself as someone who was raised by decent people, can sometimes give you a false sense of “goodness.” You begin to think that you are kinder, understanding, compassionate and more righteous (the list is endless) than you really are. In light of that, it is easy to end up putting yourself on a pedestal from which you think you can judge, criticize, cast blame and bark orders. I am so grateful that God has used my frailties to put me in my place and to remind me that even my good deeds are like filthy rags in His sight. These lessons have humbled me, and God continues to humble me as needed. Thank you for sharing and for always being vulnerable, transparent and honest. It’s endearing and inspires others to do the same.

  • Loved this! I love little gems you throw in like you used to watch Flavor Flav and you have unfollowed rascist people, Oprahs face and I just LOVE the unique person you are! As a fellow opinionated person in slight recovery… maybe, the thing about you I have noticed is yes you have your opinions and you live life honestly and openly but you are also one of the best listeners and encouragers I know. It seems like you see the person before the issues of your heart or theirs and when you don’t you write blogs like this calling yourself out for judging people haha! But seriously I love that about you and I’m with you on relationship one person at a time. When you mentioned the social media element I was reminded of not only our need to talk to one another in light of all the racial occurances but just in general. It’s like we need a movement to bring back face to face conversations. We can call it eye to eye haha. We need authentic relationships to even begin to move forward but in this day we don’t even know how to have authentic relationships. I mean how many people do we really know that have authentic relationships and make the TIME to nurture relationships. It’s not a value today. The family dynamic where we typically could learn and grow in relationship does not have the support or even the integrity it needs to flourish. Generations have passed where we have gotten our examples of family from shows that highlight dysfunction instead of health. Then we are surprised when we repeat in our own lives what we fill our eyes with. We don’t have examples for authentic community and relationship. We spend more time with unfeeling technology than actual people and our pride grows as our likes grow from people we don’t even know. Our egos are either inflated with likes or depleted with non-likes because that’s where our value comes from right?!! I will stop now because I’m rambling:) There are so many layers to this! Thank you for getting the conversation started and as always never being afraid or to inconvenienced to speak up and sit long enough with your thoughts to spill them out in clarity and love to unite others to action. xoxoxo

  • Beautiful read! I can definitely relate to the pride and ego that can be found in my heart. Every day God reveals a bit more to me and beckons me to repentance and humility. I am grateful that the tools He uses are gentle and effective, however I am most grateful for Him opening my ears to hear, my eyes to see and a heart to want to be delivered.In the past year I have been doing alot of work on myself.. God in His goodness, placed me under a mentor and gave me strength to humble myself… This was hard because I went in with lots of opinions, ideas and a huge ego..I learnt to sit..keep quiet.. listen.. and apply everything I learned.This humility was the beginning of total transformation in my life.. I mean every single aspect of my life have been changed or is on its way to changing…..

  • Danggggggg. I know I say this all the time, but this is right on time for me. I literally put my finger on some “stuff” I’ve been processing when I read a Bob Goff post today that said “The hidden cost of pride is isolation.” Now reading this…man oh man. I’ve been trying to justify why I’ve put some people in the “suspect” list because what they’ve done or said was wrong…but I know it’s not sitting right with my heart. It’s pride! Thank you for this as I begin to unravel what I know is holding me back. Thanks for this

    • I love you Gena! I am incredibly grateful for you, and how you process life and pain. Your stories, and your words are helpful to many. I miss you!

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