Be an Ally

(Photo by Nicola Fioravanti on Unsplash)

Dear Central,

If you are like me, you are likely horrified, saddened, and angered by the murder of George Floyd. This happened only days removed from Amy Cooper calling the police on Christian Cooper in New York’s Central Park because she felt threatened by him. This, in turn, came on the heels of the death of Ahmaud Arbery, and a long list of other instances of excessive violence by authorities towards black men and women. Now, violence against property and police are making tensions rise more.

Add to that the Covid-19 pandemic, which is disproportionately killing African-Americans, and the level of pain and injustice becomes nearly unbearable.

What do you do at a time like this? I find myself almost paralyzed at the thought of making something worse, and yet not speaking-up at all is a serious error in itself. I want to give a few suggestions on how to be allies with our black brothers and sisters who are calling our culture, yet again, to address the racism of the white majority. 

The first step of being an effective ally is to listen. If you’re going to be an ally, that means you have to take the concerns and viewpoints of people of color regarding these events seriously. Stop talking for a moment and listen. One of the most powerful things I’ve heard in the last week came from a black leader in our church who said, “One of the glaring things I’ve observed is that unfortunately, racial tension brings conversations to light that should have never been stopped in the first place.  If we had these conversations on an ongoing basis, I think the climate would be different. Same with schools and religious organizations…let’s not stop having these conversations.” So, listen, not just now, but often!

Don’t think only of grand gestures. We want to do something visible. We want to make a mark. That’s good.  But, don’t neglect the more relational step of simply letting some of your friends of color know you see this heartbreaking concern and are praying for them. 

Promote opportunities that give black leaders a voice. This has been a long-standing concern for Central. In partnership with World Relief we hosted the Justice Conference. We were the host site several times for the “Walking While Black” film. We did this in partnership with black churches and church leaders from across the city. Our “Elephant in the Church” and “Beyond Colorblind” sermon series gave voice to black leaders within our own congregation. We’ve had adult Christian education classes on these issues and have invited black Christian leaders to teach us. We are regular hosts for the Ethnos Conference that unites leaders from all over our region in addressing evangelism, racism, and justice.  On June 14 we have invited Nikki Lerner to preach to us in our LiveStream service. It’s not enough, but it’s on our radar. It should be on your radar, too. Quote, repost, and share from the voices of people of color.

Learn about historical and systemic racism in America. Our national struggle is not just the result of a few “bad people.” The roots and habits of mind go deep and affect us all. Become a student of this issue that tragically affects the lives of so many of our citizens. Here is a possible starting place.

Repent and lament. Christians ought to be among the first people to recognize the ugly marks of racism in our lives, but too often we just judge the people who are worse and ignore our own sin. We need to see our own contribution to the problem, even as we long for a solution. And take the time to process your own anger, fears and sadness. 

Use your voice. From a position of humility, instilled by the disciplines above, speak out about the injustices you see. And remember, this is more powerful in your personal interactions with friends and colleagues, than merely social media posts.

For Jesus’ Sake.

Pastor John