Dear White Christians,
As you can most probably tell, black people are upset. In fact we are absolutely livid. And I hope that you understand why. If for some reason you are not aware of the gravity of our pain and frustration, allow me to explain it to you. The ugly foot of white supremacy and racism continues to crush and suffocate the rights of black people. Quite literally, in fact. In the past month, black people have had to endure the pain of watching the sore and weeping wound of racial injustice be reopened by more senseless acts of racially motivated murders by white police officers and citizens alike. To add insult to injury, the outcry of black people about this injustice is muffled by both the dismissive attitudes of white people who use their white privilege to discredit our experience and the oppressive white dominated justice system which tries, on many occasions, to falsify our claims of mistreatment towards innocent black people.
Your fellow black colleagues, friends, church members are not dealing with this well. In fact, they are distraught, some to the point that they feel a sense of consuming despair. Some are confused and losing hope. Others carry a burden of broiling rage on their shoulders and they’re not quite sure where to place the load of their pent up frustrations and anger. Simple things like checking social media and tuning in to the latest news updates have become a painful and burdensome task. Of recent, most days have ended in an overflow of tears and complex emotions. Why us? Why should we be the ones that are slain like dogs all day long at the hands of people who share the same skin colour as you? I know you do not have the answer to that question, nor do I expect you to.
But I do want you to know this. I am personally overcome with grief. Yet in my despair, as I pray in my tears on my bed, and struggle to form words, I cling on to hope. A hope I know that does not come from myself but from God. Because when I recall the day that has fallen to dusk and I count the many injustices, my soul questions what there is that this current world has to offer. The racial injustice that we see reminds many of us black Christians that this world is not our home, and that we are pilgrims awaiting a life to come that will be completely free of racial hatred; where we will no longer be abused and killed for the colour of our skin. This is a painful and bittersweet reality which makes us both upset and angry. This is how we feel and I want you to acknowledge it.
In light of this, I sincerely ask you to not downplay our frustrations. Even if you do not vocally project racist sentiments or live with bigotry lodged in your heart, do not be a practical racist. Do not behave as if racism is a minor or non-existent issue by remaining silent. Do not gaslight our experience as black people by understating the racial injustice that we face. Do not undermine the experience of black people by carrying on with your lives as usual as though this is an issue that soon will pass. This lets me know two things: you do not care about injustice and you do not care about us. We are already exhausted and upset by the tragedies that we are being faced with, do not insult us further by making us explain why black lives matter. Do not use the term ‘all lives matter’ to belittle the injustices of racially motivated murder and assault. Do not divert from the foul play that is taking place. We are not over-reacting. We are angry and our anger is justified.
The issue of white supremacy and racial injustice is not just a black problem. It’s not just an American problem. It’s a ‘you and me’ problem. Do not expect us to be able to deal with these injustices on our own. The racism that affects black people must mean something to you. Enough for you to want to use your white privilege to act and support us to fight against these injustices. If you don’t believe that your white privilege exists or fail to understand its impact in our society and, more specifically, to black lives, then I’m afraid you are contributing to the very injustice that we are fighting against. Do not use your privilege to be silent on the matter and do not use your privilege to patronise us. We do not need performative allyship. Publicly ‘supporting’ the cause in order to be seen by others, as to avoid the scrutiny of being silent or inactive on the matter is insulting. We do not need your pity. We need your genuine support. We do not need you to pretend that you care. We need you to care enough to do something substantial in the fight against racism.
If you are white and a Christian, then playing your part in standing up for justice is inescapable. Why? Because the God you serve is a God of justice. He hates injustice and therefore so should you (Prov 6:16-19, Prov 17:15). He continually defends and upholds the cause of the oppressed (Amos 5) and thus expects the very same from those who He has called through Christ;
Speak up, judge righteously and defend the rights of the afflicted and oppressed.
Our legitimacy to the world to whom we proclaim the Gospel relies on the way we live it out; this includes our response to racial injustice. By doing nothing you act in a way that is contrary to the God you serve and afflicts the members with whom you are united in Christ, serving an inaccurate and skewed picture of the Gospel for the world to see. I want you to care about me and my race as much I care about you and yours. Esteem and value the black members of your church and your society above yourselves (Phil 2:3, Rom 12:13), by using your voice and your efforts to help our plight. Being one body consisting of many members requires us to be united in this matter of fighting against racial injustice, in the same way, that we strive for unity in the body of Christ.
This is how we have come to know love: He laid down his life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has this world’s goods and sees a fellow believer in need but withholds compassion from him—how does God’s love reside in him?
Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in action and in truth.
1 John 3:16-18
You are probably reading this letter and wondering to yourself; ‘well what can I actually do about this issue?’ I’m glad you asked. Here are a few things you can do. Firstly pray. If you genuinely care about wanting to see justice roll like a river, then you should pray (Rom 12:12). Pray constantly and earnestly as you would for yourselves, believing that the God of justice will judge and rightfully deal with these injustices (Rom 12:19). Mourn with us (Rom 12: 15). Ask us how we feel and be sincerely attentive to and concerned with the answer that we give. Engage in sincere and meaningful conversations with black people that you know and try to learn about their experience and how they are being affected. Educate yourself about why black lives matter if the answer is unclear to you. Do your research about the history of racial inequality, research on anti-racist policies, statistics concerning race-related crimes, and cases about racial injustice within the law enforcement and political frameworks both nationally and internationally. Then, use your voice. Speak out, on our behalf, to your fellow white friends and family, and to your local MP (who is probably white). Contact friends who are policymakers, law reformers, politicians. Use your white privilege for good. When the government and authorities try to discredit our voices and refuse to listen to us due to the institutional racism that is entrenched in its systems, we need you to stand in the gap and make noise for us. If white people like you do not use your voices to speak on our behalf then our black voices will continue to be white noise in a society that consistently devalues our existence and invalidates our experience. The change and justice for black lives that you expect to see, relies on you to play your part. Finally, put your money where your mouth is; sign petitions and donate to organisations and crowdfunders that support racial justice causes. Use your white privilege for effectual good.
Until black lives matter, no lives matter at all. Take heed of this.
A black friend.