“In college, just a few years ago, I was called every slur you can imagine. I was told by white girls to stop poisoning our men because I was dating a white guy. It became dangerous and I left one month before the semester was over.”
“I was followed around Nordstrom and told not to touch the merchandise.”
“I was denied entry into a bar while wearing my military uniform. I was with white friends in uniform who were welcomed in.”
“I have been pulled over many times and often the first question the policeman asks me is, ‘Where did you get this car?’ My white passengers have been asked, ‘Are you okay?’ And they often want to know what I am in doing in this neighborhood.”
We hosted our second conversation on race last night (here's our first one). In partnership with dear friends we invited interested black and white friends over for a potluck dinner and frank conversation on race in America. The panel of five black folks shared their experiences with a room full of white folks who were ready to listen. And like last time, it was painful, eye opening, alarming, and motivating.
I’m not going to cover what the panel said more than the few quotes above. The reason this kind of gathering is effective is because it’s personal. People shared a meal and started friendships. We found common ground. We laughed. We enjoyed each other’s cooking. And then some spoke and some listened. One panel member said to me when the night was over, “That was not awkward at all. It was very natural.” I totally agree.
I do want to lean in to my white Christian friends and relay a message from one panel member. She said that she has found the most resistance in engaging in conversations on race with her white Evangelical friends. She said that her white friends say things like, “When I see you, I don’t see a black woman,” or “What’s all the fuss about? We’re all God’s children.” The entire panel nodded their heads in agreement that it is indeed hurtful and unhelpful when white believers discount the experiences of their friends of color by saying, in the name of Jesus, we’re all the same.
White friends: they’re not making it up. Our black friends are not inventing the inequality, bias, and outright racism they face day in and day out. And for those of us in Christ, we don’t have a choice—we’re called to be bridge-builders.
“Don’t stop with racial tolerance if your Savior purchased racial reconciliation.” - Pastor Jason Meyer
“Our progress will be determined by how deep our empathy goes. And empathy requires presence…relationship…proximity. It requires sacrifice. It guarantees that we will lose part of ourselves but we will come out human on the other side.” - Pastor Matt Chandler
I cannot encourage my white and black friends enough to host your own conversations on race. You will battle fear of making a mistake and offending everyone in the room. But press on. Find some like-minded friends of various colors—or ask friends of friends if all of your friends are the same color—pick a date, share a meal, and dive in. Your Savior purchased racial reconciliation. Walk in it.