I find the Black Lives Matter movement uncomfortable, but I should; as a white privileged male the movement asks me to take a cold hard stare at the dark corners of my life and recognise the truths I would rather not see. I am biased. Importantly though I am as a Jesus follower reminded that’s exactly what I am called to do; I am asked as part of the regular rhythm of my life to understand that so much of my life is not what God longs for it to be; but through the practice of encountering God in confession and through his love for me I become changed.
Part of the discomfort though it is even harder when you extend that cold hard stare to the wider system, our workplaces, our communities; the day to day reality of our shared lived experience… including dare I say it… our religious communities. Black Lives Matters as a movement asks us to join in with the profound biblical prophetic movement (Old Testament and New) of taking a long hard look at the whole of society, to look and clearly announce the underlying prejudice and systemic inequality… to announce collectively in confession where we have got this wrong. The BLM movement does not just challenge those living in the US, but is a challenge to a wider western issue; for those convinced otherwise you should listen to this podcast which discusses the Amsterdam Fire Brigade/Department and any other number of blogs and personal accounts. We need to be honest about ourselves; how we personally and collectively recognise others – at both conscious and unconscious levels. It’s about facing truth, that the badges and identifiers that we choose, the signals we give that underline that we know the implied rules of the game really matter and they lock people out and exclude.
I have, nay must, recognise that I have power and privilege. My privilege is the ability to put on a suit, tie, and set of cuff-links which I can use to signal my apparent education and class. I can adapt to a way of behaving that indicates I understand the game that is being played and matter within it. I can drop into conversations my qualifications, my status as a lawyer. I can talk about football or rugby, my mortgage and house, my children or my pension to fit in – I as a white person in my society can be a cultural chameleon with the skills needed to get on. The truth is that I can do that freely only because of the colour of my skin. I would not have those same opportunities if my skin colour were not white. The police would not automatically see me as their friend, I would not be seen as ‘safe pair of hands’ – those in power would not be certain that I ‘get it’ when I am interviewed for a job or thought of for a position of responsibility.
The uncomfortable truth is that I, wider society and perhaps most pointedly asa Jesus follower the Church now have a prophetic calling and challenge that it needs to meet:
- I need to understand my bias and counteract it; on a personal level I need to choose to recognise the individual in front of me (whatever the colour or circumstance of that person) and I need to know that I have to cede space within the system to others, to give others a platform; not because I can… but because I must.
- On a wider level we all have to accept that aspects of the system we play our part in are unfair… systemically so and need to change… and change NOW! We need to use our positions of influence to ensure change and to speak out and speak truth.
- But as importantly for as a Christian and part of a wider community of Jesus followers across the world we have to take a long cold hard stare at Church in its broadest sense; (two great reads that are good starting point are this one by a friend Darius and this one looking at the US church. The church must be accountable for the platforms it creates, who does and does not get a voice; how it spends money and who it allows to use its resources, who it chooses to use its voice on behalf of… perhaps dare I say it just like Jesus did.
These are big challenges, ones that are hard to stomach and just like the prophetic tradition I come from has when at is best, it must make us uncomfortable. However we absolutely must yearn for this. A great reframing of what such a faith might mean can be found here by Ryan Kenji Kuramitsu but beware reading this is uncomfortable – it’s hard hitting stuff.
…And I still believe in kingdom come, that all the colors will bleed into one, yet I stand firmly against the idea that we need any more white saviors or privileged prophets, speaking over the voices of the oppressed…Ryan Kenji Kuramitsu
The thing is that Covid-19 has proved (and dare I say it when white lives are at stake) that we can really do things differently. At least in a UK context we can bring about change in ways that were considered impossible before… that is called in religious speak a miracle… as we stare into a post-Covid-19 world and start to understand what that world might look like; as we learn to live with Covid-19 and the wider virus we must design systems where blacks lives DO matter.
If you want to explore this matter further from a Christian perspective this is a great podcast not least because the content creators have for this episode given their platform to individuals who can speak authentically on the subject.