Our nation’s latest tragedy finds me wounded on two fronts – the continued devaluing of black life, and not being able to bring a smile to your face. For my own healing, I want to make you laugh. If I could share the stuff that has come out of Ellis’ mouth over these last few days – whew! – it would surely elicit a cackle. But Ecclesiastes 3 taught me that there is a time to laugh and a time to mourn; now is the time for the latter. And so here we are, grieving for a while, and looking toward the hills from which comes our help.
I follow several white evangelical speakers across my social media platforms because of the impact they’ve had on my spiritual formation. Most of them have decades-long ministries with international impact and influence. I no longer live in the Bible belt where I would previously access them through radio. My family and I now live in Denver, where the culture is significantly less God-friendly, so I am grateful for this medium.
One of these speakers published a video which was in my news feed yesterday morning. I keep the volume of videos muted as I scroll so I did not know the subject on which she was speaking, but she was waving her hands, her eyes were bucked, and if I were to guess based solely on her body language, the topic was one about which she was passionate. I assumed she was up in arms over the murder of George Floyd at the hands of four Minnesota police officers, primarily Officer Derek Chauvin. I thought, as one of the people who claims to serve the God who calls us to seek justice, to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, then surely, surely, she was speaking passionately about these social ills. I clicked the vid to turn on the audio.
Turns out she was carrying on about whether or not to wear a mask during the spread of the Coronavirus.
Listen. We all have a brand; we are all curators of the content of our social media platforms; we use them exactly the way we want to use them. We craft our posts, graphics, memes, texts; we write them and rewrite them to make sure they say just the right thing (and if you’re me, you edit them even after the world has access to them – tweak it just a bit); we record and re-record videos because we neglected to say this phrase or want to emphasize that thing. To be sure, what we say – what all of us say – in this public arena is what we want people to believe is true about us.
The problem is, what we don’t say is just as important as what we do say.
To repeatedly suffer hate-filled, senseless, horrific loss of people who look like my husband and my son and my daddy and my brother and my nephews and my uncles and my cousins simply because of the color of the skin they were born in is a difficult way to live. When the hatred that is normally a groundswell erupts and an Eric Garner or a Trayvon Martin or a Philando Castille or an Ahmaud Arbery is killed, my anxiety heightens and I am in absolute terror every time my husband leaves our home. And in times like these, it is wholly heartbreaking for my white evangelical-leader siblings who have international influence and impact to remain silent. They model what my sister-friend, Dr. Sarita Lyons, refers to as “a pattern of silence” (follow her here).
And I mean not one peep.
We see you. We hear you. And we heard what you did not say.
My husband and pastor, Brandon Washington (follow him here and here), posted a video on our church’s YouTube channel to white evangelicals that you can view here – admonishing them for not fulfilling the call to pursue justice that Jesus has been placed on their lives. His parting words were, “If you’re not going to join me, then get out of my way.”
But since you’ve read this far, you still have a chance to join us in this fight.
Here’s what you can do to advance the message of the Gospel of your Jesus across your social media platforms:
- Rid yourself of the safety of consoling your black friends via a private inbox message, e-mail, or text message. When you use those avenues to communicate, you maintain a degree of safety and privacy from your other friends who won’t see you do that. And when we don’t call you on it, we protect you, too. That ends now. Post that on our wall in public so all your friends know where you stand. If you’ve already done that, great. Keep doing it. If you haven’t, do it now.
- With their permission, change your profile picture to one of a black person or family that you know and love. Then write a post telling their story. In doing this, you will have created a space to start a conversation that begins to teach people that black people are normal human beings who also hate to fold laundry.
- And this is the big one – share my husband’s video – it’s right here – to the social media platforms of the white evangelical leaders you follow. Many of them have pages on which you cannot create a post, but you most certainly can hop on an existing post and add it there. Expect to receive backlash; God promised you that would happen. But since your Savior went all the way to Golgotha’s hill, hung, bled, and died, you can handle push back from your grandma. When they rebuke you with, “This is not the time nor the place for this!”, your response should be, “Then, when is it?”
Abandon your brand. Embrace your God. May the things that break God’s heart break yours, and may they move you into action.
Proverbs 31:8 & 9 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”