A Time to Listen

“There is a clergy rally tomorrow afternoon at 4 p.m. in KCK. They have social distancing as a priority. I’m going if you’d like to join.” So came an invitation from a colleague whose heart is as my heart. My answer was yes. Somehow in the mix of all that was happening after the death of George Floyd, my spirit kept telling me that my voice was not the one that needed to be heard or attended to. My anger and righteous indignation needed not to be the focus. My passion around God creating ALL of humanity to be brothers and sisters was not the passion needing to take the lead in this moment. We. Need. To. Listen. Extroverted white pastor with a generous heart and great intentions: I. Need. To. Listen. To my clergy of color colleagues, to persons of color who are hurting and grieving in ways I simply cannot completely understand because I’ve never had to fear my skin color being a reason not to be allowed housing in certain neighborhoods, not allowed entrance to public facilities, not given the same access to the best educational institutions, and in extreme cases, not allowed to come home alive after a traffic stop by the wrong police officer. That is privilege.

If I can’t breathe, you can’t breathe. If you can’t breathe, I can’t breathe. We ALL need to breathe.

My ancestors got on a ship and came to this continent for freedom, primarily, freedom to worship as they felt led. That has allowed me to be an ordained clergyperson. My guess is most of your ancestors came the same way. What has that allowed you to do and to be? But then I stop. My friend Noreen from college who is black, her ancestors were forced on a boat, actually into the cargo hold of a boat, and came to this continent as prisoners to be sold into slavery. My ancestors chose to move from oppression into freedom, her ancestors without choice moved from freedom into oppression. Do you suppose that has affected our opportunities in life? Do you suppose it affects our perspectives on the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor?

We need to stop talking and listen, even when it’s hard and we disagree. Even when it’s hard and we agree. Even when we think we know what needs to be done and how to best do it. We need to stop talking and read: So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo; Ain’t I a Woman, by bell hooks; White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo; How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi. We need to stop talking and watch these documentaries: “13th” The Criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. Prison Boom and the companion piece “13th” A Conversation with Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVarnay, both on Netflix; and “I Am Not Your Negro” narr. By Samuel L. Jackson exploring the history of racism in the United States through James Baldwin’s remembering of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. on YouTube, Amazon Prime and iTunes. This is NOT a comprehensive list, only a few places to begin. We need to stop talking and learn, and be uncomfortable and learn and feel anxious and learn and LISTEN and LEARN.

The following Youtube videos today are Atlanta, Georgia, Mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms. And “I Just Want to Live” sung by 12 year old Keedron Bryant and written by his mother, Johnetta Bryant after the death of George Floyd.

Please listen and read and watch and learn and listen. Simply, in this period of time with me, listen.