My Anti-Racist Awakening

A few months ago, I wasn’t listening. I was among the many responding to news of racial violence with arguments like: don’t all lives matter? I’m not racist. I’m colorblind! I’m not part of the problem. I live in a conservative, white community so I can’t do anything.

But then the Lord rent my heart. I started listening to voices I’d been ignoring. And the scales fell off my eyes like they did for Paul when he first saw Jesus. I don’t use that dramatic analogy lightly. The awakening was dramatic!

But there’s a lot more to the story, and that is the story that I’m about to tell. I am compelled to share this transformation because I know there are others whom the Lord is calling into the very same awakening.

Missed Connections

10 years ago in college I had all the opportunities to become an anti-racist, but I didn’t take them. I was part of Intervaristy, which is an intentionally multiethnic Christian fellowship. I studied white privilege, went on a missions trip focused on poverty and injustice (where I met my husband no less!), and had friends of color whom I loved. I worshiped using songs in diverse languages. I was in awe of those actively pursuing justice.  But the conversations, education and even experiences didn’t actually change my heart or wake me up to my whiteness. There was always a lingering “but” in my mind, a pushback against what I saw.

“There’s just no way whiteness can be this bad.” I thought. “And I just don’t understand how justice and the gospel can be the same thing. Aren’t we taking this way too far? Making this way too complicated?”

I felt resentful over my perception that I was less valuable in my fellowship because I was a white person in a community with the goal of being a reconciled, multi-ethnic group of worshippers. I was frustrated with the constant push to see race in everything.

So, I ran away from it. I graduated, tried my hardest to forget the confusing experiences of trying to reconcile the faith I knew with the push to see faith and racial justice as interconnected. I was ready to put all of it in the past and let the people from my past keep doing believing what they were doing and believing. Justice was too confusing. There was no way there could be a system of white supremacy that was so pernicious that it included me. And, within the different faith and work communities that I was part of, it wasn’t hard to leave that part of my past in my past. I felt a sense of relief that I could finally just move on.

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men….

In Febraury 2020, something changed: Ahmaud Arbery was murdered and my social media feed exploded with calls for justice, particularly in the context of the white church waking up the root of the tensions. Friends, acquaintances, podcasters, and public figures whom I wasn’t used to hearing mention race were speaking out.

“For real?” I thought. “Does this seriously affect you?”

So I went on with life. And Ahmaud faded away from the news.

Then George Floyd was murdered. And race took center stage again on the news feed.

“Ok,” I thought. “Maybe there is something to this. Maybe this is something I need to look into.” The whispers were starting to seem more like shouts.

That week we had my in-laws over for dinner, and became engaged in a discussion (and at times, argument) over the current racial tensions and violence. My brother and sister-in-law particularly led the way through the conversation. They brought up the need for police and justice reform, the history of Black oppression, and how the riots were absolutely understandable.

I knew so little about what they were saying that I couldn’t do anything but sit back and listen while they skillfully and passionately put forth their opinions. Finally, when I could get a word in, I asked my brother-in-law just one question.

“How do we go about listening to these [colored and marginalized] voices?”

And his answer? “Read the books. Watch the documentaries. Here’s a list of good places to start.”

So I did. I was so shocked by my lack of ability to participate intelligently in the conversation that I decided I was going to remedy that. I was going to start educating.

And this time, as I started reading, listening, and watching, something new happened.

The push-back gave way.

My standard, defensive arguments were crushed by uncomfortable, life-altering truths.

  1. Racism is real and I am a part of it. Silence and passivity don’t save me from this, they make me a part of it.

2. All life matters, but using that as a response to “Black Lives Matter” is a hurtful refusal to acknowledge the specific hurt Blacks are feeling in this moment. I do not want to be a person who demands that people justify their pain.

3. There’s no such thing as colorblind. It sounds nice, but gets in the way of understanding the reality of racism and the beauty of diversity.

4. Nice, loving people still create unjust systems. The approach to ending racism has to go beyond the individual to looking at society and law.

5. We need to know history better. There more I learn of history the more I understand Black anger.

It took discipline and discomfort to start listening. It wasn’t natural. But, on the other side of discomfort, there was amazement, conviction, and a propulsion forward.

Why Now?

Why now? Why didn’t I come to this conclusion before? We can hear all the arguments, read all the books, go through all the motions, but we are not truly changed until our hearts are humbled and submissive to the work of God. He is the one who opens eyes. He is the one who has perfect timing. He is who really changes us. His timing for me was not 10 years ago, it was today, 2020. I don’t understand why but I trust him. He has opened my eyes and I absolutely cannot unsee now. There is no direction to go but forward.

Why this Blog?

So, that (finally) brings me to the point of this blog. As a (white, Jesus-following, stay-at-home, awakened to justice) mom I want my family and I to be anti-racists for life. I want us to be daily repenting, praying, and seeking change.

So we are going to begin the journey. We are going to listen to voices around us, seek education, seek multi-ethnic relationships, and prayerfully enter into action. The journey is going to be so imperfect (thus the blog title) but it is too important to delay another day. I’m simply going to be sharing what that journey looks like for us as we stumble through it. I’ll share the resources I’ve found, amplify voices of color, and be transparent about our shortcomings along the way.

I’ve started this blog because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there are other Jesus-followers like me who have, or will, awaken to their complicity in racism and embark with their families on a transformative, redemptive journey. I’m simply going to be sharing what that journey looks like for us as we stumble through it. I’ll share the resources I’ve found, amplify voices of color, and be transparent about our shortcomings along the way. 

Whatever your stage, won’t you consider walking along with me in a posture of learning and seeking the glory of Jesus and justice for his created people? The headlines will fade but our commitment to what’s right does not have to.

What about you? Why are you here? Please tell us in the comments!

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Posts to read next:
What’s This All About?
The Next Right Thing
Viral For All The Right Reasons

Published by crisannewerner

Stay-at-home mom times 3. Northwesterner turned Midwesterner. Functional introvert. Learning addict. Bibliophile. Jesus follower. Beginner anti-racist. Ready to listen, learn, examine, and change.

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