Monday, August 24, 2015

To My Fellow Humans

Dear Person of Privilege (from one to another),

When I first heard what you did, I laughed. What an audacious, ridiculous thing to walk up to the Black Law Students' Association and ask, "Where is the White Law Students' Association?" But once the initial shock wore off, I grieved. I don't know what's worse--if your actual intention was to be belligerent, or if you really don't understand why there's a Black Law Students' Association.  

Look around you, lady. The White Law Students' Association is everywhere. It's the status quo. It's the institution of law in the United States itself, which has been dominated by the majority culture from its inception until now. White law students as an entity don't need a group to belong to. It's built in.

I'm pretty sure you didn't go up to the Women's Student Bar Association and ask where the Men's Student Bar Association was. Because you probably understand why there's a need for a safe space for women to encourage each other, to share stories, to strategize, and to not feel so other for awhile.  

I hope I misheard, that you were joking, that you didn't really bully those other students like that. Not for them, but for your sake I hope it's not true, because it's heartbreaking if you really feel that way. But it honestly doesn't matter if you did say it, because someone has said something similar at one time or another--and meant it--and someone will again.  

Which is why we have a Black Law Students' Association.

Best wishes on your 1L year.  I hope you find what you're looking for.
A Fellow Human

Dear Person of Privilege (from one friend to another),

I know you're out there. I pride myself (though maybe that's the problem) on having a diverse group of friends, and of course the interwebs/Facebook is the land of plenty. So I know at least one of my friends will read this and truly not agree or understand. Would you please--for me--try to understand? Really take a second, and examine the possibility that we whose skin is not brown (tanning doesn't count) have an inherent privilege?

I'm not saying that women haven't been marginalized throughout the ages--of course they have. I'm not saying that poverty doesn't affect all ethnicities--of course it does. And I'm not even saying that there aren't folk of color who live better lives than majority culture folk (of course they do).  

What I am saying is, if all other things are equal--socioeconomics or gender or education or behavior any other extenuating circumstance--if all other things are equal, we in the United States (and in other countries, but I can only truly speak from my own experience, and oh, that Slavery Thing) value life more when it's a fair-skinned, majority culture person.  

I don't even know if I can agree to disagree on this one, friend. African-Americans were brought here in chains, and many of their descendants still live in them. 

As far as I can see, there are two logical explanations. Either 1) there is systemic injustice, and the game is just plain rigged, or 2) it is each and every individual's fault, each and every time something bad happens to a person of color, and thus there really is something wrong with black folks. 

Are you willing to say that the reason that although African-Americans make up less than a quarter of the population, more than half of prison inmates are black is because black folks are more criminal? Because I feel like that's where the logic of the second thought takes you.  

Are you willing to say that the reason that so many blacks are in poverty, drop out of school, and have unplanned pregnancies, is because they're just lazier, stupider, and nastier than white folk? Because I can't work the logic of the second thought to any other conclusion.  

Maybe my statistics are wrong. I mean, statistics, right? But I know too many people of color who truly feel that the reality in our country is that when #BlackLivesMatter, it's the exception, not the rule. I do not know of any persons of color who say the opposite, that their normal experience as a minority in the majority culture has been one where their life is valued as a matter of fact.  

I'm bracing myself here. To hear the responses of people I love who just don't think there's a problem.  I want to hear your objections. I want to honor your thoughts though you say that it's not really a big deal. But I could not say it wasn't a problem to my father who was physically thrown out of a diner for absentmindedly sitting on a bar stool while waiting for his food. I will not say that to the young black men in hoodies that even I have reflexively flinched away from. I know better. But--and this is one of my sources of greatest shame--I've bought into the stereotypes. I've let the majority culture/mass media/my sinful heart convince me of the otherness and threat of black folks I don't know. So I will not say it's not a problem to fellow mothers and fathers who have comforted their children when they have to have The Talk--not about sex, but about what the n-word means. These people aren't statistics. They are people that I love--or should love--just like I love you. And I want you to understand--especially in the church--that their pain is our pain. Or at least it ought to be.

I hope conversations come out of this. I am open to having my own prejudices pointed out, and I'm not saying I don't see the grief and pain of others in a multitude of situations. I'm just saying that until #AllLivesMatter really truly means that, and does not function to undermine the grief of black folk, please don't turn away from the pain and the heartbreaking circumstances of fellow human beings.  

With Much, Much Love,
Your Friend 

Dear Black Lives,

I am so so sorry. I confess that I don't value you like I should. I confess that I have pre-judged you, absolutely on the color of your skin, and not on account of your character. I confess that I've listened to lies. I confess that my implicit biases and associations are sinful, hate-filled, racist ones.  

Yes, I'm multi-ethnic, and a woman, and grew up without much money. But I am trying to realize the reality of my privilege and to repent--not of things I don't control--but of how I've let those things shape me.  I am so sorry that in the midst of my reasonable grief over the awkwardness of being multi-racial, I forget how much privilege I still have.  

To those who are strangers, I won't ask you to forgive me, because I have not earned that right. I don't know you, and you don't know me. All I can do is say that I'm ashamed and I'm clinging to the grace of the Gospel to change my heart and mind and eradicate the ugliness inside.

To those who are friends, who are family, please forgive me. Forgive me and pray for me. Pray for all of us who don't carry our otherness so clearly on our skin. Thank you for the mercy you have already shown me, and please know that I do love you. I do value you, and I want to value you more. Your life matters, and not because I or any other person says so. Your life matters because you were made in the image of God and so you deserve dignity and respect and a chance. But you already knew that. May we all know that better.  

Lamenting with You,

Dear Fellow Image Bearers,

I'm weeping. The last two weeks have been full of changes and griefs and struggles and exhaustion, and I'm. just. weeping. Weep with me, frail people of this earth. Weep for the brokenness in the world, and sit with me, as Job's friends originally did, in ashes and in wordless grief, and weep with me. Not because I'm Job in this story, but because we all are--and some of us more than others.

Weep for the children who senselessly die before birth, and for the children who endure living deaths in neglect, in poverty, in slavery, in abuse.  

Weep for the mothers and fathers who have no hope for a better life for their children, who are trapped and stewing in circumstance.

Weep for people of color--black folk and brown folk and all sorts of colors--who are marginalized and abused and so they weep as a regular part of their lives.  

Weep for people who feel guilt, overwhelm, and shame because of who and what they are. Weep for those with no rights, no advocates, no one to protect them from evil. 

Weep with me for those who are seen as bad merely because of their appearance, and weep for those who remain the unseen, the uncared for, the untouchables.  

Weep for those who are caught up in addiction, for those who are lonely, for those who are desperate and hurting. Weep for those who seem to have it all together, who are poor in their wealth, who are caught in their own selfishness.  

Weep because of war, because of poverty, because of injustice and every sort of terrible thing we as humans can do to one another.   

Let us weep together. We must learn to grieve together before we can ever have hope of healing together.  

A Fellow Human