Black lives (still) matter
This week, I went to the cinema to see “RESPECT”, the biopic of Aretha Franklin. For me, it is a fairly flawless film; a 5/5 for those who are interested. There was great acting, Jen Hudson’s voice is out of this world, the costumes were amazing. I loved the story of someone overcoming challenges through music.
What I did not know was her tough childhood, the role of the church in her life and how integral Aretha was in the social politics of the civil rights movement.
I felt stirred up again as I watched it and wondered about the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
Something can hit the news and seem to deeply affect a nation, even the world, but can then simmer and disappear into the background. Unless you’re Black or an ethnic minority. We might get compassion fatigue or we may be moved by other issues and the original cause might become overshadowed. Because of the pandemic, after the death of George Floyd, we had more of a chance to stand still and to reflect.
It was May 2020 when George died after being restrained by police in Minneapolis. Since then, the officers
have since been charged and arrested. Police reforms have been passed to prevent use of chokeholds and banning ‘no-knock’ warrants.
Following riots and demonstrations, the #BLM continued to grow as a movement, as did ‘taking the knee’ as a
gesture of solidarity. We began to face our part in the slave trade and statues and monuments have been removed.
In schools and businesses, racial equality policies have been written and reviewed and curriculums have been updated to include more diverse authors, subjects and histories. In entertainment, racist episodes have been pulled and white actresses are deferring to black actresses when portraying Black and bi-racial roles.
Closer to home, I decided my response would be to do some really honest journeying on the subject. I did not consider myself racist, but felt unsettled by phrases such as ‘white fragility’ and ‘virtue signalling’. My daughter, an ‘ally’ for equality of all sorts, challenged me to let it go deep and to confront any racism that might lurk deep down.
I discovered how powerful it was to admit; through circumstance; being white- middle-class and growing up in leafy Cheshire with little connection to non-caucasians, that I was skewed in my thinking generally. At first, I struggled to see my privilege and recognised that I was that stereotype - I thought I didn’t see colour, and I thought because I had once dated an Indian man that I was safe from scrutiny by association. I felt both defensive and ashamed at my own ignorance and learnt to not compare my own experiences with those who have grown up as minorities. Their history is Apartheid or the Holocaust. I learned that at this kairos point, one group of people were finally in the spotlight, it was their time for recompense and journeying towards justice. My ‘white fragility’ was a sort of distraction from really discovering about Black heritage and looking honestly in the mirror and seeing my part in their cultural history. Google John Amaechi on Bitesize BBC for an introduction to this if you have 2 minutes to spare...
So, I read books, watched documentaries and films and reflected. I thought back to my schooling and scanned my bookshelves and music, realising how little diversity there had been in the voices which had influenced me. As a result of this inner work (ongoing), I have learnt to not fear facing such questions, as either truth “yes” or “no” can set you free. I have made changes in my thinking, I feel I understand a little more from others’ perspectives and am definitely drawing from more diverse sources. After all, Jesus Himself was a Jewish man from the Middle East - his skin would have been olive-brown, his eyes deep brown and his hair dark-brown to black.
Any change in policy, social understanding, repentance or modified behaviour; right though it is; is not just about the here and now. As we seek equality, we anticipate the return of Jesus when the whole of creation is restored. Revelation 7:9-10 paints this picture of true worship, “a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the lamb”.
Let it be on earth as it is in heaven…..