Changing the World

Why I Won’t Remain Silent About Racial Reconciliation

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” Benjamin Franklin

I believe we are called, as believers, to reach out and fight for the marginalized and against injustice. Not only from around the world, but also those in our own society and culture. I know it can be touchy, it makes many defensive and is a hard topic, but we absolutely need to continue to educate ourselves on these topics and examine our hearts and continue to be the voice (and peace) of Jesus. When we stay silent, I believe we lose some of our witness and miss out on seeing God work in incredible ways.

It will come as no surprise that I’ve been burdened by what is happening in America right now. It’s a dark time for many people.

A couple months back there was a video that went viral and I decided to post it on Facebook (when it’s something closely connected to political views, I always pray before posting. It’s far too easy to post in anger and I don’t ever want to do that). It’s disturbing for lots of reasons, including this one quote that received a standing ovation and the Nazi salute: “America was, until this past generation, a white country, designed for ourselves and our posterity. It is our creation, it is our inheritance and it belongs to us.” (You can see the full video here), but I was surprised by some of the reactions. Instead of denouncing the video (which most people did), there was the “well this has been around forever, so…” as if that was enough reason not to call it out and stand against it. There were also comments that I was spreading hate by posting the video. I was genuinely confused as to how calling out hate was instead inciting hate.

Another recent news story was that of the hung jury from the Walter Scott Case. The trial for the officer who was caught on tape shooting an unarmed man running away ended in a hung jury. Sometimes I don’t even have the words, so I’ll steal them from this article written by Steven Hale of the Washington Post.

“Still, this case had video footage of a police officer calmly raising his gun, carefully taking aim and firing multiple rounds into the back of a fleeing, unarmed man and then handcuffing him as he lay on the ground. Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager claimed that he was in “total fear” during a struggle between the two men and that Scott had grabbed his Taser. But he was captured on video placing his Taser next to Scott’s lifeless body after the shooting.

One must wonder: What detail could be added to make Slager look more guilty of Scott’s murder — or at the very least, of manslaughter, an option that was available to the jury?”

My parents were in town visiting for Thanksgiving and we had many conversations about this (We also watched 13th, which I highly recommend). I asked my Dad about his experiences when he was in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s and how did he not lose hope? (He had to sit in the back of the bus, use “Colored Only” entrances and all the things you hear about. This isn’t something from the distant past. This is my Dad, only one generation before me). As MLK Jr. once said, it’s not the blatant racists who impede progress of moving forward, but instead those who are indifferent. My Dad shared about continuing to fight for what’s right and now that he is a Christian, also praying for the hearts of people and justice. It’s both.

I do not understand the justification, the brush off and the complete denial that our racial history doesn’t have deep impacts on our society today. I don’t get a lot of things about this, but most especially the silence. If we’re not talking about it in a loving manner, then the opposite side is only going to get louder. (Also, please read Just Mercy. Please.)

“Love is the motive, but justice is the instrument.” Reinhold Niebuhr

But as always, the Lord is good and He gave me a word.

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

God doesn’t ask us to sit back and be silent about the things that matter. He did not make me timid (I don’t have to rely on my own strength. Yes and amen. “He makes us strong, brave, and unafraid”*) He gave me power (The Greek word dunamis means “miraculous power, might, strength”*), He gave me self-discipline (so I don’t become a loud unhelpful voice) and most importantly He gave me love, which covers all things.

And that is what I’ll continue to move forward in. The Gospel is true and God promises His Word won’t return empty, so I hold onto that and keep on fighting for justice. As Walter Brueggemann once said, Justice is “the re-ordering of social life and social power so that the weak may live a life of dignity, security, and well-being.”

Ann Voskamp (in a podcast with Jamie Ivey that y’all should definitely listen to it here) said something that stuck with me as she was talking about the Church and her new book, The Broken Way. She said that “we are the Esther generation.” An oh how we are – we are called for such a time as this. To care for the orphans, the widows, the refugee, our brothers and sisters who fear for their lives.

We can and need to be the light in this darkness.

“And [God] has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:19‬

“We must learn to live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

I’ll end with this:

*From Liz Curtis Higgs’ 31 Verses To Write On Your Heart, page 43.

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Book Reviews, Nonfiction

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson | Book Review

Bringing up issues remotely related to politics is always a tricky situation. It’s hard. It isn’t easy. But, my call to be the light is far more powerful than the fear of anything else.

Because I believe story is powerful and if we aren’t willing to talk about these stories, especially as believers, we are missing out on being leaders and light to the world.

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” Benjamin Franklin

So with that, I present a book I will recommend to anyone and everyone. You know those books that light, stir or blast full flames onto an already existing fire? This is one such book. I’ll warn you, a lot of this book doesn’t leave you with warm fuzzy feelings, but instead lots of anger at injustice. (And if you read it and it doesn’t, then that’s another conversation for us to have)

But.

This is a story too important not to tell, to read and to pass along because there is good and hope in this world.

“Love is the motive, but justice is the instrument.” Reinhold Niebuhr

A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

The story itself will captive your attention, with Stevenson deftly weaving history, the case and other important stories. The story of Walter McMillian feels like a novel, that it couldn’t possibly have happened how it did, but this story was true and you’ll be inspired by the work and hope that comes from Stevenson. There’s a lot of work to be done, but stories like this encourage to keep moving forward and fighting the good fight.

When blatant corruption exists, mentally ill aren’t given treatment (and instead jailed), when states can legally try 13 year olds as adults and give them life in prison without parole (example, by 2010, “Florida had sentenced more than a hundred children to life imprisonment without parole for non-homicide offenses, several of whom were thirteen years old at the time of the crime. All of the youngest condemned children – thirteen or fourteen years of ago – were black and Latino. Florida had the largest population in the world of children condemned to die in prison for non-homicides.”), there is something desperately and morally wrong.

“Our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis of our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing. Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion.” Thomas Merton

Here’s a few more quotes:

“Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”

“My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice.”

“The true measure of our commitment to justice, the character of our society, our commitment to the rule of law, fairness, and equality cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.”

“It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent – strong enough to break the cycle of victimization and victimhood, retribution and suffering.”

“We have to reform a system of criminal justice that continues to treat people better if they are rich and guilty than if they are poor and innocent.”

And in case you’re wondering if I’m exaggerating at how important/excellent this book is, here’s a quick list of the awards won:

  • #1 New York Times Bestseller
  • Named one of the Best Books of the Year by: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Seattle Times, Esquire, Time
  • Winner of the Carnegie Medal for Nonfiction
  • Winner of the NAACP Image Award for Nonfiction
  • Winner of a Books for a Better Life Award
  • Finalist for the Los Angeles Book Prize
  • Finalist for the Kirkus Reviews Prize
  • An American Library Association Notable Book

Also, if you’re interested in checking out more, here’s the link to the Equal Justice Initiative.

What’s a recent book (either nonfiction or fiction) that had a dramatic impact on you?

Where to Buy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Book Reviews

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin | Book Review

“If a white man became a Negro in the Deep South, what adjustments would he have to make? What is it like to experience discrimination based on skin color, something over which one has no control?”

So began the journey of John Howard Griffin and story in what would become a classic in America non fiction and racial history. Griffin served in the Air Corps, studied in France (where he helped smuggle Austrian Jews to safety) and was blinded for 10 years from a war accident at which time he started writing and would soon take on this life altering project. Such a life and such a story.

In the Deep South of the 1950s, journalist John Howard Griffin decided to cross the color line. Using medication that darkened his skin to deep brown, he exchanged his privileged life as a Southern white man for the disenfranchised world of an unemployed black man. His audacious, still chillingly relevant eyewitness history is a work about race and humanity-that in this new millennium still has something important to say to every American.

Where to start with this book? We’ll go with the writing – it’s incredible. He keeps you captivated and so many sentences or insights were beautifully written and profound. He cuts straight to the reader’s heart and soul. You’ll go through all of your emotions with this book. There are so many insightful quotes that I thought about including, but I vote you read the book instead. So much of what he observed can (sadly) be applied today.

“Surely in America a whole segment of decent souls could not stand by and allow such massive crimes to be committed.” – John Howard Griffin

You know those times you read about some period in history and it leaves you completely dumbfounded and speechless? There were many times I felt that way while reading this book – reading stories (ones I’ve read so many times before) of such pure hatred for no other reason than the color of one’s skin. What in the living heck humanity? I simply cannot comprehend that person’s heart or soul.

His honesty throughout the pages is profound. He doesn’t hold back his feelings. He is vulnerable and that is what makes the book the classic that it is. Here’s one of his thoughts:

“The laughter had to be gross or it would turn to sobs, and to sob would be to realize, and to realize would be to despair. So the noise poured forth like a jazzed-up figure, louder and louder to cover the whisper in every man’s soul. “You are black. You are condemned.”

This was made into a movie in the 1964, but I think it’s time for a remake. We still need to hear and see these stories.

Some of the people he encountered were amazing too. Like the old man preacher he met first in Mobile. He understood loving the enemy. “When we stop loving them, that’s when they win.”

I cannot say enough how vital and important this book still is. I’ve read this before, yet reading it a decade later is still so impactful. If you only read one nonfiction book this year, may this one be it.

“Where racism is practiced, it damages the whole community, not just the victim group.”

Is there a book that has recently rocked your world? I’d love to hear about it!

Where to Buy: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads