As I sit to write this post, so much is still unfolding in regard to the rally-turned-insurrection that took place in America’s capitol building last week. It feels premature to write about it, and irresponsible not to address it in some fashion. So, here are my preliminary thoughts.
The image that has come to define the day for me is the video of a crowd of white supremacists (and yes, I use that term intentionally) slowly driving a single black officer up a stairwell somewhere within the capitol building. The fact that the white mob had no respect for that official is plain, and quite contradictory to the president’s incessant calls for his version of “law and order.” Clearly, law and order mean different things to different people in this country.
A black family member (yes, I have them, and I love them) posted that they no longer feel safe in any type of gathering of four or more white people. Unfortunately, that includes their family. I can’t imagine that—and yet I can, because there have been times I have felt unsafe with a family member whose energetic defense of the Trump era has been issued in a way that felt like an attack on me (regardless of how it was meant on their side).
We have forgotten the simple, fundamental concept of respect in America. We have forgotten how to treat each other with decency. We have been trained through multiple sources to view our fellow citizens and even our family members as enemies. It will be a long and hard road to overcome this, if we even can. I doubt it will happen in my lifetime, and that grieves me deeply.
I will also say this. We have to try. We have to do our part. I have begun an email conversation with that Trump-defending family member—not about the president, but about the issue of racism in our country. Even though I feel a stress response in my body when I do (heart racing, adrenaline rising, muscles tensing—is this what my black family members feel too much of the time?), I feel called by God to do this. I have set guardrails that make me comfortable enough to proceed, and email is a venue that doesn’t allow emotional energies as much power. It is critical that we remember, in one way or another, to respect everyone in our family—and in our human family.
I am not saying that we open ourselves up to abuse. I am saying that if we feel called, if the opportunity arises, if we can make the situation safe enough for ourselves, we must take the chance to display respect, listen carefully, revision relationship, and recognize our common humanity. Through the process, we will definitely learn things about ourselves, and we will hopefully learn more about the thoughts and fears of the other as well.
I invite you to pray about the relationship you might most need to re-envision, and the people you need to respect, even if you will never agree. What risks are you being called to take in light of last week’s events?