Let Us Be Part of the Solution

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Feeling helpless in the face of the Pandemic Racial Tensions?

It is normal to feel helpless in the face of something as huge as both the Pandemic and the current atmosphere of Racial Tensions. Both are national in scope, and in some cases international.  Sometimes, if you can do even one thing, or more than one thing, it can help make a difference. You and I can help to make a difference right where we live.

The required disclaimer is, that I write as a white woman who is over the age of 55. I do not know what it feels like to be a black person. I only know what I see and hear in the news media and social media. The chances of my being stopped by a member of a police force for simply “driving while white,” is unlikely. That being said, I want to offer some suggestions that I think can help to make a difference.

The second disclaimer is that it is, not unlike the Commandments, it is difficult to phrase them all in positive language. Here goes:

black neon sign with white letters. Words, "Think about things Differently"
Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi from Pexels

Stop sharing negative posts on Social Media. Why? They are designed to stimulate animosity and limit communication and compassion. If you doubt that, pay careful attention to the photograph that accompanies the post, and the responses that it garners. The result is little better than an inflammatory tweet. It is like throwing gasoline on a fire.

There is a difference between protesting and rioting: I do not know anyone who thinks that rioting, looting and violence will solve anything, and those actions are upsetting. They also get in the way of our being able to hear the pain and anger of the protesters. Not all protesters are rioters and not all rioters are protesters.

Some people are taking advantage of the situation and are intentionally making things worse. Please do not let that stop you from hearing, learning, speaking up and acting in positive ways.

Do not engage the haters. They will not listen to you and you will be wasting your breath, and perhaps even making them happy because they succeeded in getting you riled up.

It is okay to “agree to disagree” with someone. It is okay to walk away from an unproductive conversation. I would go so far as to say it is healthy to do so, when you cannot come to an understanding or a meeting of the minds.

Don’t be dismissive. Have you ever shared a story of a deep, personal pain with someone only to have them dismiss your feelings, hurt or experience? Sometimes people say things like, “You think that is bad, wait until I tell you what happened to me!” I know that has happened to me; and I know that I have probably done it to others. It may be unintentional, of course, but it hurts nonetheless.

From an outsider’s perspective: When you look at the protests, riots and demonstrations and ask, ‘How is this helping the Floyd family?’ Try to understand that the initial response that sparked demonstrations was in response to the murder of Mr. George Floyd. It was for many people, the last straw, on top of many other last straws.

There is a significant list of similar deaths that have occurred in the last eight years. I see the demonstrations and protests as responses to a combination of all of that; the murder of George Floyd and many others. Say his name. Learn their names. They mattered. They were somebody’s son or somebody’s daughter.

Seek Understanding: Have you ever said in response to the statement, “Black Lives Matter” “All lives matter,” or “Blue lives matter” or something like that? The “Black Lives Matter” movement is in response to the large number of black people and black bodies that have been murdered or killed by police. It is it’s own statement and does not need to be edited by us. It is a statement that tells a story and deserves to be respected.

It does not mean that all police are bad or evil or murderous. But there are sufficient document cases where this has happened, and for the most part gone unpunished. The last time I checked, the role of “judge, jury and executioner” is not accorded to police at any level. I do realize there are circumstances when the taking of a life becomes necessary in the performance of their duties. Black Lives matter!

Taking a Knee at a football game: People I know, love and care about have been upset with this demonstration of protest in National Football games. I am sorry that I kept silent. I did not want to offend them.

Those I know who vocalized their frustration, and perhaps anger, saw this action as disrespecting the flag. I wish I had said, as often as necessary, that it was an act of silent protest in response to the frequent loss of black lives at the hands of unethical police practices. Protest is still a civil right. Football players taking a knee in protest on a national stage could have started a needed conversation. We just did not hear what they were trying to tell us.

“I am not a racist.” I do not know anyone who is racist. But there is a difference between not being racist and being anti-racist. The distinction may seem subtle to those of us who are not inclined to be activists.

In not being a racist, most of us would not think to do anything against a black person. But it is time to do something positive: Be an ally; educate yourself about the problems of racism, and racial injustice. I will include some resources at the bottom of this post and hope you will seek others on your own. Perhaps through your local library, your church or clergy person.

Photo by Luis Quintero from Pexels

Make Friends with someone who does not look like you. This can be a challenge where I live and serve, because our communities are pretty white. Our churches are pretty white, too. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has been quoted as saying that 11:00 o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in the United States. Fifty plus years later, that hasn’t changed from what I can see. So, maybe it takes effort, but it should not be impossible.

Listen to someone’s story of racism. Do not interrupt, do not counter share, that is counter with your own ‘you think that is bad’ story. Just listen. Perhaps if more of us had listened things would not have gotten to this point.

I know that I am not always a good listener. I am such a talker, that I get in my own way. When we listen, we are supposed to be paying attention to the words that are being spoken and the feelings that are being shared, not listening for a place where we can jump in and talk. Just Listen.

Don’t just tweet, or post or make a poster. Resolve to do something positive to be part of the solution. These are all simple ways to overcome that feeling of helplessness and I believe we can make a difference. We can learn to know better and then do better.

Not holding back the tide,

Michele

Some resources worth exploring:

www.naacp.org

www.blacklivesmatter.com

http://www.raceamity.org

Published by msomerville2014

About: Michele Somerville is a wife, mother, stepmother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin and friend. She lives with her husband and their dog Sheba. Sheba is their fourth rescue dog in 30 years. She is a retired ordained United Methodist Elder and serves two churches part-time in North Central Pennsylvania. She obtained her Bachelors’ Degree in 1999 from Mansfield University and her Master of Divinity in 2004 and Doctor of Ministry in 2016, both from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York. My Doctor of Ministry Thesis was:” Prophetic Words of Grace: Biblical Storytelling in the Local Church.” Michele began writing and performing character monologues for worship in 2008. She began by asking the question about nameless characters in the Bible, “What would they say if they could speak for themselves?” and then using her theological education and experience of the human condition to attempt an answer that is both academic and creative. Much of what you will read here are memories from growing up in a tourist town, in a bar, in the 1960’s, shaggy dog stories about our rescue dogs, life in a small town, and stories of faith and hope. Throughout her life she has lived in many states, including small towns, large towns and cities. She lived in Rota, Spain, for nine challenging months. Despite all the places she have lived since moving away from home in 1970,Michele is at the heart of all things Jack and Maggie’s daughter, and a beach girl from Onset, Massachusetts.

13 thoughts on “Let Us Be Part of the Solution

  1. Wow, there’s a lot to think about here, Christine. One thing that jumps out at me is the need for deep listening and for opening ourselves up to other points of view–not living in a silo or using language that divides. Thank you for writing this important piece. I have shared it on social media.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for those words Christie. I admit I was a little nervous about this one, especially close to home. But I knew I could not be silent either. I try to vary my writing, I love story telling and the memoir, but pieces like t his are important too. One of the things I would like to do is do more reading about the Separation of Church and State, so that I can write about it. Sometimes Church people think it’s a bad thing. but I want to be more knowledgeable before tackling something like that. Thank you for taking the time to read this and comment. Blessings, Michele

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  2. You’ve hit the nail on the head, and it’s something I’ve thought about a lot. I mean, people decry the protests and everything and just go “why are they doing this? Why not ___?” Well, they tried all that, and weren’t being listened to. This is a cry that some listening needs to happen, and it has to be big because we’ve gotten very lousy at listening to other people. We scroll or skim, but don’t absorb.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read this post and comment on it. I am not a political person at all and actually very cautious about public comments for several reasons. One big one is that I am a pastor and another one (Introvert to Introvert) is that I do not care to get embroiled in negativity, especially some of the meanness one sees on Social Media. At the same time, this was stuff I could not stop thinking about. Michele

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I feel ya. I’m a researcher at heart and the research is never done, which makes it tricky to have an opinion sometimes when you’re used to over-analyzing everything. This whole thing just feels like a big hole punched in the gut of humanity. Just basic humanity, human decency. We’ve never been perfect, but with the ignorance and cluelessness and lack of leadership, it feels like we were never on the same planet, let alone the same page about anything. I am glad this crap’s being exposed, and yet, it hurts like hell that it’s taken this long. Forget glacial pace–glaciers move and melt faster than the winds of social and human change tend to blow.

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  3. Beautiful, Michele! Your points were so well-written. I have decided to take a break from social media (but not blogging). I don’t want to be tempted to say something I will regret. I do want to be part of the solution.

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  4. I appreciate your view point on all that is going on right now, Michele. You speak from your heart and your mind. Thank you for sharing a great deal of wisdom in your post. Your concepts of listening and action resonate with me. I agree with Laurie “I do want to be part of the solution.:

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  5. I think many of us thought racism was not a problem any more, except for a handful of people. But recent events have shown that it is still too widespread. You’ve shared some good tips to help. I like the distinction between not being racist and being anti-racist.

    I think some people have trouble with the Black Lives Matter organization as having some views many would not agree with. But probably that’s not what most people are thinking about when they say Black Lives Matter, and I agree it can seem insensitive or dismissive to counter that statement.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Barb, thank you for taking the time to read and comment on this post. I have another similar post ‘in the hopper” as it were, but I have hesitated to finish it. I understand what you say about concerns about the Black Lives Matter movement and I have seen posts on social media to that affect. While I understand the authors’ intent to be faithful to the Gospel as they understand it, it saddens me because I think it takes away from, as you say, what most people are thinking about when they say or hear “Black Lives Matter.” It makes it seem like an “either or” decision and I think it detracts from the struggle of helping us white people understand that saying Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean that other lives don’t matter, but specifically refers to the Black Lives that didn’t matter to the people who took those lives. I think we encountered each other’s posts through #SeniSal. If so, you may have seen the post “Black Lives Matter” which is the story of a television producer who was treated very badly. I think we need more personal stories like taht to help us move past posts, slogans, tweets and memes, to the stories of real people experience with discrimination, prejudice and racism. Then, maybe we can come to the table for a conversation. I hope. Forgive me for going on and on and thank you again for your comments, they are much appreciated. Michele

      Liked by 1 person

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