Something Snapped

I’m not racist.

Neither are most of the white people I know. But finally, at long last, I’m starting to have an inkling that, given our nation’s history and track record (ugh. No pun intended), being “not racist” needs to be a little more proactive and intentional than being passive and “nice,” having brown friends, and telling them they’re welcome to come to church with us.

How was Ahmaud Arbery (whose birthday is today, by the way) murdered in February and I only found out about it three days ago? (Only after I started writing this post did I learn it happened in February.) Don’t even answer that question. None of the possible answers are acceptable.

At the beginning of this week I was still sobbing about my dog–and the grief has not subsided, but you guys, my little black dog had a better death than this black man (and so many others), and today my tears are about Ahmaud and others like him and how silently culpable I and my “non-racist” white brothers and sisters are, for this kind of thing still to be happening. On April 13th (over a month after Ahmaud’s murder, little did I know) I posted a tribute to Oscar on Facebook. Within the first 24 hours, there were at least 150 “reactions” and as many comments. By the end of the week, there were over 100 more.

Last night I shared a poignant repost from Bernard Smith, black friend/brother/colleague of mine:

Realest repost ever…Black people are so tired. 😓

We can’t go jogging (#AmaudArbery).

We can’t relax in the comfort of our own homes (#BothemSean and #AtatianaJefferson).

We can’t ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride).

We can’t have a cellphone (#StephonClark).

We can’t leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards).

We can’t play loud music (#JordanDavis).

We can’t sell CD’s (#AltonSterling).

We can’t sleep (#AiyanaJones)

We can’t walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown).

We can’t play cops and robbers (#TamirRice).

We can’t go to church (#Charleston9).

We can’t walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin).

We can’t hold a hair brush while leaving our own bachelor party (#SeanBell).

We can’t party on New Years (#OscarGrant).

We can’t get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland).

We can’t lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile).

We can’t break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones).

We can’t shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford) .

We can’t have a disabled vehicle (#TerrenceCrutcher).

We can’t read a book in our own car (#KeithScott).

We can’t be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover).

We can’t decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese).

We can’t ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans).

We can’t cash our check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood).

We can’t take out our wallet (#AmadouDiallo).

We can’t run (#WalterScott).

We can’t breathe (#EricGarner).

We can’t live (#FreddieGray).

We’re tired.

Tired of making hashtags.

Tired of trying to convince you that our #BlackLivesMatter too.

Tired of dying.




So very tired.


Seventeen hours later (at time of this post going live)? Twenty-eight reactions. I think Oscar’s post had that many in five minutes. Or less.

Look, I get that in Oscar’s case, people who know me (and many of whom knew Oscar) personally, and care about me personally, were responding. I was and am grateful for the empathy and am not sorry it was elicited. But what’s (metaphorically-only) kicking me in the gut right now is the truth Bernard (who was also empathetic about Oscar) expressed when I shared with him:

If your dog was treated like [Arbery was] by these same 2 individuals, it would get more headline, and they may have been convicted by PETA or MSPCA. There would be outrage. But for this jogger, nothing.

He’s not wrong.

Let’s be clear: if my dog were treated like Arbery was by those same two individuals, they should be convicted. (Also, I’m probably not done talking here about the environment, the biblical importance of animals, death of animals, etc.) The point is: if it’s wrong to treat a dog like that, how much worse is it to treat a human that way? And if a dog can get justice, how much more deeply unjust is it for a human not to get it?

And so…I’m not totally sure how this is going to play out, but I’m done being appropriate and quiet about racism. Because my “non-racist” silence and “friendship with black people” is not making this situation better. And frankly, I’m not sure how deep my friendships with black people can ever truly be if I’m not willing to engage this real and ever-present part of their lives–with them, and at least sometimes publicly. The conversations are hard, but as one friend says,

I hate to say this out loud or in text form but until more non-blacks get involved and see this as what it is, there will be more innocent, jogging-while-black bloodshed…You have the power and possibility to reach 1000s who would never listen to me regardless of my education or charisma and Holy Ghost due to my skin color.

I think that friend is overestimating my reach, and it’s a stupid, disgusting reality that the last part of that last sentence is true, but…it’s true. (It’s also ridiculous, because I’ve sat under this man’s teaching in informal phone conversations and he’s literally one of the wisest people I’ve had the good fortune to encounter.)

I’d rather camp out quietly in the comfort of my own outrage, but somehow amid the influx of hashtags about his murder, interspersed with paranoid pandemic conspiracy theories which seem extra galling in light of ongoing real rights violations against people of color, that door slammed shut behind me yesterday. You’re welcome to join me in speaking out. In the meantime, walking, but #IrunwithMaud.


Published by Jennwith2ns

Jesus person. Wife and step-mom. Daughter, sister, auntie, friend. Collector of stories: mine, yours, tangible, not... Pastor of Central Baptist Church, founder and spiritual director at The Pilgrimage, and author of Trees In The Pavement and Favored One.

22 thoughts on “Something Snapped

  1. There has never been any excuse for racism anywhere in the world. I have family that tries to rationalize it with precedents within the family, but this makes me feel sick. Someone has to raise consciousness about racism and it might as well be you.

    1. Right. Fortunately I come from a family that has, in various eras, tried to do things to combat racism, with varying levels of awareness, so I’ve never tried to excuse it, and always deeply hated it, but I’ve never been good at speaking up (about much); and now I’m just done with quiet. Just. done.

  2. It’s outrageous, egregious, unbelievable!!!!
    And yet, there are a million others stories, tragedies, horrors, happening every moment of every day that we never hear about. There’s not enough hours in a day, a week, a year….to cover it all so they pick and choose what stories we hear and because media is a money making machine….they choose the most evocative, provocative, inflammatory to report and stir up outrage and sadly….division.
    We are living in the information age where we hear about almost everything happening everywhere…..and it’s soul burdening. In the past, you only really knew about what was happening locally, In your own town and seldomly knew what was happening across the country much less the world! Is it any wonder we are all so tense, stressed, fearful and suspicious all the time? How can we emotionally bear it all?

    1. That is indeed a valid question. I would suggest we’re all bearing extra emotional burden just on the basis of pandemic…but you’re right–this one story is barely even the tip of the iceberg, and I don’t think as someone called to follow Jesus and “bear one another’s burdens” I can afford to shirk this one anymore.

      1. I think his entire career should come under review.
        There is NO way as a former cop, he should’ve in any stretch of his imagining, think that ANY of his actions at ANY point, was correct or legal! What sort of a cop was he and heinous sort of things had he possibly done during that time????
        I’m both sickened, horrified… and aghast at how they weren’t immediately arrested! You or I pull a stunt like that and we’d have been thrown under the jail so fast your head would spin!

  3. I am really wrestling with all of this right now. It is really hard. I applaud your willingness to be loud about it and to recognize the rightness of using your position to express your indignation. I think that’s something we are called to do. There is a lot I don’t know about, right now. But one of the things I am sure of is that the conversation has to stop catering to the insecurities of white people. (For anyone who does not me, I am a white person.) One aspect of the war that has been waged on people of color is the constant expectation that they be calm and patient while their is a boot at their collective necks. For them to call it a racist system and to express anger at the injustice of it all does not mean that they are claiming that we, as individuals are disciminating against them. When they tell me that I as a white person have benefitted by this system they are not claiming that my life is easy– they are simply expressing the idea I have never had to fight racism. I am working hard at being an ally to people of color by accepting that they have a right to express their anger; I do not need to burden them with the expectation that they will cater to my comfort zone. I am also working hard on expressing these realities in the spaces I occupy (that’s why I am saying these here) because I know that my status as a Christian White Male gets me into places that they might not be welcomed.

  4. Well said. Join us on FB Check Your Privilege. Read book same name. We (white) have been socialized to be racist. (Conscious or unconscious). Our country was founded on Imperialistic White supremacy capitalistic patriarchy. If you want more info, contact me.

  5. My two cents are that many Americans (or indeed Europeans) think the problem of racism of the past magically went away. But it hasn’t, it just went underground. The only reason we are seeing more of these cases right now, is because of the proliferation of mobile phone technology. Its worth noting that in quite a number of these cases the police/white assailant initial position was “oh terrible tragedy, but [insert dumb ass slightly racist excuse here]”. That would have probably held if the mobile phone footage appeared.

  6. “If your dog was treated like [Arbery was] by these same 2 individuals, it would get more headline, and they may have been convicted by PETA or MSPCA. There would be outrage. But for this jogger, nothing.”
    Hitler loved dogs, imposed serious criminal and civil penalties on anyone who hurt them.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: