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Sunday, March 22, 2015

Be a Part of the Solution!

“And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”
James 3:18

Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.
James 4:17

I read those verses during my bible study this morning, and I knew it was time for this blog. "Why?" you ask. Because God isn't white, or black, or purple, and I think it's time we realized that we are all His children. 

You guys, I am a peacemaker (okay, a chicken). I loooooathe conflict, and do my best to avoid it at all cost. I try not to debate. I hate disappointing people. Y’all, I won’t even negotiate when buying a car; I have to let Joe do it.  I HATE CONFRONTATION.

But here’s the thing. Sometimes being a Peacemaker means confrontation is unavoidable. When countries are at war, the leaders must confront each other in order to work out a treaty in order for their side to be heard. When friends are in an argument, they have to sit down and work out their differences. Peacemaking doesn’t always mean you sit on the sidelines and wait for peace to happen. Sometimes, you have to step into the fray.

So, today, I jump in with both feet. I am literally hurting in my chest over the lack of peace in our country. I’m not even talking about ISIS (which is a WHOLE other blog). I’m talking about what we are doing to each other.

Y’all, we have got to stop yelling.  

The past couple of years have been some of the most divisive in our country’s recent history:  George Zimmerman was acquitted for the death of Trayvon Martin, Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice was also killed by an officer. The Chapel Hill murders took over headlines, immigration has been challenged, and the SAE Chapter at OU chanted their now infamous words. 2014 gave us #blacklivesmatter, #policelivesmatter, #handsupdontshoot, and #icantbreathe.

Let me be clear. I am in no WAY an expert on racial struggle. I’m about as white as you can get. I grew up in Northern Idaho, where there isn’t much diversity.  As far as I know, I’ve never been prevented from an activity or event based on my race.  This lack of experience, though, caused me to make excuses for myself: “If I don’t have any experience, how can I be a part of the solution?”  “How can I talk about things, I have no background in?” “I’m not racist, so I’m not contributing to the problem.” “I don’t want to offend anyone.” And my personal favorite, “This is America. Everyone gets the exact same opportunities.”  

And then the IF:Gathering Racial Unity Table happened. At the IF:Gathering, seven women of several different backgrounds sat around a table and discussed racial stereotypes with one another. They talked about various things they thought they knew about someone based on their assumptions. Someone from that table said these words: Assumptions create barriers.”

Y’all, by allowing ourselves to assume things about people, we hinder our society. If we open ourselves up to having meaningful relationships with our neighbors regardless of what we infer about them based on a movie we saw once, or what we hear about them in our media, we may be able to create real, authentic relationships.  By investing in those relationships, we can tear down barriers and create change!

Before, my thinking was controlled by ignorance and fear. I didn't know how to enter the conversation because it didn't seem like anybody was engaged in one. Then I realized that maybe I can start a discussion of my own, and be a champion for others.  I can be a part of the solution. I can be a peacemaker.

When I see something happening that isn’t okay, I can use my voice to say something.

When I see injustice happening right in front of me, I can cry out for equity.

When I see hurting people, I can do my best to soothe them.

When I see my fellow human beings suffering and I ignore it, I am sinning against God.

Friends, racial tension is only getting worse. We’re hearing about it every day. We can no longer hide behind our ignorance when there is so much evidence pointing to the fact that there is still racial inequality in our precious country: College students are hurling racial slurs, and people are using horrible words to describe our President and his family. One side of our government is in favor of refusing to allow children amnesty from horrible, war-torn nations, and some of our citizens shun people of Middle Eastern descent who moved here to escape the oppression of their home countries.

We can’t simply say that the racial divide ended with desegregation because it didn’t. Due to systemic racism, minorities in our country continue to experience higher infant mortality rates, perform lower academically, and earn lower incomes than the average white person. If current trends continue,  one in three black men, and one in six Hispanic men can expect to be incarcerated in their lifetimes, compared to one in seventeen white men.

When we see these truths, and we know what we're facing, we have the power to become Peacemakers!  Not only do we have the power, we have the responsibility. If we want a peaceful country, we need to engage in peaceful dialogue with people who are different from us!  We need to hear their experiences and learn from them. We need to share our hearts as well. Most of all, we must see another child of God when we engage with each other. Friends, if we show kindness, love, and respect instead of indifference, ignorance, and intolerance, we can be a generation of Difference Makers! 

So, here I am. The White Girl who didn’t think she was a part of the problem, the solution, or even the discussion.  I’m taking my stand as a Peacemaker, because remaining quiet only adds to the problem.  What is happening isn’t right.  We need to make a change for ALL PEOPLE. Will you join me?

***Cool Stuff Below***
I happen to have an awesome resource to help you get started.Latasha Morrison, who led the IF:Gathering Racial Unity Table, has written blogs (much better than mine!) on this topic and created a Racial Unity Guide. These tools can help us all be a constructive part of the conversation! YAY!

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