But What Can I Do?

It has been less than a week since the conclusion of the 2016 election, and it seems anger, hate, frustration, and disrespect have dominated the headlines and social media conversation. In the midst of everything, people have been left reeling. I understand that after a week of hate and riots patience is thinning and people are growing weary. I understand the desire to wish this all away. I believe unity and peace will come when people again realize they are being heard and are safe. 

My phone has been filled this week with text messages and private messages expressing fear and love for my family and apologizing for words that propelled the hate message forward. As these conversations have continued, I’ve realized that the most consistent question I’m being asked is “What can I do?”, and as the mother of multi-racial children and the wife of a black man I have some suggestions I hope you will consider.

Speak Up I am so impressed with the students of Baylor University. Natasha shares her story in video form, but here’s a summary from the article: “This guy went out of his way to bump into me, sort of shove me off the sidewalk. He said ‘no n*ggers allowed on the sidewalk.’ I was shocked like I had no words. This other guy behind me said, ‘Dude, what are you doing? That’s not cool.’ The other one said, ‘What? I’m just trying to make America great again.'” That was a horrifying situation, but no school is defined solely by its worst actors. Baylor students quickly organized to show that they’ve got Natasha’s back.”  Natasha’s experience is far from an isolated one. Whether it’s cyber bullying or something you see in person speak up. That’s not cool was all it took. 

Stop Assuming. Please stop assuming that your life experiences are the exact same as someone else. “Get over it” and “I don’t care” are two of the most hurtful statements someone could make to someone expressing fear. Minorities and women are scared right now. They have listened to demeaning and divisive language for over a year, and they have taken Mr. Trump literally. You don’t have to experience racism to accept it is wounding. On the other side, we also need to stop assuming that every person that voted for Mr. Trump is a racist or is in full support of him as President. Instead, let’s listen to each other. Ask questions and be brave enough to answer the hard ones. 

J.D. Greear’s words stood out to me this week. “While some Christians voted for Trump because they thought that, given the two options they had to choose from, he was the better of the two, every Christian should be outraged by demeaning comments made toward particular groups in our society, whether we are part of that group or not. And we should stand against injustice and discrimination wherever we see even a hint of it. Christians who voted for Trump must seek to understand (if they don’t already) why many immigrants, women, some minorities, and members of the LGBT community feared a Trump presidency. We must speak out against injustice, bigotry, and demeaning comments as loudly as those directly affected.”

Consider Your Environment. People gravitate towards those who think similarly to them on a variety of issues. Similarly, we often close our ears and eyes to those who disagree.

Twitter is a fascinating medium to me because you have to be very selective in your words. 140 characters go quickly. Consider the following 4 twitter posts. It’s possible for all four to be seen as divisive, but when I read them, I interpret two as loving with the goal to unify while two are just plain condescending and mean. One is an intentional racist comment.

This weekend our pastor came up to us before service with the desire to greet us with a hug. His question was simple, but his eyes were filled with concern. Are you doing all right? He’s been on social media, and he has read the comments of the people who attend his church. Possibly for the first time, he is seeing people’s genuine feelings about minorities, working to reconcile that with a very diverse congregation. At one point in the service, he came over and prayed over us with obvious distress. You know you are in a good church when you pastor willing chooses to carry your burden with you. The sermon was continuing in our current series. Ryan didn’t need to speak politically from the pulpit to model real unity and compassion.

Who are you following on social media? What blogs are you reading? What books and newspapers do you purchase? It’s possible to still read opposing views without following them on social media and it’s possible to receive balanced information with filters.

Surround yourself with people who want to carry your burden with you instead of stand next to you to encourage you to tear others down, or attempt to shame you for your views.

Spend Your Money Wisely Money talks Y’all. It’s as simple as that. My point here is for large business and small business alike. I don’t think I’m the only one who has been sought out on social media only do discover my long lost “friend” hasn’t found me to catch up but instead wants to sell me something.

When human trafficking became a household word, and people wanted to do something the A21 Campaign came out with a list that included some specific ways every person can help to support the fight. We have the same choice when it comes to shutting down racism. We may never convince someone that their words are hateful, but we don’t need to support their business.

Let me be clear. I am not saying find out who people voted for before buying from them. I am saying look around, do some research before making a purchase. If you find hateful words as a part of their common language, take your money elsewhere. If you think they will listen to your choice to move on, explain your decision.

Our voices matter. We all have influence, and we can impact the lives of many by influencing those in our immediate circles. Let’s make America great. Not again, just great. Let’s set a new standard and make this country reflective of the hearts of many instead of the loudest few.

 

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