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5 Things I’ve learned about Racism, Shootings and #BlackLivesMatters

I have been fairly silent on social media about the recent shootings, #BlackLivesMatter, etc. It’s certainly not because I don’t care. Mostly I haven’t posted about it I don’t know what I can say that hasn’t already been said. And, I don’t prefer to rant publicly. I’m still working out my thoughts, as are many of you. 
 
But I do have friends who are white, black, hispanic, asian, middle eastern, etc. I have friends who are police officers, active and retired, who are both black and white. In fact, Wednesday, the day after the Alton Sterling shooting, I went to the Nats game with a great friend of mine, who happens to be black. This is not something I ever think about, by the way. When we talk, we’re able to have honest conversations about how things work, feel and seem to him, in the media and in our culture.
Here are 5 initial conclusions I’ve come to, or have had reaffirmed, over the past few days:
 
1 – Just because I don’t understand, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t care. Or that everyone else is wrong. Because I am an adult white male, I have certain privileges that every other group in the world doesn’t have. That includes black, asian, women, teenagers, etc. It’s hard to see if you only converse with yourself about it. The nature of this privilege is that I don’t typically see it, unless I’m shocked into it (like with recent events). And it also means I don’t understand the lack of privilege that others have. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t seek to understand it, or dismiss it because I can’t explain it. We operate as if when we can’t explain something, that something must be wrong. We don’t always have to be right. And we are not.
 
2 – #BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean all lives don’t matter. I’ll admit, my first thought when I heard about Black Lives Matter last year was that it will divide more than it will unite. I thought that the black community might be doing more racial harm than good with this label. There is enough divisiveness that one more thing separating us isn’t what’s needed, I thought. I’ve come to realize that my black brothers and sisters aren’t claiming that all lives don’t matter. They are just raising awareness that their’s do. Think about needing to create a hashtag movement just to feel like you matter in the world…   At this point in my life, I recognize the fear mongering and negativity that’s pervasive in our culture. To make changes, we have to be for something positive, not against something negative. And Black Lives Matter isn’t actually negative, it’s for something…mattering. It’s a cry for help. And we all, black, white, green or purple, should agree that black lives matter.
 
3 – You don’t have to be a racist to perpetuate racism. To hear some personal stories of how people are affected by systems helps me understand that racism is institutionalized in our country. I don’t believe that every time a white police officer shoots a black man that that police officer is racist. But perhaps he has been trained and raised in a system that allows and perpetuates this racism. Because people don’t come out of the womb treating people of another skin color differently, what causes it? Systems. Family systems. Law enforcement systems. School systems. Government systems. And here’s the deal, the government can’t regulate racism out of society. It has to start with humility and conversation.
 
4 – This is not a political issue. If you believe it is, please read #3. This is a human issue. Republicans both help and hurt this cause. Democrats both help and hurt this cause. Don’t politicize it and say that Donald Trump is the reason for this. Don’t say that Obama is perpetuating it. This is an American issue. This is a human issue. Don’t belittle it by standing on the left or the right. Stand with people.
 
5 – Humility is where change begins. My faith informs how I relate to everyone. As a follower of Jesus, I stand for two things: Jesus and people. So many things are politicized today that we miss how we can actually make a difference. Caring about all people above yourself is the place to start. If you are white, humbly ask someone who is not white to give you an example of a time where they felt scared or threatened simply because of their skin color. If you are not white, find someone who is and humbly ask them if you can share a time where you felt scared or threatened simply because of your skin color. Even if these invitations are declined, at least a dialogue has begun.
 
Sorry for the rant. I literally was just going to post a sentence or two on social media which turned into publicly organizing my thoughts. Perhaps you disagree with what I’ve said. Have a respectful conversation with me or someone who you think might agree with me. I encourage you to pray, think and converse with someone else about how you’re feeling and how they’re feeling. 

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