by Heather Bock
In a spare moment on Saturday, I glanced at Twitter and found my feed awash with references to Charlottesville, alt-right, and white supremacy. This was my introduction to the story coming out of Virginia, a story of people gathered to share how much better they were than anyone not like them, people gathered to share their hate with the world, a hate that soon spilled over into murder.
As I’ve read more about the rally, I also discovered a different type of people who attended: a group of clergy who walked together with linked arms in silent protest against the hate, against the white supremacy. I saw a video of a circle of people singing nearby about God’s love. I read about a group of university students protesting right in the middle of the rally, surrounded by an angry mob brandishing torches against them, spraying pepper spray in their faces. Most of those counter- protesting the hate didn’t walk into that rally lightly. They walked in knowing they could be killed. One was. They chose to do it anyway.
That Saturday, one tweet thread stuck out to me more than the others. In it, Brittany Packnett referenced Beverly Tatum’s idea of the moving walkway of racism. She says in this area, people are usually one of four types of people acting in one of four ways:
- Running down the walkway: active perpetrators, like alt-right, white supremacists
- Not actively moving, but passively letting the walkway carry them: some of these deny racism still occurs in our country
- Walking the other direction, but not making headway on the moving walkway: those who know racism is wrong and learn about how and where it takes place but don’t really do anything about it
- Running the opposite way: those who take action against racism
Why did those people put their lives at stake by showing up in a place where they were sure to be yelled at, mistreated, and possibly killed?
They couldn’t bear to be types one, two, or three when it comes to racism. Though the stakes were high, they chose to be type four.
I grew up as type two: uneducated in these matters and isolated from any incidents. As I grew older, I became type three as I started learning more about the history of racism in our country, reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Remembering Slavery, Stride Toward Freedom by Martin Luther King, Jr., and The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. I watched a few more movies dealing with racism. More recently, I read Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High. I started listening to my students and other Hispanics dealing with racism in my city. I read tweets by people on Twitter who are dealing with its pain. I read a book that deals with racism today: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. I don’t pass by reading articles of young black men being shot.
I learned we’ve made strides–yes, I believe we’re farther along than we were in the 60s. However, it’s still a much bigger problem in our country today than I ever knew. It’s not where Jesus wants it to be.
Jesus confronted racism head-on when He made a Samaritan (a hated race by many Jewish people of the time) the hero of His story about the man who was injured and ignored by people of the “right” race (Lk. 10:33). Although Jesus’ mission was primarily to the Jews, He revealed His identity as Messiah for the first time to a Samaritan woman (Jn. 4). He also healed the servant of a Roman centurion (another race hated by the Jews because of their power over them), saying his faith was stronger than any He had found in Israel (Matt. 8). In addition to this, the Holy Spirit soon made clear to Peter that He wanted all races to come to Him. Peter said, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34-35).
I’ve been a type three for a long time, but God has been calling me to be type four more lately.
I’ve asked myself before what I would have done as a Christian in Nazi Germany or during the Civil Rights movement in my own country. Would I have had the courage to stand up against it like Corrie Ten Boom or Rosa Parks? Maybe not, but would I have had at least a little courage to do something, or would I have been one of those later apologizing for having stood by, doing nothing?
Now that I realize a problem still exists, the question is what will I do now? What will we do now? What will generations after us say about the Church NOW?
I really don’t know the answer to that question yet, but I’m beginning to take a few jogging steps against the flow of that moving walkway. I’m starting to pray for God’s guidance. I’m listening more to voices I didn’t hear when I was young. I’m writing this blog post, hoping to spur others into thoughts of what they can do. I’m learning how to love Hispanics, Muslims, and African Americans in my city, some of whom haven’t been recipients of that love by white people.
What type are you? Will you jog by my side? I hope you change your stride from the jog into a full-out run, teaching me how it’s done.
If you have anything to teach me in this area, please comment below.