Last October, Charles and I drove 28 hours to Austin from New York. We left Long Island early on a Friday morning and drove all the way to Atlanta to visit some of my favorite little girl cousins.
On Day 2 of our drive—despite feeling pretty uncomfortable with being brown in a car in the deep South—decide to take the shorter route through Alabama, Mississipi, and Lousiana to get to Austin. We left Atlanta at 4 am and made it to Mississippi by early afternoon.
On the phone with my dad catching him up on our drive, I saw a police car flash its lights to pull us over. It felt weird— we weren’t speeding and I couldn’t imagine what we did to be pulled over.
The white officers stepped to Charles’ side of the vehicle and asked for his license and registration. He asked Charles to step out of the car.
At the time, Charles had sprained his ankle and needed help getting in and out of the car. I asked the officer if I could step out to get Charles his crutches. Begrudgingly, and with a definite hint of suspicion, the police officer told me I could.
I very nervously walked to the driver’s side, pulled out his crutches, and proceeded to help Charles out of the car.
When Charles was finally out, he asked him to walk to the back of the car. As the three of us stood in the back of the vehicle, the white officer told me to get back into the car. My heart was racing so fast— I had no idea why he wanted to be alone with Charles.
I was so afraid. I clenched my fists and silently prayed that neither Charles nor the officer would make any sudden movements.
Later, I’d find out that the officer had pulled us over because the lining around our license plate was covering the “York” part of “New York.” While they ran Charles’ information, the officer asked him why he was traveling to Austin, did he have a weapon in his “boot”, how much money we had on us, and why we had a black sheet over our things.
The other white officer watched Charles closely while he answered all the questions. After the report came back clean, the original white police officer told Charles’ to get back in the car.
I have never so blatantly felt the pangs of racism until that day. It stung to be summed up, put into a box of suspicion— seen as a threat.
What Charles and I experienced was an iota of the fear people of color, particularly black families, have of losing their loved ones, just for living their lives. Black men like Ahmaud Arbery and Botham Jean were simply doing the things we often don’t give a second thought to. Like going on a run or even answering the front door. And they’re not the only ones. In the last few months, you have the Indianapolis shooting, Steven Taylor, Social Distancing Policing, and so much more.
Too many young black men and women have been placed into these hostile and tragic situations and not enough of us in positions of privilege are doing anything about it.
Our society second guesses the value of black and brown bodies. Many Christians don’t promote or champion this very real problem in our world. This unchecked bias grows from a small seed into a violent act, ending in devastation, loss, and destruction for a family and community that leaves generational trauma.
The enemy wants this pacifism. If it continues, fear infiltrates communities truly rising. The enemy knows the power in a thriving and united POC community— he will stop at nothing to ensure there is divisiveness in our world.
It is our Biblical role to do something— check the lowkey racist comment, stand up for a marginalized person, hell, even revel with your own biases and the ones of your coworkers, family, and friends.
One of the early challenges in the first church was the issue of division. As most of Jesus’ early disciples and followers were Jewish, it felt strange God could give access and privilege to those who were not born of the Jewish descendant, the Gentile.
Division— creating a physical wall with our difference— is a part of our innate nature to “other”. Othering is treating people from another group as essentially different from and generally inferior to the group you belong to.
When Jesus lived with the Gentiles, he expressed his immense love for all people— including those the Jews had a hard time accepting as equals, like the physically ill, women, and the Samaritan people, to name a few.
The gift of Jesus eliminates division. But because of our innate nature, the people of God had to see this reinforced through the work of the Holy Spirit. Division was one of the early challenges of the church, referenced first in Acts 6, with resource allocation between needy Greek and Hebrew speaking believers.
In Acts 10-11, Peter, one of Jesus’ first disciples, saw God asking him to rework his Jewish superiority beliefs. In a vision, angels tell Peter to eat food that was deemed unclear. Of course, Peter, knowing this act was against the Jewish laws and rhetoric he had learned his whole life, was hesitant to do so.
“15 But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.”
Peter had to quickly accept that Jesus was rewriting the narrative— the rules were no longer the same. God was giving access to everyone— not just the people Peter thought were worthy of the access.
By God rewriting the narrative, Peter publicly acknowledges salvation is for everyone, including the Gentiles.
34 Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. 35 In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right.
Peter had to challenge the biases of the other Jewish believers when they questioned his new God-given beliefs. He had to challenge their notions and realize God knows so much better than what we could ever know.
17 And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?”
Jesus makes it possible for us to step into the role of freedom fighters. Our Christian DNA requires us to stand up against inequality.
We should experience overwhelming disgust, heartbreak, and sorrow when any person in our community is left out, victimized, or worst, murdered, which unfortunately is the case today.
The church has a bigger role to play in this and it’s our time to rewrite the narrative, just like Peter did in the early days of the church.
Being a Christian gives the holy power to do anything, including facing our biases head-on.
If we want to carry the name of Jesus, we need to stand firm in the face of racism.
What will you do differently today to protect your fellow human? How will you build the encourage to do more repost an Instagram story?
God has been pressing in my heart to use my voice to raise awareness of this issue in my Mayalalee community. A community victim to the media’s portrayal of the black community. He’s pressing me to have a voice with my family, to be open to friends who enlighten, and reprimand me when I don’t say the right thing.
To take local politics more seriously, especially because of where we live.
It’s time to do something more than being a screen advocate.
It’s time for holy rage.
*Note: Thank you to my friend Raven Roberts for being a part of this piece. You have encouraged me and been an emblem of inspiration in my life. I look up to you and am always rooting for you.