When will the ambulance come? When the white girl calls

I have been thinking lots about the wisdom in the words of James:

Everyone should be

  • quick to listen
  • slow to speak and
  • slow to become angry

Visiting a camp with intermittent wifi has helped me be slow to speak, but a week later I am still angry and even more profoundly sad. Sadness relates directly to the loss at cities and killings that are all over the news. But the anger relates to the social media feeds and “news” commentators who dismiss injustice. Dismissing another’s experience and emotions related to the experiences disrespects, frustrates, and escalates.

I’m trying to be slow to speak because I’m so quick to react. This week I’ve been helped in being slow to speak because I had iffy wifi, and I was attending a transracial family camp with people who felt as grieved and passionate about what unfolded as I did. Many had better words than I do for what is happening, so I could listen to people give voice to what I could only feel. And I also listened online to people, even friends, giving voice to what terrifies and confuses me. Memories were stirred up, including this one:

When I was a teenager, I went to visit a friend who lived in  Techwood Homes, the first housing projects established in the United States. As I was walking to my friend’s apartment, a large group was standing around a woman who was not conscious. Several people said they had already called an ambulance, but no ambulance was heard. Scared she was going to die, I went to a pay phone and called 911. We all knew how close the hospital was, and as the ambulance came shortly after my call was made, I was shocked/horrified/angry/overwhelmed to realize that my suburban white teenage voice (I did try to sound older and mature) had stirred up an ambulance when inner city African American adults had been able to get an ambulance to come. My teenage self had never heard the words systemic racism, but the differing responses to different accents was a rude awakening to what I had no mental space or vocabulary for. Why could I get an ambulance to come and others could not?

Other memories dominoed out where people were treated so poorly because of other’s assumptions based on race, so I am left wondering about the denial of injustice’s existence and the intensity of the anger in denying this. Maybe people have not had experiences or heard friend’s stories that show the regular injustices. AAAh, this is where quick to listen comes in . . . Who do I need to listen to right now? I’m certain it’s not helpful to listen to the caustic commentator who thinks in binary opposites, but who feels unheard and unseen? How can I listen, give them the space to be seen and heard safely and respectfully?

Anger sources itself in fear. It’s clear that black people have good reason to fear for their lives, never mind opportunities, possibilities, and respect, but what do white people fear? I fear the hurtful experiences my daughter will continue to have; I fear for the safety of many I love; I fear not knowing how to speak or stand up when it matters in a way that is effective. I fear that people’s unwillingness to reflect on their own thoughts and feelings will result in more deaths, more pain, more anger. Just as dishonest scales are abhorrent, so are imbalanced systems, and I want no part of the injustices. But I’m not always sure how to address, how to stop.

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Rather than anger and fear and hostility and violence I long to see and I give my life to living:

  • Faith expressed in love
  • Love based in what is true
  • An open heart to God and others
  • Grace and truth fully interwoven
  • Fearless human interaction
  • loving relationships
  • pursuit of what is just, right, good

Possibly if we use quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger as rules of engagement, we can learn to hear one another’s stories and to walk in the light of the truth and in the ways of love. What if we turned off the news for a week and listened to the Spirit and to other humans? What if we chose to have our minds renewed and not conformed to this world? What would shift? Who am I listening to?

I choose to listen to the One who loves me and who loves all other humans rather than the many voices that clamour for my attention. I choose to listen to the stories of those who want to tell them.

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18

18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot[a] love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:18-21

Apparently, research says that a person’s first racialized encounter occurs around Grade 3; my child’s started in Kindergarten. I am tired of racism and prejudice being dismissed and diminished. I want justice; I want love.

In A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson explains blessing/berakah

It describes what God does to us and among us; he enters into covenant with us, he pours out his own life for us, he shares the goodness of his Spirit, the vitality of his creation, the joys of his redemption. He empties himself among us, and we get what he is. That is blessing. . . God gets down on his knees among us, gets on our level and shares himself with us. He does not reside afar off and send us diplomatic messages; he kneels among us That posture is characteristic of God. The discovery and realization of this is what defines what we know of God as good news – God shares himself generously and graciously . . . God enters into our need, he anticipates our goals, he ‘gets into our skin’ and understands us better than we do ourselves.

Typically my blog is my musings for anyone else who wants to listen. Today I’m wondering if you would do some things:

  • Share the stories you are listening to
  • Tell how you are generously and graciously sharing yourself with someone who is quite different from you
  • Describe a way you are trying to balance the scales of justice.
  • How are you getting into another person’s skin, understanding them, and then speaking up on their behalf?
  • Consider your own biases. Here is a starting place . I’ve taken some, and in addition to be assured of the research behind it, it has born out true for who I am.
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