If Not Now, When?

This weekend we celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation reaching Texas, the last of the 50 states. While this day is worthy of honor, we also have to ask why did it take freedom so long, over two years, to get to Texas? A quarter of a million people languished in slavery, so another cotton crop or two could be collected. Where was the clarion call for justice?

The very fact that many Americans have not even heard of Juneteenth is an indictment on our educational system that ignores much of our painful past when it comes to racial inequities.

A decade ago, I was flipping through channels looking for something to watch when I stumbled upon a 4 part documentary describing the century between the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. I laid on the floor and cried when I saw graphic video footage and pictures tell stories unknown to me. How did these evils of racism exist during the Jim Crow era, and I never knew? Who chose silence over the painful truth?

Do you know what happened in Tulsa in 1921, and the story behind Black Wall Street? If you can read that story and not dissolve into gut shaking grief, then we have a problem. Why were these stories hidden? Who was it that suppressed the largest massacre of our own for 100 years?

Where was the white church in the sixties when Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was marching for equality and justice? It was only five years ago I came across his now-famous “Letters from a Birmingham jail. I’ve since listened to the audiobook, “A Call to Conscience,” a compilation of his ten most famous speeches, including the backstories. A bonus of listening is that many of the speeches included the ability to hear the inspiration and passion in his voice.

Many in the white church chose to fixate on his family struggles to deflect his call for justice. Jesus said, let him who has not sinned, cast the first stone. If his message has merit, and you know it does, let it ring loud and clear today. His life ended far too early in another murder.

I have friends who say I just don’t know what to say. My answer is, say something. Pick a place and confess we, and our ancestors, didn’t get this right. You didn’t have to be there to say, and I’m so sorry. Weep with those who weep, but white tears are not enough.

My friends say I’m afraid I’ll say something wrong and make it worse. It’s worse when we don’t try. You might stumble into a minefield, but part of the reason those mines are there is because we don’t have enough honest conversation.

Please don’t make your African American friends feel like they need to educate you. I’ve had more than one of my black friends say I’m exhausted trying to take care of my white friends who are just now broken up over injustices that have been going on for 400 years.

Read books like “White Awake,” by Daniel Hill and “I’m Still Here,” by Austin Channing Brown, “The Same Kind of Different as Me” and “Divided by Faith.” Start somewhere. Start now and determine to grow in understanding for the rest of your life.

Make friends and invest time in shared meals. Remember, there is a reason you have two ears and one mouth so you can listen twice as much as you speak. You also have a lot in common, so don’t always focus on your differences. Before the meal is over, you’ll probably both shed a tear and share a laugh.

Check-in on your friends of color in times like this to say, I love you; I’m praying for you; I trust you; I’ve got your back; I’m here for you; we can do this; we won’t quit. And then don’t quit.

One of the biggest fears is that people will want peace so badly that we will lose the moment to make the systemic changes that are required to bring true equity and equality. It seems that we move from Rodney King to Trayvon Martin to George Floyd, and every generation has to rally and protest to see lasting change? Why is that?

Many of the decision-makers are insulated from the personal problems and think because it is not their story; it is not their problem. I wish they could stand a foot away from one of my African American dad friends and hear him talk about having to have “the talk” with his son about the realities of getting stopped by the police when he is all excited to start driving. Can you imagine that feeling of betrayal and fear? Go ahead, it’s good for you.

Back to my original question, if not now, when? If not here, where? If not you, who?

I encourage you to go to bethebridge.com, sign up, and participate.

Join a peaceful protest and feel the passion, energy and pain. Don’t be fragile, be courageous. I’m going to prayontroost.com. I’d love to see you there.

Click on my Love KC today Facebook page next Monday at 5:30 p.m. for part two of four conversations about racial inequity and reconciliation sponsored by the Concerned Clergy. While you are at it, you could watch part one from last week.

Take the faithandrace.com survey by Barna/Gloo. I’ll share the national results soon. It’s important to know the data and make data informed decisions.

It’s not that I have the answers. I’m late to the scene, to be honest. I say that with deep regret. I choose to show up and speak up. I’ve been silent too long and too often. I will love deeply. I will pray fervently and do what I can to help and heal.

Lord, have mercy!

Will you join the cause?

We can’t erase the pain of 400 years but we make a better today and tomorrow.

If not now, when?

Gary