Yesterday I posted a live Facebook video where I spoke about my skepticism that Americans have the ability to have an honest conversation about race. I said it involved telling too many uncomfortable truths.
I was sad to record that, but the result was surprising. Hundreds of people contacted me to say they were moved by the message and had not considered the issue in that way before. It was, dare I say…hopeful.
And then Dallas.
When I opened my inbox I found it flooded with messages from discouraged readers and friends wanting some more words of wisdom.
“Where do we go from here, Kira? What do we do now? How do we become a part of the solution if we’re not rich or not a part of the government?”
It is both heartbreaking and encouraging to see so many people feeling helpless but also willing to be engaged in the solution. I’ve been thinking about it all morning and I’ve come up with a few ways we can all become a part of healing. I’m sorry if they sound vague to some of you, but this isn’t a situation where you just give someone a lecture and some money and things go away. This is a matter of the heart, and matters of the heart are typically complicated and nuanced.
If you’re genuine about wanting change, then here are a few of my own suggestions. For better or worse.
- Love your neighbor. Yeah, yeah…pretty vague, but there is a reason Christians call this the Golden Rule. Love your neighbor as yourself. This may mean your neighbor next door or someone at work or even just someone you end up next to in the public square somewhere. Show some type of kindness. For one moment today, step outside of your comfort zone and offer a hand or lend an ear to someone you might otherwise just walk by with a nod and a smile. Tell that friendly cashier you appreciate them. Offer to watch your neighbor’s kids for a bit while she goes to get a cup of
sanitycoffee by herself. We’re always looking for the big acts of kindness to perform (perhaps to feed our own egos more than anything) but it is the small things that usually have the largest impact. They create the ripples that spread far beyond your one small action. You have to be at peace with the fact that you might not ever see those ripples, but trust that they are there.
- Love your enemy. This is a tough one. “Kira, I don’t tolerate intolerance! I won’t feel bad about hating someone who is hateful.” Well, then you’re a coward. For what is so difficult about loving and accepting someone who is just like you? Its like saying you are a foodie because you love vanilla ice cream. There’s no flavor in your mix! I’ve repeatedly told the story of first moving to Orange County and running into racism right next door. Those neighbors forbid their daughter from playing with our son because he was “different” and people like them (white) don’t mix with people like us (black). You’d better believe my response was fire and brimstone but my husband led me to grace and what happened was a healing – of our relationship as neighbors and my own hateful heart. Grace is not easy. It takes courage and the willingness to be uncomfortable. It means GIVING UP YOUR RIGHT to be offended. No one likes hearing that but I can promise you from experience the results will amaze you.
- Listen to someone who is angry. Do you have a friend or neighbor who is always talking angrily about police injustice and racial inequality? Or one who is always blaming black Americans for their issues? Even if you feel their emotions are misdirected – even if it offends you – listen. If it’s a Facebook conversation, say “Tell me more. I’m listening.” If it’s a real-life conversation say, “Tell me more. I’m listening.” And then – and here comes the hard part – nod and say thank you. That’s it. If the other person asks for your input, give it. Otherwise be thankful for the information and walk away. Let it sit in your spirit for a little bit. Mull it over. I believe it is in the quietist moments that we find our deepest revelations.
- Thank a peace officer. I can only imagine how unnerving it must be to be a peace officer right now. My husband told me the other night “Even though I’m black, 99.9999% of my interactions with police have been positive and ended on a positive note.” For every bad cop there are 1,000 good ones and those good cops must be feeling very anxious these days. Write a note, drop an email, say something as you pass by on the street. A simple “Thank you for serving our community” can go a long way to making those officers (of all colors, by the way) who police our streets feel a little less jumpy in public.
- Don’t rush to judge the experience of someone else. As a pundit who expresses a lot of conservative views I get a lot of kindly, sweet messages from people calling me a “house nigger” or “sellout” or “porch monkey”. None of those people know anything about my life, who I love or who loves me; where I’ve been, how I’ve been hurt or how I’ve triumphed. They are making blanket assumptions based on how I look or speak. They are not alone. I do the same in my every day life. Maybe not as cruelly, but I am just as guilty. We all need to make an effort to understand that there are some things about other people we don’t understand. That’s okay. Don’t assume you know the ins and outs of a person’s experience just because of where they come from or the color of their skin. Don’t assume you know the inner workings of a person’s heart simply because they bear a different world view. This is one thing you can choose to do today, right now. Make it a habit.
In chatting with a white friend today, she expressed her sense of helplessness in all this.
“Being loving and not inflammatory is the most I feel like I can do. I hope that counts for something.”
You know, at this point I think that counts for everything.