Listening to Their Voices

I first met Samantha and Laquie through church; we served in the same outreach ministry. I am privileged to call them dear friends and sisters in faith. I think they are worth listening to, so please take the time to read their words.

Excerpts from Sam:

Racism is an ugly monster that exists with a vengeance and isn’t going away anytime soon. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and countless other Black men and women are dead because of racism. Many people are saying that if Alton and Philando had “just listened and complied,” they would still be here. However, many Black men and women have “just listened and complied” and still lose or have lost their lives. I know that the majority of police officers are doing a difficult job that I appreciate and support. I know that something is off kilter when it feels like Black lives are more expendable than others. I’m aware that flags don’t fly at half mast for Alton and Philando (or Eric, Trayvon, Sandra, etc.), but they’re lowered for police officers in Dallas. I’m aware that equality has different meanings for people of color. And sadly, I’m aware that if you get pulled over for a busted tail light, Black people have less of a chance of surviving than a White person would – even with video evidence.

…What I wasn’t prepared for (in this whole discourse) was how the “All Lives Matter” hashtag made me feel. Like part of who I am should be ignored. It feels like a blatant denial of the real problem. The harsh truth is that we use the term “Black Lives Matter” because we feel like we don’t…

…We are all made in the image of God. In our human experience, I don’t believe we were ever intended to be “color blind.” That seems silly to me. Christ made us individually and if Genesis 1:27 is true, we are all collectively made in the image of God… My life is full of people with the most diverse backgrounds, skin tones, personalities, character traits, and quirks. Their stories are all amazing unique – they are complex. Complex people with complex issues. I’m a Black, Hispanic, Christian, divorced and single mom of two kids, for crying out loud.

…Last week [early July], I’ve never felt more fragile. I’m caught off guard at every turn on social media – by truths, by lies, by sheer ignorance. Everyone has an answer or so it seems. People seem to forget that we would be known as disciples of Christ by our love for one another (John 13:35), not our posted hashtags, videos, or even our silence.

I intend to focus on loving my family and friends well. I want to be able to encourage them and sow love and hope into their hearts. I pray that our hearts would remain pliable to God’s love and that we would “follow the way of love” according to 1 Corinthians 14:1. I intend to speak up for love and speak out for justice. We can no longer afford to be silent or ignorant. Now is the time to do the right thing. Act justly. Love mercy. And love LOUDLY.

Excerpts from Laquie’s voice recording (you can listen to her full clip by clicking here):

…I think a lot of my frustration is built on the fact that my whole life I’ve tried to understand the side of the majority culture. I’ve tried to understand from a survival standpoint, as well as a standpoint of grace.  I’ve had to conform to your ways and traditions. I’ve had to tame my Blackness and field the same questions over and over (no, you cannot touch my hair). I’m constantly making excuses for cultural ignorance…but I can’t anymore…because you’ve shown me you’re not meeting me half way. This is not a mutual exchange, and I’m only playing into your ability to minimize and discredit everything I embody.

When I woke up that morning and learned five police officers were murdered….I cried. Period. My first instinct wasn’t to go digging up dirt on whether they were adulterers, smoked pot in high school, drank too much, or beat their wives. I didn’t need to locate their records, to see if they had anything other than exemplary service. I just cried for their families and for the evil that exists in this world. I wish I could say the same for some of you. Many of you were steadily looking for justification to kill a man point blank pinned down by not one, but two male bodies, for selling CDs. You were desperately trying to justify the killing of a man that announced his legal possession of a firearm. When I heard the comment, “Let’s wait for the facts…” I only heard that kind of consideration for the police officers. Would you have the same attitude if it was me lying in that car taking my last breath?

…When I have to validate the Black American experience to you, it feels… condescending, infuriating and humiliating. Do I really have to relay all times I’ve been verbally assaulted with the ‘n’ word (the last time was just a few months ago by the way. 2016.)? …how in the world can you dismiss what I’m saying or feeling so easily? Why does it hold no weight or credibility?…

…How do you account for the fact I can meet Black people from NYC, LA, Georgia, Chicago, and still have similar experiences and cultural narratives? There is obviously a problem too many of you want to claim doesn’t exist, but it’s staring you dead in the face. Your token Black friend is telling you there is a problem.

Alright, as nice as it would be, I guess I don’t necessarily need you to blindly accept what I’m saying or feeling. But I also don’t need you to be part of the problem or the harmful rhetoric. I guess what I need or expect is that our relationship would make you think twice before you speak…I would hope you’d be willing to have dialogue of substance instead of lobbing emotional bombs on FB (Facebook) with your memes and quips. I wish FB didn’t matter, because it shouldn’t…But it is what it is, therefore it matters. If we’re not going to keep it frivolous with cat videos and Top 10 lists, then we address it all. It feels distant, but it’s ultimately your messaging. Since Trayvon Martin, I’ve noticed so many of you say things that made my blood boil, but I just ignored it at best, or unfollowed you at worst. Enough already. If I was minding my business, walking home, perhaps wearing a hoodie…would you honestly defend some flashlight cop attacking me, and then pulling his gun to finish me off because he picked the wrong fight? So many scenarios, and I’m always wondering, “If it was me…”

…“BlackLivesMatter” bothers people because it implies Black people think they are more important. Let me tell you something real quick: as a whole, there has never been a time in the history of this country that Black people have been in a position to even begin to feel superior or dominant. That is foolishness. No one is attempting to dominate or oppress you…

…I think police officers have an extremely difficult job and I’d protect and defend a good police officer any day, despite my negative experiences the few times I’ve been pulled over. But at the end of the day, officers can go home and take their uniforms off. I’m Black 24/7, and you wouldn’t believe how much of the day I do not feel safe, from either physical or emotional harm because of the color of my skin. I do not get a reprieve…

I’m perfectly alright with people that disagree with me on many things….but when your rhetoric supports oppressive ideologies of me or Black people in general being stupid, worth ignoring, being violated, invalidated, or inferior – where do you think we go from here?…

…This is what I’m willing to do though: if you ever want to start a real dialogue, I’ll spend hours with you on the phone, I’ll invite you into my home and make you a meal, I’ll meet you for a drink…my point is I’m willing to walk through this with people, but only on that level.

By the way…the epitome of white privilege is that you can be upset over all of this mess when it initially occurs, but then you can choose to go on with your regular life and not think twice about until the next time it’s hot news. I don’t know what that’s like. I understand it’s hard and uncomfortable, but if we don’t start walking through this together, history will continue to repeat itself and it will only get worse as it goes. Let’s do better.

I hope people read through the entire post. I hope it brings some understanding. I have hope because I know that no matter how much hate, division, evil, injustice, racism, intolerance, dismissive labeling, hurt, and wrong there is in the world that ultimately none of those things have victory over Love and understanding. They are defeated in part now and will be in full later. Till that later is fully realized, let us keep fighting them together. Listening is ONLY the first step, but it is a necessary start.

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True friends take you in the beehive. Sam & Laquie = my true friends.

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