confronting racism together

Before we begin, allow me to rawly reveal that I’m pretty hesitant to write this. Many won’t like it, and many more may camp out on one point or another, potentially ignoring the whole of this post. It’s thus really hard. And one thing we’ve learned from the last few months is that collectively, we’re not always very good with the hard. Each of us has opinions, persuasions, and convictions that impede our ability to learn, communicate, and respect the different. We sometimes often stink at listening. But I believe this discussion is too important not to try…

When the video of Ahmaud Arbery was released this week, the nation was outraged. The President and presidential hopefuls decried the situation, calling for justice.

Arbery was jogging on a sunny afternoon through a residential neighborhood outside Brunswick, Georgia. He is 25. He is black.

64 and 34 year old Greg and Travis McMichael — a father and son — in their stationary pick up truck, shot him. They are white.

This happened two months ago. No one was charged. No one arrested. Until this week. When the world saw the video. 

Current reporting is that District Attorney Jackie Johnson refused to arrest the men, as she is friends with the father. Said Commissioner Allen Booker, “The police at the scene went to her [DA Johnson], saying they were ready to arrest both of them. These were the police at the scene who had done the investigation. She shut them down to protect her friend McMichael.” (Greg McMichael recently retired after a lengthy career as an investigator in the Brunswick district attorney’s office.)

If you have not seen it, know that the video is horrific, heinous and heartbreaking. Nothing short of grievous. While the Intramuralist will always advocate for due process, the two men who shot Ahmaud Arbery should have been arrested long ago. It doesn’t take two months to discern what they did is inhumane, illegal, evil and wrong.

Hence, I find myself fumbling with all sorts of questions. Join me, if you will — albeit I request you do so humbly…

Why did it take so long for the men to be arrested?

Was it because they are white?

Was it because of their law enforcement ties?

Did they receive any benefit of doubt because of the color of their skin?

Did Ahmaud Arbery not receive any benefit of doubt because of the color of his skin?

Let us bond together. Let us recognize that this isn’t a black, white, Republican, Democrat, Christian, non-Christian issue. This is a human issue. This is us. Like so many places where humankind draws a non-divine dividing line, this is an issue in which we all must come together to do life better.

But it’s tough for us to realize “this is us” because the conversation typically stops before it ever gets started, even though racism unfortunately still exists.

Over the past three months, I have read seven books from seven authors and angles in order to better understand this issue. Please don’t think of me as an expert. I am not. I simply desire to be more aware and love all people better because of that awareness. 

An initial key to awareness on this topic, I believe, is to recognize that there are two dominant ways we tend to define racism, and we tend to look at it wholly from one or the other perspective. We define racism as either (1) individual or (2) structural. Individual racism would be defined as something overtly done by one person to another. Structural racism would be defined by how society perpetuates racism through the social structures in which we live. Writes articulate, African American sociologist, George Yancey, “Individualists do not understand why fixing racist structure in society is so important because they do not believe that racism is found in social structures. Likewise structuralists cannot understand how individualists can fail to see the problem with structures, and they believe that individualists are insensitive to the real issues of racial inequality.” And with that lack of understanding and sensitivity, the conversation ceases.

Maybe that’s the main point of today, as one post, one blog, one conversation is not going to solve this massive issue. We have work to do. But maybe, just maybe, we can stop talking past each other and start with individual awareness…

Where am I insensitive?

Where am I unaware?

What am I ignoring?

Am I ignoring that racism still exists?

Am I also or instead ignoring my own errancy, arrogance and sin?

Note as we strive first for individual awareness, these are questions we ask ourselves. I get it. I understand the shouting at others and actually respect the passion behind it. I simply believe shouting at another typically doesn’t make the other want to be more like you.

So let us be humble. May we have deep compassion for the person of color who is once again pained. May we also have respect for the person in majority culture who is outraged but expresses it differently.

But most of all, let us begin. Let us become more aware. After all, this is us.