Racism and Policing: Sitting in the Tension and Seeking Healing

I will get some things wrong, most likely a lot of things. I will miss something, and fumble through. And, I will do my best to describe the tension I’m attempting to hold while avoiding the binary choices the government, the media, and the masses appear to be suggesting. I can’t stop thinking about the pain and fear I see spilled out on the internet all day every day via hateful memes, name-calling, finger-pointing, us vs. them, either/or, tribalistic, angry rants. I believe we need to start talking about how to stand up for what’s right without perpetuating hate. I believe we need to start talking about how to advocate for holy causes without creating unholy wars on our social media accounts, in our families, neighborhoods, communities, churches, states, and country. I believe we need to press into the hard work it takes to have uncomfortable, and more importantly, humble conversations that result in the kind of change that comes from radical love and courageous action.  

As I read the rhetoric on both sides of the issue of police brutality and systemic racism, I keep coming back to the falsehood of dualistic thinking. I keep clinging to, “yes/and,” while trying to reject the natural response of “either/or.” I struggle to avoid binary choices while continuing to practice non-judgment of those I disagree with. It is uncomfortable and lonely to avoid sides, because choosing a side brings immediate belonging. But, I choose to sit in the discomfort, and plead for God’s love to consume my heart so that I may learn to love others as He loves us all. 

What I know is that I have yet to see or feel the value in clinging to sides, digging into being right, staking my claim, or protecting my tribe at all costs. What I know is that I’ve consistently witnessed good fruit grow from loving, listening, and holding grace with open arms. There has never been a time in my life when I’ve felt a more desperate need to find nuance, while attempting to push mass incivility out of my heart and mind. Rather than run to a side and hunker down in an echo chamber filled with people who agree with me, I believe God is calling me to deeply know that I am no more righteous than my neighbor…that my feelings and opinions are not the only ones that matter…that I don’t have it ALL right, and I never will…that I am living in a broken world that breaks people, and that bold action with a foundation of love and grace will bring healing. 

  • Being right doesn’t bring healing. 
  • Name-calling and pointing fingers don’t bring healing. 
  • Pressing into our agenda doesn’t bring healing. 
  • Shame and blame don’t bring healing. 
  • Weaponizing our words doesn’t bring healing. 
  • Spouting statistics and building defenses don’t bring healing. 
  • Gearing up for the next gotcha doesn’t bring healing. 
  • Memes don’t bring healing.  
  • Cancel Culture doesn’t bring healing.  

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  • Healing comes from moving towards that still small voice of the Spirit. 
  • Healing comes from listening. 
  • Healing comes from grace, love, and forgiveness. 
  • Healing comes from putting understanding above being understood.
  • Healing comes from allowing ourselves and others to express the emotions that make our bodies sick when kept inside.  
  • Healing comes from community…communing. 
  • Healing comes from validating one another’s trauma and doing no harm.
  • Healing comes from expressing God’s love with our actions, our words, our insistence on putting others before ourselves. 
  • Healing comes from pressing into difficult conversations with a hunger to hear over being heard.
  • Healing comes from de-centering ourselves and making the human being sitting across from us, God’s own creation sitting across from us, more essential.
  • Healing comes from restorative dialogue.
  • Healing comes from healthy boundaries. 
  • Healing comes from learning what weighs heavy on another’s heart and then pursuing an avenue to lift that weight so that they can soar.  
  • Healing comes from loving the other as they need to be loved without conditions. 
  • Healing comes from allowing the grace of God to show us how to lift another up, protect another’s heart, save another’s life, vote in another’s favor.
  • Healing comes from dismantling structures that allow for abuse, developing policies that lift up the oppressed, creating solutions that are equitable for all, and putting others first as Jesus ALWAYS did! Others first: Every. Single. Time. 

I’m not capable of being the hands and feet of Jesus without his direct movement in my heart, and I’m seeking that movement, praying for that movement, hopeful for that movement as I continue to fight the urge to enter a battle that appears to call for “othering” and division.  

The world, the news, many people I follow on social media suggest I choose between all Black people or all police. The love of Jesus tells me that this is not the choice. The love of Jesus tells me that there is hope for change, hope for restoration, hope for redemption, hope for freedom, and that it stems from a love that permeates our core, a love that calls us to lay our lives down for another, a love that sacrifices self, religion, world-views, politics…a love that calls for death to self. 

As I press in, listen, learn, read, and pray about the next action step I should take to fight racism in our country, I am also holding many “yes/ands” in a tension so great I think my heart will tear down the middle if I don’t disconnect from the dualistic commentary pulling, pressing, pushing us apart in every corner of our lives.  

There is so much I have yet to learn, tomorrow may bring a new set of eyes, AND today my “yes/ands” sound like this:

Our country suffers from systemic racism.
There are police officers who deserve our gratitude.

Policing is born from the evil seed of slave patrols.
There are police officers who abhor evil and selflessly lay their lives on the line each day to serve and protect.  

There are policies steeped in racism that lead to the destruction of Black lives and protect racist police.
There are police officers who would sacrifice their lives to save anyone regardless of their skin color.

There are deadly consequences in communities of color when police breathe air they don’t know is racist.
There are police who have worked to build trusting relationships in Black communities.

There are rioters taking advantage of the cause of peaceful protestors.
The majority of people taking to the streets are doing so peacefully.

There are police pepper-spraying and shooting rubber bullets into peaceful crowds.
There are police officers kneeling and marching with peaceful protestors.

The brutality perpetuated on Black bodies by those who are supposed to protect and serve is sickening. 
There are officers who wear their badge with the spirit of a guardian rather than a soldier. 

There is an urgent need for re-evaluation, re-focus, re-structure, and reform in our country’s policing.
There are men and women in blue who put their lives on the line every day to serve their communities.

I do not know or agree with everything the BLM organization stands for.
I agree and loudly declare without hesitation that Black Lives Matter.  

I empathize with the rage, and do so without judgment.
I do not condone rioting and violence.

I do not believe looting is a solution.
I do believe that no matter the looting, murder is worse, and excusing murder by police must end.

I mourn the loss of Black lives.
I mourn the loss of cops killed in the line of duty.    

Ultimately, what I hope and pray for while I hold these “yes/ands” is that the Lord will transform my heart and thoughts to be more in alignment with his. I continue to ask Him for wisdom on how to better love my neighbor, my enemy, my fellow human who was created in the image of God. I continue to pray for his eyes, his heart, his guidance on how I can move and breathe in a way that will lift up the marginalized, protect the oppressed, and stand for the disenfranchised. I continue to ask him what it is I can do to be a light in the midst of collective mourning.

I continue to pray.

Dear Heavenly Father, please help us navigate this fractured world in a way that mends the broken-hearted and avoids the creation of deeper fault lines in the souls of your precious creations. Help us to tear down the walls of injustice and destroy the power structures that create inequity and inequality while also building bridges of love and restoration.  In Jesus name, Amen. 

My (Almost) Mug Shot

8 years ago I was in the middle of a divorce (the“middle” is after the gut-wrenching, “this isn’t working” conversation, and before that moment you no longer recognize your life) and although it was civil, it was still a divorce and I’m still a woman with intense emotions. One night I was having a particularly difficult time living with the idea that I was going to be divorced before 30, so I left the house and called a close friend to vent while driving aimlessly around the city. My sobs had escalated to a point that my friend became concerned and asked me to pull over before I got a ticket for noise violation or ended up in an accident. I quickly complied and pulled into the first dark parking lot I could find so that no one would be able to witness the scene in my car, which was lots and lots of snot and loud undecipherable noises. I eventually took a breath and happened to look into my rearview mirror. To my surprise a police car was pulling in behind me with the lights blazing. I had no idea why I would be in trouble for parking and crying, but thought that maybe Sheriff Joe was cracking down on women about to cross the border into loco-ville. I remained on the phone with my friend when the officer tapped on my window with a night stick (a night stick!!) and told me to hang up the phone and turn my car off immediately. It wasn’t until I nervously obeyed his instructions that I realized I had parked in a car wash parking lot, and more importantly, that the security alarm at said car wash was BLARING! I am such a loud crier (or maybe my friend is such a loud consoler) that I didn’t hear a screaming security alarm obviously pointing to me as the only reasonable suspect. The cop directed me to get out of the car and sit on the curb. I’ve only seen officers ask people to sit on the curb in reality TV shows right before that person is arrested, so you can imagine my dread. All I could think was I’m failing at marriage and now I’m going to have a mug shot…this is my punishment for divorce. The officer proceeded to ask me what I was doing at the car wash and I blubbered on about getting a divorce and being sad and needing to get out of the house and pulling over so I wouldn’t crash. He interrupted my slobbery excuse and told me to sit and wait for him while he “checked the perimeter.” This is when I realized he thought I was the driver of the getaway car for a grand theft auto wash. After securing the perimeter (AKA tip-toeing around a building with a flashlight) the officer apologetically admitted that this was a terrible case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. At which I said, “No shit Sherlock!” Just kidding I didn’t curse at a cop…I was crying too hard (and I don’t curse mom!). He helped my soggy butt off the curb and asked me if I needed help getting home. As I drove home with swollen eyes and a broken heart, I thought, maybe just maybe this ridiculous turn of events was exactly what I needed to remind me that life is full of unexpected circumstances, and every moment will pass no matter how difficult or scary, or sad. I realize now that the lesson I can take away from this particularly unlucky night is to stop and quiet myself, (especially in trying times) so that I don’t miss the prounounced warnings that there’s trouble ahead OR the crystal clear solutions that could be glaring me right in the face.